Like a lot of Wyoming kids, I grew up hunting. I bagged my first cottontail before I can remember, and I outgrew more duck hunting parkas than I’ve worn out. But during the first few of my hunting seasons, the critters I spent the most time hunting were pheasants.
That may be a bit unusual for a Wyoming hunter, but my dad had a friend who raised his own birds. We also spent some time chasing quail around Dave’s property, and that’s more unusual yet.
But growing up in Riverton, we had a few wild pheasants, too. I didn’t have to go far to find pheasants. My dad had a chunk of land down by the Wind River, and the pheasants did pretty well on the edges of his crop fields. When I was old enough to hunt on my own, I’d walk down to the river with pheasant loads in the shotgun, then switch to duck loads when I got to the water. If I hadn’t limited out on ringnecks, I’d reload the pheasant shot for the walk back home.
But long before I was hiking down to the river by myself, my dad would take me out to Dave’s place as often as he could. I’m sure I bagged a good number of rabbits and other game animals before we started hunting with Dave, but the first critter I remember bringing down was a pheasant Dave’s shorthair pointed for me.
I don’t know how old I was, but I remember all the other details clearly.
We hadn’t gotten far into the field that day when the dog went on point. We were only about ten yards away from the corrals, so we angled around until our backs were to the fence and our barrels were pointing out over the open ground. Dave told me to walk in and get ready to shoot, so that’s just what I did.
It took a couple of steps, then the ground in front of me exploded in a flurry of feathers and dust. The pheasant popped out of the top of a sagebrush, and before I could give it much thought, I tripped the trigger on Dad’s old Elgin side-by-side 20-gauge. It was a direct hit.
Unfortunately, it was a direct hit from about five feet away. The air filled with feathers, and the bird dropped out of that cloud, looking pretty grim. I let ‘em get out a little farther now. But that was my first pheasant, for better or worse.