The Ring-necked Pheasant is a noble bird. In 1881 at Port Townsend, OR, birds were imported from China, by Owen N. Denny, and releases were made that year and subsequent years in the Willamette Valley and along the Columbia River. Laws were passed to prohibit harvesting them until they sustained a huntable population, and by 1892, in Oregon, the first “Opener” reportedly bagged 50,000 birds. Black-Necked pheasant, from England, were introduced as far back at the late 1700’s, in the eastern states, but were not successful. Interestingly, it’s said the Iowa population originated in 1900 from an escape of several thousand birds from a game farm. Today, South Dakota is arguably the epicenter of pheasant hunting, with millions of the birds, or at least they have a better PR department.
For many years, I would travel to North Dakota to hunt pheasant. A lack of posted signs, hunters, and plenty of squawking roosters always made the trip fun. Over the years, I made friends with numerous farmers, particularly Leroy and Barb. One cool, early November day, I was chatting with Barb, before heading out to walk the tree rows and ditches on their property. She mentioned the neighbor’s property that we could hunt that day, as well. Thankful, we departed for some new hunting land.
We were within sight of Barb and Leroy’s house as we walked along a marshy creek into the tree lines around the neighbor’s abandoned house. The birds were there, and it was a fun time watching the dogs, Ruby, Cap, and Bo, as they worked the tall grass and cut wheat. After an hour or so, we stopped for a drink and a sandwich. I called the dogs in, and we sat on the side of the road enjoying the day.
“Hey, what are you guys doing?” yelled a man walking down the two track. Never a good opening to a conversation, I knew it was time to sort out a misunderstanding. But, first I had to find out what the problem was. “We’re hunting pheasant with our dogs. I hope our shooting hasn’t disturbed you!” I said. (I glanced at the next farmhouse a half mile away.) “Well, you are on private land. My land. You are trespassing! I lease this land to hunters, and here you are shooting my birds! Who said you could hunt here? I should call the Sheriff!” he yelled. Since this was pre-GPS, my policy was to grab my map, start with the truth and stick to it. “Well, sir, I thought this was part of the Johnson property, and I have permission to hunt it. But, if I made a mistake and got turned around, I apologize, and I’ll head out of here right away! I’m from Georgia and sometimes these wide-open spaces can get me turned around. Could you show me on the map I have here where we are and where your lines are, so I don’t have this issue again?” I said. “What about the birds you killed?” he said. I noticed the volume decreased somewhat. “Well, if you show me I’m on your land, you can have them, or I’ll pay you for them. They would be your birds,” I suggested. “I get $50/per day to hunt on my land” he said. I noticed my suggestion of him showing me my location on a map never came up again. “How about I pay you for these birds, then, and we will leave the area?” I said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out $43.
|Ruby and Cap on Leroy's Farm|