Outdoors

This pheasant hunt came up short

Wildside column: No luck, but more distance to cover

Gunny, Arthur Clark’s German shorthaired pointer, searches a north-central Iowa grassland for pheasants while Bobby Moses (left) and Terry Franck, both of Quasqueton, stand by for action on Oct. 27, the opening day of pheasant season. (Orlan Love/correspondent)
Gunny, Arthur Clark’s German shorthaired pointer, searches a north-central Iowa grassland for pheasants while Bobby Moses (left) and Terry Franck, both of Quasqueton, stand by for action on Oct. 27, the opening day of pheasant season. (Orlan Love/correspondent)

Stay the course. Keep going. Don’t quit until you get what you seek.

That’s the philosophy of my longtime mushroom and pheasant hunting buddy, Arthur Clark of Quasqueton.

Over the years it has worked well in pursuit of our favorite quarries, and I also have successfully applied it to fishing, with declared “last casts” often salvaging otherwise lackluster outings.

I suppose it would work for less important endeavors such as wealth attainment or skill perfection if anyone cared to try it.

As always, we applied it Oct. 27, which, despite the philosophy’s track record of success, will be recorded as the worst of the 55 preceding Iowa pheasant season opening days we’ve shared.

When it mercifully ended at 4:30 p.m., our pockets were stuffed with unspent shotgun shells, whose weight was offset by the airy lightness of our game vests.

Arthur never popped a cap.

I popped one at an out-of-range rooster who provoked me with his departing cackle.

Bobby Moses of Quasqueton also fired but one shell, and it too was spent with no possibility of felling a rooster.

The rooster I saluted was one of two I personally laid eyes on during 12 miles of tough walking through the grasslands of north-central Iowa.

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The other three members of our party — Terry Franck, his son Tyler and Tyler’s son Hunter, all of Quasqueton — actually saw some roosters and bagged four.

While technically our party had averted the skunk, it didn’t feel that way to Arthur, Bobby and me.

The landscape was pretty in a sunlit golden brown sort of way, and those large flocks of starlings, uncannily swooping as if a single organism, occasionally distracted from a tedium unbroken by the tension of a pointing dog, the thrum of wingbeats and the burst of brilliant plumage.

Those distractions grew harder to appreciate as the day progressed and the boots got heavier, the hills steeper, the vegetation more cloying and the deer trails through the densest undergrowth fewer and farther between.

Finally, as the weight of our shotguns bore down on our shoulders and our leg muscles threatened to cramp, it seemed as if even the force of gravity had been turned up a notch.

At the end of the day, you could make a lot of excuses — too much fog in the morning, too much wind in the afternoon, too much standing corn, too much competition from other hunters.

But the truth, as Arthur would have explained if asked, is that we just hadn’t gone far enough — yet.

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