The Armchair Outfitter

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Dust in the Wind: Part 6

February 19th, 2008 · 5 Comments


Saturday, November 4, 2006 (Opening Day)

The day begins with a 3:15 wakeup necessitated by the forty minute drive to the area we will be hunting. We are headed to the Glen Elder Wildlife Area, approximately 13,200 acres of land surrounding Waconda Lake. We will meet our friend Rudy and a bunch of other hunters from Kansas. Some background is in order. We met Rudy on a previous trip. The more the merrier on a pheasant hunt, so we fell in with Rudy’s group and hunted together. Over handshakes at the end of the day, Raimey commented that he’d sure enjoyed hunting with Rudy and his friends, including Rudy’s dogs. Now you can’t go wrong praising a man’s friends, but if you praise his dogs, your stock goes way up in his estimation. Rudy responded in kind, and said,”4:30 opening day next year, you know where I’ll be. Right here in this campground.” Raimey replied that it was a “date,” and so began the Kansas Connection.

We arrive at Rudy’s tent and are out of the truck by 5:00 A.M. We greet our friends, and when legal shooting time arrives, we hit the CRP grass behind the campsite. There are about 15 of us in all, and we walk the easy fields quickly with no points or flushes. By 8:00 we have dropped off the near-vertical bluff into the river bottom and we are stomping the cattails. This requires a particular technique Raimey refers to as “high-stepping,” in which you raise your foot until your thigh is perpendicular to the ground and then force it down into the thick bed of native grasses. It is not a natural motion, and there is no way to prepare for the toll it exacts on your body. Raimey tapes his ankles as he did in his football days. I’m wearing neoprene ankle gaiters to keep my socks in place, but it is little comfort.

The first rooster I see flushes as I am picking my way through a stand of saplings. A young man shooting an over-and-under fires two anxious shots, “pop-pop,” as the cock exits the far side of the cover. The bird hasn’t really got his wings under him, and he is no more than five yards ahead of us. The golf-ball-sized pattern fails to connect. Because the shooter has a clear line to the bird, I hesitate, waiting for a third shot that never comes. I don’t immediately realize that owing to the double-barrel, he has shot out. By the time I get my wits about me, the bird is at 70-plus yards, and I have no business shooting at him. I instantly rationalize that if I can wound him, we have enough hunters and dogs to walk him down and put in a finisher. I fire three times, hoping to send a long distance telegram, but he doesn’t sign for it. In response to all the commotion, a hen gets up for what would be a beautiful shot if they were legal.

The afternoon begins rather inauspiciously with a blown hunt. We divide up into two groups. Most of us will stand on the high ground and block, while the smaller group work their way around to the opposite side of a bowl and walk through the low ground pushing back toward us. I am fortunately in the blocking group, and I take advantage of the opportunity to stop walking for a while.

We wait for what seems to be more than enough time for the drivers to come into view and, seeing no hunter orange, we try to raise them on the radio to make sure everyone is O.K. R.J.’s voice comes back tense and irritated. He says there’s a problem; the group has met two hunters on the other side, and they claim that there are others ahead of them. Seeing no one in between us and the other hunters, R.J. explains that we are in position to block that and they will ease on down the hill watching for other hunters. R.J.’s request is denied, so he adopts another tack. Pointing off at a side-hill angle, R.J. suggests that it might be possible to work around the other hunters, but the fellow angrily replies, “I’ve got guys down there too!” We learn later that a heated exchange ends with one of the other “hunters” saying something to the effect of, “We’ve got guns out here, you know.” Wisely, R.J. decides to avoid the confrontation completely and our guys backtrack out the way they entered.

Although this is public access land, none of us has ever had an encounter like this one before or since. We are discussing the matter around the truck in the parking area when two hunters walk out alone. I speak to them as they walk by the lot of us, asking, “Did y’all kill them all?” One of the guys mutters a response, and they get into their truck and leave quickly. It is only when R.J. rounds the back of our truck, red-faced, that I realize they were the other “group” of hunters that were supposedly dispersed over an area of roughly 40 acres. R.J. relates that he believes they might have been drunk, because while they were talking, a rooster got up right underneath them and neither seemed to notice.

