Kelly Bostian: Pheasant hunting builds bonds with flashes of action
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 6:52 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: The bond of the hunt
PHEASANT HUNTING is about the explosions, those moments when radiant roosters burst from the brush so close at your feet the act of smartly snapping shotgun to shoulder morphs into convulsion as defensive reflexes vanquish muscle control.
The shotgun stock slaps your cheek anyway as you shout "rooster!"
Add a 40 mph prairie wind and you'd better be the definition of "snap shooter" if you want pheasant and dumplings for dinner.
"He was just, like, boom!" a grinning 9-year-old Ryan Shoulders of Owasso said of the snap shot made by Matt Schnorrenberg, 14, of Skiatook. "I didn't even lift my gun up yet," he added as the boys stopped to admire the colorful cock pheasant Matt dropped with one remarkable shot on opening day of the Kansas pheasant season Nov. 10.
The pair walked with a group of 34 orange-clad hunters and five dogs through tawny knee-high millet stubble near Plainville as gray storm clouds rose in the west to obscure the sun. The temperature dropped, quickly and mercifully, from the 80s into the 60-degree range as violent gusting winds pushed tumbleweeds across the fields and filled the air with dust, chaff and millet leaves.
Sometimes it's tough to roll a story together about such a large group in such big country, but these boys in that moment encapsulated the weekend. A reflection of the group of family and friends organized annually by Glen Shoulders of Tulsa, they showed a love of the hunt first and foremost. If someone got a bird, then everyone was happy. Tough hunting conditions were just a part of the atmosphere to be appreciated.
Schnorrenberg's rooster was the one and only pheasant found in that entire millet field, the last field of the day the full group hunted on Saturday.
But the boys were in a good mood - elated, actually - in a situation where lesser hunters would have called it quits. The joy Ryan showed in sharing his friend's success made the windblown prairie dirt between my teeth a little tastier, the grit in my eyes less irritating. Ryan told the story of the shot with as much excitement as Matt, possibly more.
Older hunters in the group commented on the boys' enthusiasm, especially young Ryan, as several commented, "He's taking two steps to every one of ours."
Opening weekend of pheasant season in western Kansas had hunters in extraordinarily dry conditions with diminished pheasant cover and lower pheasant numbers due to the drought. With her cruel sense of humor, Mother Nature added to the misery with winds gusting to 40 mph from the south and a heat index of 91 degrees that Saturday. Hunter's sweaty faces collected dirt and they looked like coal miners. Sunday they arose to an equally vicious wind, now from the northwest, and a wind-chill factor at 8 degrees.
At lunchtime Saturday, the group field-dressed just 13 birds, yet the general refrain among the group was, "It's better than I thought it might be."
Shoulders reminisced about his own days as a child, riding atop his father's shoulders so he could see over the tops of the tall sunflowers. This family-and-friends tradition had its birth with the marriage of his parents and his grandfather's wedding gift of a Browning A-5 shotgun to his father, Joe, now 84. On the family properties near Plainville they've seen extraordinary seasons and they've seen bad seasons.
Shoulders recalled years not so long ago when the group had grown to nearly 40 hunters and they had to plan the afternoon carefully when they stopped for lunch and had to count birds with so many limited-out or nearly limited.
"This is the worst I've seen it," Shoulders said of this year's conditions, but the assessment seemed to come only at my prodding with questions. "At least we're seeing birds," he added. "It's not as bad as I thought it might be."
Matt Schnorrenberg, 14, of Skiatook fights a stiff wind as he puts the cock pheasant he shot on Nov. 10, the opening day of the Kansas season, into his game vest. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World