The Queen’s Birthday weekend was forecast to be miserable weather. Dad suggested that if it wasn’t raining, we might go pheasant shooting on Saturday morning with the boys. There were five of us in the group: Aaron was eager to try out his new dog, Gemma, on some game birds; Tony, a good keen hunter up from the South Island – pheasants were a bit sparse down south, so he was pretty excited for the day out; Jason, out to shoot his first pheasant; and then there were Dad and I – the guide and the fun seeker.
With the weather holding up, we made the decision to go. Early Saturday morning, we were up and ready; the sun was shining but the air was still cold. The ute was packed, the flasks full and my blood was pumping. I could already tell that it was going to be a great day.
Before we had even got out of the ute, a big cock pheasant took off from under a willow tree in the paddock. Gemma went crazy. The other half of our team arrived, and we unloaded the shotguns. Anticipation built as we told them about the pheasant under the willow tree.
Walking towards the rolling hills, I could see the path ahead would be hard, but my excitement pushed me forward. I was filled with adrenaline for a successful shoot. With the guns loaded and the dog on a hot trail, there was sure to be some steel in the air soon.
Tony’s voice echoed ahead. “I’ve got this one!” BOOM! BOOM! “AARGH … I missed!” Tony had missed the bird and hit a tree instead; the branch came crashing to the ground.
“Tony, have you got rice in those bullets or something?” joked Dad.
“I think so,” replied Tony.
“That’s ok; there will be more,” Dad said.
We walked on for another ten minutes. Seeing two more hens running in the grass, we were hopeful to find some cock pheasants soon. We continued on towards a fallen down old willow tree. Dad, Aaron and I went right, and Jason and Tony went to the left – this way we could get a bird if they flew either way (if Tony didn’t miss). Dad had said that there were always pheasants under this tree.
As we approached, we could hear the pheasants calling. Gemma went in to flush them out, and we got ready to take aim. Suddenly, two cock pheasants burst from their cover and an explosion of shots rang out across the sky. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! My heart was racing. This time, Dad was lucky. Gemma was still learning, so she didn’t retrieve the bird but instead, pointed to it on the ground for Tony to retrieve. Our first bird to add to the carrier on his cartridge belt.
With our first bird under our belts, we headed towards the pines on the other side of the farm. On the way, there were lots of hens flying about but no cock pheasants. As we didn’t spot any more birds, we decided to change direction and head towards the other side of the farm across the river.
Everyone was getting tired and we had all fallen over at some point on the uneven ground. My gumboots kept getting stuck and Aaron had accidently filled his up with mud. We decided that it would be a good time to stop for a hot drink and some morning tea.
Rested and refuelled, we set off again. Once we had safely crossed to the other side of the river, it was Jason’s turn to be the lead shooter. He walked about three steps when a big cock bird flew up not far in front of him; he took the shot. BOOM! The bird fell to the ground with a thud.
“Yes! I just shot my first pheasant!” Jason excitedly shouted.
“Good job! What a beauty.” We all congratulated him.
It was a long, leg-burning walk up to the top of a hill and down over the other side towards some scrub. Once we were there, we split up. Dad and Jason walked along the boundary fence to flush the birds out of their hiding spot so Tony and Aaron could take aim. A few minutes later, a couple of cock pheasants flew straight out of the cover and up above our heads. It was Tony’s turn to shoot – luckily, this time he didn’t miss! Gemma pointed to the bird on the ground, and Tony picked it up with a big smile on his face.
We’d had a great morning, but after another half an hour of searching, there were no more birds to be found, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the ute. We were all exhausted after a day in the beautiful outdoors and ready to go home.
Heading back to Jason’s house to have dinner, Tony promised that he would make pheasant soup. After a massive morning of scrambling up, down and over the farmland, the idea of freshly shot pheasant soup had my tummy gurgling and mouth watering.
What an amazing day! The thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of shooting these magnificent birds had got me hooked. I told Dad that next time I wanted to be the one shooting!
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