I learned in elementary school that the year begins on January 1. As I got older, I found out that was not completely true. Those in business often find the fiscal year starts in July, but by the time I heard that, I already knew my year actually started the final Saturday of October – the opening of pheasant hunting season.
Maybe it was the dogs, big family breakfasts, new box of hi-brass No. 6 shotgun loads, smell of Hoppe’s No. 9 or the colorful birds that first drew me to pheasants. Honestly it doesn’t matter, I loved it all – and still do.
This year will be no different; I am getting worked up just writing about it. I wish the forecast was of an entire state over-filled with pheasants; however, the loss of habitat and changing landscape will do little to keep me from the fields this Saturday (Oct. 27), even if I have to drive a bit further and the dogs have to run a bit more. It will be worth it, especially when I get to share it with family and friends that have become like family – always is.
I admit that I will be up too late Friday night, and when I do finally drift off, it will be to follow the bird dog in my dreams. I will be up and checking gear before the alarm sounds. Dogs will be tended to as they whine with excitement; they always seem to realize something great is about to happen.
Even with nearly three decades of opening days behind me, when the appointed time to release the spaniels at the first field arrives, I will feel like I did on my first hunt. All the anticipation, off-season work and dreaming of the bird that wears autumn in its feathers comes to a head on opening day. I cannot wait.
It is likely that as you read this, several hundred youth across the state have taken advantage of the youth season, Oct. 20-21. Some even may have taken advantage of a special youth pheasant hunt events taking place at nine wildlife management areas.
I envy these youngsters, partly because I have to wait until next weekend, but mostly because for some of them they are getting to experience the hunt and all the neat things that lead up to it for the first time.
Few pheasant hunters forget their first hunt or first bird, but they do tend to forget birthdays and anniversaries, if they take place past October. I still can smell the wet grass of my first hunt pheasant hunt and see the birds making good their escape.
After that first hunt, I knew I was meant to be a hunter. I shot nothing, but years later realized I had bagged my limit of memories. So I will go afield in pursuit of more adventure in the wilds of Nebraska using the pheasant as my colorful reason to harvest more than just birds. Happy New Year!