I grew up hunting. From the time I remember, I was tripping and stumbling through a pheasant field, gunless of course. I was the pheasant peasant, they would load me up with the harvested birds and let me carry them around. I still remember the feel of their sharp claws, beaks, and at times, their last movements.
Being out in the field, wind and leaves blowing, the browns of the grass fields, it was really special. I was lucky enough to grow up hunting behind some of the best dogs you could imagine. Most of them were German Shorthairs, and they were fantastic! They would work back and forth until they caught just the faintest smell of a bird. The dogs would lock into a pointing position, signaling to us that there was a bird close. Sometimes, the dogs would work together and point together, one pointing from a far, the other working closer and closer until the dog was sure the bird was really close. This would allow us to work towards the bird and get into position. Those moments, before the bird was flushed up and out, were magical! For anyone that has experienced that, it's amazing, isn't it? For those that haven't, please, try it!
After the bird was flushed up, there would be a designated shooter, ready to harvest the bird. If that person missed, there was always a skilled shooter ready to pull the trigger. The sound of the shotguns, some pumps, some over and unders (nobody really used semi-autos then) were really exciting as a young boy. You couldn't imagine something that loud, but it didn't hurt your ears. I always attributed it to being outside in the open, and having adrenaline pumping through your veins.
When the bird was shot, the dogs would amaze me once again, finding a literal needle in a haystack, grabbing the bird, and with a mouth so soft, soft enough to not puncture the bird, the dog would retrieve the bird to their owner. That's when I'd be loaded up with the bird.
At the end of the day, my feet and legs were tired as could be. Kicking through the high weeds and grass all day, trudging through the snow, and carrying the added weight of the pheasant, it made for a physical day. But to be outside with my dad, Uncles, cousins and their dogs, shooting guns and enjoying the outdoors, that was the best thing for me!
Jack of All Trades, Master of None