Monday, October 18, 2010

What's in a Pheasant?

Exodus 16

From my experience, in a pheasant, one finds all of the entrails common to birds, a great deal of millet, sunflower seeds, or corn, and, at least the ones that I have seen, a small quantity of lead shot.

Saturday marked my debut as a pheasant hunter.  This event ran concurrently with the opening day of pheasant season in South Dakota.  Along with two fathers and their sons, I traveled east toward Presho, and arrived in prime pheasant country just before noon when shooting could legally begin.  By the end of the day, five guns had brought down fourteen birds, one shy of our daily limit.  Of the fourteen, I was responsible for two.

In early middle school, I attended a hunter safety course, and that fall acquired my first hunting license.  I drove my father nearly mad asking him to accompany me as I searched for a deer.  It was the youth season, so I was allowed to shoot only does.  Dad required that I shoot his old lever action rifle with open sights.  It was a rite of passage, I guess.  Near the end of the youth season, I finally shot a deer.  It was very young, and my shot was poor.  I hit it in the spine, and Dad and I had to rush the couple hundred yards to it to finish the kill up close.  The ugliness of that kill more or less eliminated any desire that I had to hunt thereafter.  Moreover, I have always been a bit of a softy when it comes to animals, and I just didn't enjoy taking life.  Once, after the deer incident, I shot a skunk that had been wandering a bit close to the house.  I was sick about having done so for days afterward.

 Time, an education in philosophy, and too many near misses with wildlife on the South Dakota roadways have made me callous, I guess.  When I shot on Saturday, I felt no compunction.  It was a beautiful day, and as its end was drawing near, my only concern was that I would not be the only hunter in the vehicle to finish the day without a bird of my own.  In that regard, as I have already noted, I was not disappointed.  Two of the roosters pictured above met their demise at my hand.

Killing is inherent to hunting.  Yet, I find that hunting has little to do with killing.  Let those who suffer a perverted blood lust find satisfaction in the hillbilly brawls called "ultimate fighting."  True, some men are boors who approach hunting of all sorts as an opportunity to kill whatever wanders the earth.  These men are weak, violent, and cowardly.  It is not them of whom I speak.   

There are, instead, men who know hunting to have the power to speak to loftier ideals.  Hunting, they have learned, speaks to men being men together.  It speaks to fathers initiating their sons, of boys becoming men as the elders bestow on the younger news roles as custodians of wisdom and tradition.  It speaks to people remembering that they live only because of the bounty of the earth that God has given them for sustenance.  It speaks to the truth that God never intended the pinnacle of his creation to live his life in an office in front of a computer screen.  It speaks to virtue - to pride, honesty, integrity, patience, perseverance, and endurance.  In a word, in hunting, one finds the first steps toward a remedy for many of the ills that plague men these days. 

A few pheasants doesn't seem bad price to pay for that.


  1. Good shooting, Father -- and I can relate to every word.


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