Something to be Thankful For

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A few weeks back, I traveled up to Kansas for the state’s quail and pheasant opener. I had hunted in the southwestern corner of the state, as usual, although it was forecasted to be one of the worst places in Kansas that year due to extreme drought and, in turn, emergency grazing and haying. That being said, my expectations were low. To my delight, the first day of the hunt had been exceptional; the dog work was near perfect, the birds were abundant and well-behaved, and my shooting wasn’t too shabby either. That night, however, the winds began to pick up and were sustained at 30 mph by sunrise. Those winds must have been the proverbial winds of change. Not one thing went right on the second day. Shoddy dog work (hard to blame them with the howling winds), wily birds, and missed shots (excuses I will save for myself) would adequately summarize the day.

On the drive home, still riding the high of the first day yet feeling the sting of the second, my head was in a fog. I went through bouts of frustration and moments of pure bliss. I thought of the highlights every upland hunter lives for: the remarkable scenery, staunch points, explosive flushes, and connecting shots. I also thought about the “if only’s”. If only the dogs hadn’t bumped that rooster, if only I hadn’t wasted an hour in that field, if only I had loaded my gun… I try not to mull these things over too much. I’ve had plenty rough days in the field to know sometimes, to paraphrase the Texas Rangers former manager, Ron Washington, “that’s the way bird hunting go”. But, for some reason, this one was just harder to shake off.

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When I returned to the west Texas town that I call home, my focus shifted from missed opportunities to merging into the heavy traffic that surrounds downtown. Even sitting at traffic lights, the weekend’s events would begin to creep back into my mind. That is, until I got stuck at a red light on 50th street. 

Looking to my right, just a few blocks from my rundown apartment, there was a homeless man scavenging for pecans in a residential neighborhood. It was at that moment I realized all of my concerns, supposed problems I was worried about in my personal life and especially bird hunting, were inconsequential. This poor fellow, regardless of how he ended up in this situation, was searching for his next meal. 

That night, while I was putting away all my guns, dogs, and high-end gear I thought, “how lucky am I?” I felt beyond fortunate. The superfluity of upland hunting had been magnified. All the things’ we hunters argue and critique each other about, what does it really matter? Be happy. Enjoy it. It truly is a luxury.

Looking for a great pheasant recipe? Check out our pheasant fricassee recipe!

Trey Johnson

I was born and raised on a small ranch Northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. From a young age, nature always provided an outlet from reality. I have continued to cultivate this passion through formal education and creative writing. When I am not working as game bird research assistant, you can find my bird dog and I in the field chasing birds.

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