We’ve been chasin’ grouse, roosters, geese, ducks n deer for most of the fall but with ducks ‘n deer done for another year, some late season goose options still exist and grouse season still rollin’ along but my interest is still drawn to the rooster pheasant.  I know there are fewer out there than on opening day and I know the survivors have been schooled by hunters and the dogs of many colors but there’s something about this bird that can run my dog in circles one day flushing wildly far ahead and the next holding tight with only a pink nose between the two of us that insists I keep searching.  The weather is turning cold, sloughs again covered with walkable hard water and fields of corn picked and plowed but there’s still the best part of a month to go before leather boots find their place in the closet with the orange and camo.

What is it about the bird that makes it so special?  The annual cat ‘n mouse game certainly isn’t new because I’ve been playing it for decades and it absolutely never gets old.  My 4-legged hunting partners have changed over the years but the rules stay the same.  I’ve been afield with Pirate, Doc, Kaz, Molly, Kate, Jesse, Tess and now Snap, all 30 pounds of her.  Apologies to any names I might have forgotten too.  The walks are often tiring and long or as my good friend Bob St. Pierre refers to them “Billy Big Walks!”  Evening always brings a welcome meal and a good sleep along with tired dogs.  Sometimes so tired that a day off now and then is required.  But with the late season things change a bit.  Both man and dog are in pretty good physical shape, well better than opening day and cool or cold days change the dynamics of the walks from early season too.  This along with the fact that any roosters now are truly trophies, long tails and brilliantly colored.  But more than that is the addiction to this small feathered bird.  Each and every time afield when the dog gets hot I tell myself “be calm, take your time, shoulder the gun, lead the bird ‘n squeeze!”  That being said it seldom happens even if I know the bird is there.  Every, every time that flush absolutely steals my breath as my mind screams “hurry SHOOT!”  It’s different than any other critter I hunt and I have no idea why!

But now to late season.  My travels will almost always be focused on cattails.  Dense tangles of rushes with the slender dark brown hand grenades that explode in your face and eyes.   We spend time usually along edges with the inside better suited to dogs crashing them.  Snap who is often partnered with Acea, Erik’s Golden both seem to really enjoy this cover.  Able to often get under and through the mats as they search for scent then popping out as if to say  “just making sure you’re still there” before launching back inside.   There’s little prep time for these late season flushes since they happen in an instant with little if any warning.  Again often much different than earlier in the season.   A good dog is probably the most essential component now for both flush and recovery.  Also if truth be known I’d probably not have much interest without them.

OK so we’re into the 4th quarter now and if score was being kept Roosters would be way ahead and it wouldn’t be close.  Some have come home with me but many more have cackled and flown away but then I don’t play this game to win that way, ‘n never have.  Every day afield is one put into the win column as far as I’m concerned and as long as Snap doesn’t get frustrated with the misses we’ll keep doing it together!

“Come on Snap let’s Hunt ‘em Up!”