THE FIRST DAY ALMOST A WASHOUT (November 11/13)

I’m not sure it qualified as a gale on the Beaufort scale but the wind that roared down the Canard River corridor, driving a heavy rain ahead of it, made opening day of the pheasant season in Kings County one of the toughest, most miserable I’ve experienced in many years.

Looking back through my hunting records, I found only one opening day in 20 years when it rained hard enough to almost but not quite shut hunting down for the day. In my notes on that day I wrote that so much rain came down, usually productive ditches between corn fields were turned into lagoons.

That day was a washout and this opening day almost was. The good thing was that it was warm; the bad thing was that the high winds made it difficult for the dogs to work on birds. We hunted some good covers and had a lot of roosters flush again and again out of range. At times miserable weather conditions will sometimes make birds hold, but not this day; at least not in the open, unsheltered areas out along the dykes that we hunted. We went into a roost along a stream when it was almost full light, a time when pheasants generally hold tight, and we had birds flushing several gunshots ahead of us. We were hunting downwind, the only way you could approach the river roost, which was likely a mistake since the wind carried and magnified every sound we made.

With the rain pelting us, rain driven by the gale-like winds, and the temperature hovering around 15, we were quickly soaked inside and out. To ward off the rain I wore a light, breathable waterfowl coats under my hunting vest but even this was too much clothing for the warm temperatures.

For the record, it was a perfect day for waterfowling. As we struggled through rain soaked marsh grass, hoping a rooster would hold long enough for us to get into shotgun range, we saw geese come in against the wind and drop down quickly with no hesitation. We ignored the geese. I reminded my companion of what our elders used to say: that you can’t hunt pheasants and geese at the same time. Two flocks of geese dropped down into wide open rye fields and there was no way anyone could get close to them anyway.

On opening day we hunted an area that runs from good to great when it comes to pheasant numbers. But in the first two hours of the hunt I only heard a few gunshots. Maybe the weather discouraged everyone but I doubted it. We could have a hurricane combined with an earthquake on opening day of the pheasant season and a few of the die-hard hunters would still go out hoping to bag a rooster.

Anyway, bottom line, my companion and I each bagged a rooster before going home so it wasn’t all that bad. After changing clothes and having a coffee we headed out again. As I said, you could have an earthquake and a hurricane at the same time, etc..

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