A Hunting We Will Go!
I was with Holden Daughton, Patty Wesner, and Patty's dog Harley. Harley's a Large Munsterlander and a hell of a tracker. With that dog we had the secret weapon against the hiding birds. He would sniff them out and scare them up into the air where we could take safe shots with our guns. I had my trusty .12 gauge with Upland and Small Game shots. Patty and Holden both had the lighter .20 gauge shotguns better suited to the bird hunting. But my trusty pump Mossberg is my all around gun. I use it for turkeys, pheasants, varmints, and with a riffled barrel and some slugs Deer in November.
We walked across the fields and wetlands for hours, in and out of rain showers, watching the dog and smiling wide as we each got a chance to take home a pheasant for each of our farms. Patty got her bird first, a fat hen. I got to shoot at my bird second, a nice flush and straight line of flight just 10 yards away from me. I managed to just hit him in the bum but he went down and Harley helped us find him when he did. After those two back-to-back successes it took a long time to find Holden's bird. We had just about given up and were practically back to the truck when the biggest cock bird we saw all day shot up into the air and Holden smote it down. Harley retrieved it from the treeline and we three happy hunters went back the truck with grins across our tired faces. We had walked for hours, stood in the chill rain, and had the kind of constant alertness that makes just a few hours feel like a marathon. It was one content ride home to Cold Antler after that.
I love animals and I love hunting them as well. To some that sounds like a cringing contradiction, and I understand that completely. I was, afterall, a vegetarian for ten years before a rare bit of hogget crossed my lips. The transition for me was based on ecology, politics, and how animals live and coexist in this little green world. My place in the scheme of things is a pack animal that hunts by daylight. That is where my bliss writhes and turns up to the sun. Everyone's got that place somewhere and mine usually ends up with a wood stove and a stew pot. To each their own.
After everyone went back to their own farms (after a celebratory brunch at the beloved Burger Den) I went to work cleaning the bird on the tailgate of my truck. There's not a lot of meat on a pheasant, but there is a surprising amount of yellow fat. I cut off the birds head, skinned him (faster and cleaner than plucking), cut off the hefty thighs and breast and set the rest aside to compost. All that was left was feathers, a ribcage, and entrails really. I put it into the compost with a shovel and brought in the two pounds of white meat. I set it in a big pyrex bowl of cold water and ice cubes that would slowly cool the bird down. Soon I'll add salt and bay leaves and make a simple brine to soak it in all night. This brine will soften the tense new meat and make it retain moisture better when it is cooked. My plan is to either make a crockpot pheasant and wild rice soup with potatoes, squash and carrots or make a honey glaze and roast it and serve it on a bed of wild rice with a side salad. Both ideas are making my mouth water a bit as I type this and I suppose the weather will tell. If it is a cold and blustery day tomorrow stew will be the word of the day. If the sun shines and I spend a deal of it on horseback, then a roasted bird by the wood stove will win. Snow is already in the forecast here for Friday with a night time low of 26 degrees!
Glad I have my wood in!