One of the Kansas bunch has secured permission to hunt some private land, or “ground” as they call it out there, and we decide that it would be a good idea to go. This will allow us to avoid bumping into our new friends again until they are hopefully either somewhere sleeping it off or in jail. We drive to a beautiful field of milo which should make for easy walking. Unfortunately, the owner’s house is situated such that if we walk parallel to the rows in the “right” direction, we will be pushing birds directly toward the house. It’s a large field, too large for a group our size to position blockers in front of the house and yard, so we walk against the grain, the heads of the unharvested milo at just the correct height to bang our knees with every step. Raimey expresses relief that the milo is only knee-high, as there are worse places to get continually whacked with the heavy seed heads.

In working this field, we kick up more pheasants than I care to count. No one fires a shot, though, as they are all hens. I think to myself that if all these hens raise progeny during the off season, Kansas should have a banner pheasant season in 2007. That is little consolation in 2006, however, standing in the middle of the seemingly endless field with aching legs and feet. Defeated, we plod back to the truck, resolved to return to the walk-in land were we at least saw legal roosters.

Back at Glen Elder, we are row-cropping again, this time in a wheat field. Kirk shoots a fine cock pheasant, and Raimey connects with one also. A younger hunter fires after Raimey, though, and Raimey makes no move to claim the bird. At one point in the afternoon, we are walking along in a widely spread line and two roosters sail parallel to every gunner. Whether from the angle of the sun, fatigue, or the sheer number of hens we’ve seen, nobody calls out or fires a shot until the birds are halfway down the line. It is only after they have passed me that I realize they are fair game. I fire three times, but I’ve started my swing too late and I fail to do any damage.

Kirk kills another bird in the basin before the afternoon is over, but I am not there to witness it. I am sitting on top of the bluff watching the line of hunters make one last pass through the thick stuff. I’m exhausted, and my shooting glasses are fogged up like I’ve been in a sauna. I watch four roosters and two hens glide silently in behind the hunters and light, but I am in no shape to go down after them. One cock and a hen flush far out in front of the advancing line, but none of the hunters has a shot, and legal shooting time fades into early evening.

Tags: Upland Hunting

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Theresa // Feb 22, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Although I’m neither a hunter nor a fisherman, I really enjoy your site with its stories, trip experiences and words of wisdom I know it’s a lot of work to keep it up, but want you to know that a lot of us out here sure do appreciate it. I’m always checking back to see what’s been added. Thanks for the hard work.

  • 2 armchairoutfitter // Feb 22, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks you for the kind words. The site takes a lot of time, but it’s not “work” in the sense of “something you wouldn’t do unless someone paid you for it.” Although I do accept donations. Seriously.

  • 3 Theresa // Feb 23, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    You’re welcome. I know you enjoy doing it, but I still know that it does take time. Donations??? What kinds of donations???

  • 4 armchairoutfitter // Feb 23, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Given the exchange rate, I’d prefer euros, but I will accept any currency! I’m saving up to attend a Manchester United match, so pounds would also be handy. In the future I will be opening the site to advertisers. For now, just telling other people about the site and getting them to check it out is all I ask from anyone.

  • 5 ellenbr // Feb 24, 2008 at 8:46 pm


    I can safely say that I have lived it, but lived it in a sense that I have blinders on and only see what is near me which is usually the gun dogs, CRP grass 8-10 feet tall with intermittent cattails and Kirk & RJ (who I’m not supposed to hunt with.) At times a covering of cattail seeds restricts my oxygen flow as well as vision. Reading your account with you being a “fly on the wall” perched on the rim of the basin, with or without glasses, puts the hunt in perspective even more. So much can be seen from a vantage point as to how the hunter and his quarry play a cat and mouse game, or even a game of checkers or chess. As you have said, whether you coined it I know not, the quarry only has to make ONE mistake, while the hunter makes all attempts to capitalize in the event of the ONE mistake of the quarry.

    Kind Regards,


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