The Armchair Outfitter

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Dust in the Wind: Part 7

March 11th, 2008 · 2 Comments


- Raimey looks on as Kirk “explains” a wild melon to young Purdey. Note the orange check-cord for field training.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Today is Kirk’s birthday, and we mark the occasion by singing to him at 4:00 A.M. What we lack in pitch control, we make up with enthusiasm. I am certain that he appreciates the serenade, though he does conceal it well. The day dawns cold and windy, and two of us have to answer nature’s call by the time we get to the campground. This is noteworthy only because it is a paperwork job, and the only “convenience” available is an enclosed toilet with about a twelve foot tall, large-diameter standpipe for ventilation. I am forewarned that the seat is cold. Just when I’m thinking that it’s not as bad as advertised, I hear the frigid wind outside pick up with a howl. There’s a lump in my throat as I head back toward the truck, and I’m pretty sure I used to pee with it.

We make a short run through the CRP grass and then drop off into the basin. As usual, this is straight up, straight down stuff, and before long I’m exhausted. I’m starting to think this hunt will be a replay of last year when I wasn’t anywhere near keeping up with the group. Before long I am walking by myself, as I have somehow gotten on the wrong side of an impenetrable stand of cane and cattails. Nasty feelings of self-doubt start to take hold, as I haul myself to high ground so that I can get my bearings. Stopping to catch my breath, I notice great Vs of geese passing overhead so high above me that their cacophonous honks are barely audible. Scanning the clearing, I see two whitetail does about 150 yards away from me. Although I’m making no particular effort to be still, they are more interested in two bucks that are about 200 yards to my opposite side than they are in whatever I might be doing. I decide to see just how close the does will get to a man standing in an open field, and they run within 20 yards of me before the lead doe throws on the brakes. It’s like I’ve stepped into the Outdoor Channel. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about myself or what I’m doing out here.

I decide to make a big circle back to the parking area, and I’m just easing along when something explodes out of the grass almost at my feet. It’s a rabbit, and I remember someone saying the night before that rabbits are in season, although it would be extremely poor form to shoot one in front of the dogs. There are no dogs around, so I decide to let him have it. One, two, three, four times I slap the trigger, each time eliciting a puff of dust right behind the speedster. He’s close, and the pattern of #4s from the modified choke tube is small. I almost don’t fire the fifth and final shot, but what the heck, I’ve already embarrassed myself. At least the bolt will hang open and it will be easier to reload. The fifth shot is the charm, though, and I see the rabbit flipping and flopping on the other side of some low brush.

As I approach to end his misery, I notice that something is amiss. He’s a big joker, bigger than all but the largest of the “swampers” we have at home. I’ve seen jackrabbits in Texas when I was a boy, and I realize that instead of the King of all Cottontails, I’ve bagged a juvenile jack-hopper. This, as my Papaw would say, brings on more talk. That guy last night didn’t say anything about jackrabbits, did he? I’m suddenly faced by a dilemma brought on by my ignorance of the small game laws. I’m unwilling to leave the animal having killed it, so I figure I’ll have to take my lumps if I’m in the wrong. Until I find out what the score is, though, I’m not exactly advertising. It’s gotten warm by now, so I wrap the jackrabbit in my coat. Note to self: jackrabbits are heavy. When I get back to the truck, there is a mob at the parking area where we were the only vehicle this morning. I slide the coat and its possibly contraband cargo into the truck bed and hope that all the dogs around will not raise too much of a ruckus.

When the rest of our bunch returns, Kirk and one of the KS dogs have been sprayed by a skunk. Their efforts to “step back in their own tracks,” as Kirk puts it, were unsuccessful. I couldn’t be more relieved when I casually mention jackrabbits to the KS guys, and one of them notes that there is no closed season on them. Many farmers consider them a nuisance. Whew, not going to jail in Kansas! Can I get an amen?

We walk the milo and wheat stubble in the afternoon, and I am hating the weight of my shotgun. Purdey is so tired she goes back to the truck, and that makes me feel better. If you’ve walked that dog into the ground, you’ve done something. Rudy and the KS bunch leave after this run, and I skip the last foray of the day. It has turned off unseasonably hot, and I am concerned about the jackrabbit spoiling.

I field dress the rabbit on an old log with my pocket knife. A half-empty bottle of water from the truck provides a quick rinse for both of us, and he goes into the cooler. I watch an owl hunt in the tall grass as I wait for a cell phone call to drive around to the other parking area to pick up the rest of the team. As it turns out, Raimey has forgotten to take his phone with him, and it is well after dark when the guys return. Tired and smelling bad, we head back to the hotel to finish cleaning the jack-hopper and the three pheasants that represent the day’s total take. We must switch hotels in the morning, and we are all grateful for the necessity of lounging in bed until 6:00 A.M.

Tags: Upland Hunting

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ellenbr // Mar 12, 2008 at 4:27 pm


    Don’t forget to mention that Kirks gets his Verona or Gold Coast Blend(I’ll have to check my notes) w/ some Irish Setter as his special Birthday Boy morning drink. Regarding the rules: I’ve been told that all public land was non-tox and something to the effect of “you can’t have that tube extension on any gun.”

    Kind Regards,


  • 2 armchairoutfitter // Mar 13, 2008 at 12:23 pm


    Good point on the free “advice.” I had a similar experience when a Kansas hunter told me there was no limit on rabbits. Reading the regs later, I discovered that the limit was ten. The rules are complicated, so if you don’t want to shoot marbles, you’d better study them carefully.

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