Opening weekends worth forgettingNot all opening weekends for pheasant hunting turn out to be exemplary experiences. Take the time I agreed to hunt opening day in southeastern Wyoming in the mid-’70s with a guy named Dave, a nervous, chain-smoking character I met at work. The plan was for me to pick him up at his house at 5 a.m., drive to the Torrington area and arrive just before first light.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Not all opening weekends for pheasant hunting turn out to be exemplary experiences.
Take the time I agreed to hunt opening day in southeastern Wyoming in the mid-’70s with a guy named Dave, a nervous, chain-smoking character I met at work. The plan was for me to pick him up at his house at 5 a.m., drive to the Torrington area and arrive just before first light.
Well, when I arrived at his house at the appointed hour, the place was dark — not a light on in the place. I knocked on doors, finally hammered on windows. At last a light came on. Dave’s wife came to the door in a bathrobe, let me into the house, and began cooking Dave’s breakfast. Dave, meanwhile, was scurrying about, trying to locate his gun, shells, boots and clothes. We were late getting to Torrington, but the story gets even better — or worse, depending on how you view it.
We hadn’t been hunting more than half an hour when Dave stepped on some poles hidden beneath the tall grass, and he fell. He waved me over and told me he had heard something pop in his leg. I helped him back to my pickup and we headed for the emergency room in Cheyenne.
Driving on the gravel road leading to the highway, a pheasant rooster suddenly flushed on the shoulder of the road, and crashed into my windshield, smashing the glass. I picked up the rooster, took Dave to the hospital where we found he only had a bad sprain. I bought a new windshield soon after and never hunted with Dave again.
Two decades later I had another “memorable” opening weekend, this time with Laurie and my father, Jake. First, near Pompey’s Pillar in eastern Montana the fuel filter cracked on my Dodge Ram with a Cummins diesel engine, spewing out my diesel fuel and leaving me stranded on the Interstate highway. (That pickup now has 152,000 miles on it and has never since failed me.) A kind fellow in a Motorola van stopped, made a phone call to AAA for us, and a wrecker showed up from Billings.
Since Jake was supposed to meet us near this spot, Laurie rode with the tow-truck driver back to Billings, and left me there with our two Labradors, Otis and Josie. I put them on leashes, climbed a small hill along the highway and waited for Jake. I don’t know if he misunderstood my directions, but soon I saw him come over the horizon about a mile away in his Suburban, then inexplicably cross the median into the eastbound lane and disappear back over the rise! Hours later the Motorola guy stopped again, drove me easterly where I found Jake parked on the shoulder of the highway. Then Laurie showed up with the Dodge and a new fuel filter. Rejoined after a half day of anxiety, we proceeded to a motel in Colstrip.
I shot a pair of roosters the next day, Laurie missed one, and we realized that birds in that area were scarce. We returned to the Super-8 Motel that evening, I dressed the birds over a garbage can in the motel parking lot, and brought the dressed birds into the room. We came up a pheasant leg short. (Jake was washing the birds in cold water in a big, plastic bucket and pouring the water down the toilet.)
We soon determined what happened to the missing leg — it was stuck somewhere in the bowels of the toilet. So Jake, retired plumber that he was, shut off the water, drained the toilet, got my toolbox from the pickup, loosened all the bolts on the toilet, and we lifted it up off the floor. Sure enough, we found the missing leg jammed inside the toilet. We discarded the leg, Jake set the toilet back down, put all the bolts back in, turned on the water, and no one at Super-8 was any wiser.
I had an antelope permit for that area and planned to hunt them the next day, but in the morning it was raining horizontally, the wind blasting, the unpaved roads a muddy mess. Our hunt was over.
Sometimes you just can’t win, even on opening weekend.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors Columnist for the Sun since 1974