What’s the difference between a good hunting season and a season you’d rather forget?”

A friend who hunts pheasants without a dog thinks the answer to this question is the number of birds you harvest.  He told me recently he was satisfied with his pheasant season, his brother and him bagging a dozen roosters between them.

Another hunter who has a bird dog told me his pheasant season wasn’t really all that good.  “I got a baker’s dozen exactly,” he said.  “A lot less than last year.”

From the perspective of these hunters, the number of birds bagged obviously determines how they assessed their season.  Which is fair enough.  While you could reasonably argue there are other factors determining how good a season one has, the bottom line is that you like to harvest game; why else would you carry a firearm?  So if you don’t bag much of anything and hoped to, you rightly could say you’re not happy with the hunting.

So I have to ask, how was your pheasant season, how was your waterfowl, grouse and rabbit hunting?   Did you base how it was or wasn’t on game harvested or on the quality of the hunt?   The “quality of the hunt” is difficult to define, by the way.  For me it means a hunting season is satisfactory if I’ve had good dog work on pheasants and had opportunities to bag a few of those crafty old roosters that haunt the corn fields and blackberry canes.  It means hunting on crisp, clear autumn mornings when there’s something intangible about the day that just seems right.

It’s not that bagging game isn’t important.  Like you and everyone who hunts, for deer, rabbits, grouse or waterfowl, I like to harvest wild game.  But just getting out in the fields and marshes to shoot something shouldn’t be all that hunting’s about. The other intangibles have to be there.

Now, at this point I should observe that the way grouse, pheasant and rabbit harvests have been dipping in recent seasons, hunters may soon have to be satisfied with quality hunts and not be concerned about filling the game bag.  Actually, small game hunting truly isn’t all that good here anyway, especially when compared to other areas across Canada and the States.

Let me give you one example.  I corresponded recently with a gentleman who owns a pheasant hunting ranch in South Dakota.  I discovered from him they harvest more pheasants in one week than we do here in an entire season.   Hard to believe isn’t it.  I was stunned to learn that besides planting vast winter feeding plots, the ranch also puts out at least a ton of corn every year as winter feed for pheasants.

It’s big business there, of course.  Pheasant hunting, as well as waterfowling and upland hunting, are pastimes here, pleasant, traditional pastimes where bagging small game in any quantity could and likely will  become a thing of the past.  It’s simply a matter of time.

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