It’s Not Pheasant Hunting, It’s an Expedition
Unless you stepped in a puddle of mutagen that spawned lynx like feet, or weigh less than 20 pounds to bound atop the snow, your pheasant hunting season in the northland has come to a screeching, well, more like sliding, halt.
That is, except for the snowshoe pheasant hunter.
Pheasant hunting now is a sport of attrition. On one side, the rooster pheasant, if he has been lucky enough to escape the hunter’s gun, is also fielding shots from Old Man Winter. Lucky indeed. The hunter, in lockstep against these, is also facing Father Time – snowshoe and bust cover, or your season is bust.
With a snowpack of nearly two feet, an opening bell temp of 1 degree and a biting northwest wind (I knew I spent two months growing this beard for something) I hunted pheasants on the contrivances for the first time last weekend.
For the first half hour of the hunt, I pondered how I would continue to write or drink hot chocolate after all 10 of my fingers had been amputated, let alone find enough tissue sensation to squeeze the trigger should a bird flush in range. Hen after hen flushed at our feet, and when a rooster finally snow tunneled out of the cattails, I fired with the smoothness of an un-oiled Tin Man.
But after a while, the physical labor of it all creates a cold comfort. Hot blood rushes back into frozen hands, and though it hurts like hell for a minute, it passes. The eye lash icicles thaw, and there’s a clear line of sight. Some of these leg muscles, seldom used, will ache…but not until tomorrow.
And the transition from hunting pheasants on snowshoes to simply “pheasant hunting” takes place. Head up, scanning, gun at the ready. Split seconds matter. Tens of birds bust out early – snowshoes aren’t exactly silencers – but you don’t need tens of ‘em, just one. Those phragmites look birdy…they held…Rooster!
…and the Tin Man, heart pumping, is oiled up.
Snowshoe Pheasant Hunting Notes
- I recently purchased a pair of Redfeather brand snowshoes. I found a lot of positive reviews of their products online, and they’re made in America. Different models work better in different types of snow, so ask a lot of questions before you buy.
- Plan on taking shots only in front of you. If a bird erupts behind you, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to pivot on snowshoes and have a makeable shot.
- Joining in the hunt were John Maile of the Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter, and Bill Sherck and Aaron Achtenberg from Pheasants Forever Television. I can’t give away all the details, because the hunt will appear as a segment of that show next season.
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