Trying to outwit roosters
It would have made me appear to be a dashing character had an enraged grizzly bear bitten me in my foot and broken it, or if I had tumbled down a talus slope while hunting wild sheep, but the truth is not nearly so romantic. The reality is that o...
It would have made me appear to be a dashing character had an enraged grizzly bear bitten me in my foot and broken it, or if I had tumbled down a talus slope while hunting wild sheep, but the truth is not nearly so romantic.
The reality is that on the second day of the World Series I hobbled over to my cigar humidor which sits on the hearth in our living room, reached for a cigar, and my right foot - the drop foot - tripped me and sent me into a nose dive. An X-ray several days later showed a broken bone.
So for a day or two I wore the synthetic "boot" that the orthopedic office strapped onto me, but when it came time to travel to southeast Montana for a couple days of what passes for pheasant hunting for me these days, I switched to Russell Birdshooters.
We linked up with rancher Carl, who led us to his cousin Randy's place, and there we bounced around in an old Jeep in an attempt to flush roosters for me to shoot from the Jeep. (I have had a "shoot-from-the vehicle-permit" from the state for several years but had never used it.)
One time Carl spotted a rooster slip into a steep draw so he stopped the Jeep, I crawled out and made ready while Laurie turned Oscar loose. The Labrador dashed into the bottom of the wash, his nose working, and within 20 seconds he had the rooster in the air. Trouble is, the rooster predictably put the scrub oak trees between itself and me. I tried shooting through the branches at the quickly departing rooster, but to no effect.
Later in the day while Laurie and I were relaxing, sitting on folding chairs near the pickup, two roosters flew in from an adjoining property and landed 100 yards away in some sage brush. One of them soon flew away, but the second bird stayed put. Laurie drove the pickup slowly toward the sage brush patch, stopped, and I exited. The bird did not flush. I waited and waited some more. When I saw the bird step out I did something I never have done in 57 years of pheasant hunting - I ground-sluiced the bird. The rooster rolled, squawked, and to my astonishment, leaped into flight. I swung, hit the bird again but it kept flying! We brought Oscar over to the creek where we thought the rooster landed, he roamed all over the place but never came up with the bird. (He did wander down the creek and flushed more roosters from the other side of the creek.)
An hour later four more roosters flew into a feedlot. Laurie maneuvered the pickup as close as she dared while the roosters began to run. I stepped out and shooting from one leg, managed to clobber one of the birds before they flew out of range ... my first rooster in five years! Oscar picked up the bird, carried it around proudly before delivering it to Laurie. (I used my Browning "Sweet Sixteen" in 16 gauge with 1-1/8 oz. loads of No. 5s.)
The next day was chilly and windy and we saw not a single bird at Randy's, so we returned to Carl's ranch. I pointed to an open gate. "Let's go in here. I know of a good spot down there for you to check out."
Laurie parked the pickup 100 yards from the creek bank, and she and Oscar walked to the east. However, instead of dropping off the bench and into the creek bottom, Laurie stopped and waited. Oscar did not. He descended into the cover and promptly flushed three roosters - all out-of-range of Laurie. I could have wept.
And that's how it ended. A decade ago I could easily have taken a dozen roosters on this trip, but not these days. It is pretty tough to shoot roosters when one cannot walk. But I still love to listen to them cackle and watch them fly.