By Roger Wiltz
For The Daily Republic
Tom, one of my sons-in-law from Wisconsin, expressed an interest in a South Dakota pheasant hunt during the days preceding Christmas. The girls offered to keep tabs on a convalescing Betsy during my absence, so I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to get home. We drove to Wagner Dec. 20, hunted the weekend and returned to Wisconsin Dec. 23.
As you well know, pheasant numbers are down, and I couldn’t guarantee Tom great hunting. Still, it was late in the season, there was snow on the ground and the birds would be bunched up and reasonably easy to find. I was guardedly optimistic. On the plus side, Tom also had a dog.
You may recall that I wrote about Finn, a male German shorthair, when Tom and Lu purchased the pup. Finn’s owners actually interviewed Tom, Lu and the kids to see if they’d be suitable owners. They survived the interview, and Finn joined the family for a $1,500 fee. That chunk of dough was just the beginning. Finn has since accounted for $7,500 in surgeries and thousands of dollars for carpet replacement as he is allowed to live in the house.
If you have detected a wee bit of negativism on my part concerning the dog, it might relate to my getting into a wee bit of trouble with Betsy. I had been given instructions to make sure that Finn didn’t get near the guest room bed. I forgot about my promise and didn’t mention the bed to Tom until the second night. My warning came too late.
Tom’s permitting Finn to sleep on the bed with him brings to mind Luke Hagen, assistant editor, of The Daily Republic. Luke has been chronicling his thoughts with regard to the coming of their first child. We find Luke wondering if there will be room for the baby on the Hagen queen-sized bed that already sleeps his wife, himself and their two dogs. It’s none of my business, but I’ll venture an educated guess that the dogs will lose their bed space when that very precious baby comes along.
Now, getting back to the hunt, it appeared to me that the dog getting to hunt was more important to Tom than Tom getting to hunt. As for myself, I could hunt anytime, and I hoped Tom could account for some of my limit. We were highly successful as the majority of our two-day, 12-bird limit was bagged by Tom. More importantly, Tom believed Finn’s performance was absolutely world class. My opinion? In spite of Finn being a little hard-mouthed and ranging out too far at times, I’ll give Finn credit for having a very good nose. We never lost a bird. Finn also has a stylish point.
Today’s column isn’t meant to be about killing pheasants. It’s about some bad luck we had Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, we took my Dodge pickup, leaving Tom’s 2008 GMC 4WD pickup completely out of the picture. On Sunday, we took Tom’s truck and I drove. Sunday’s hunting was done in -15 degree weather, and I’ll readily admit that I spent more time in the truck than out in the elements.
Sunday’s hunting began with a shelter belt that Tom and the dog hunted from east to west. I drove down to the west end, parked the truck and got out and blocked. I heard Tom shoot and I saw pheasants run out the north side. Eventually, two high-flying roosters buzzed over me and I dropped both. They were incredibly beautiful, their long tails against the pure snow, and I was as happy as happiness gets. Tom didn’t score and after unsuccessfully checking a few spots, we headed for a cattail slough bottom where I hoped Tom could fill out our limit.
I suggested some spots, let Tom and the dog out and met them at the end of their push through the cattails. Tom added two more birds to our bag, and I took them around to the west side of a larger slough where I would meet them on the northeast corner, confident that Tom would fill our limit.
I parked the truck facing south so I could take in the action. The cover proved too high and I didn’t have sight of Tom or Finn. Ten minutes later, birds, mostly roosters, began to pour out of the cattails directly in front of me. The temptation proved to be too great, and I climbed out of the pickup with shotgun in hand, leaving the truck keys on the dash.
I was 10 yards in front of the truck when I closed the action of my Browning over and under. At the firm “click” of the gun’s mechanism, I heard a “beep” come from the pickup. A pang ran through my stomach. I went back and checked the door while roosters flew over my head. We were locked out of the truck. Minutes later, Tom and Finn showed up with two more roosters. I was already getting cold.
When I told Tom what had happened, he laughed. I saw little humor in the situation. I went on to explain the frequency of the sound from my gun closing locked the door. He doubted that. Did he know something I didn’t know about his truck? We began a trek to the nearest farmhouse that was a good mile away.
We hadn’t gone 100 yards when we saw a pickup approaching from the west. Would it stop and give us a ride? Good fortune was with us. It proved to be a good friend, his son and his grandson. Rifles were spread across the front seat. They were road hunting for coyotes. They brought us to Wagner where we rolled my Dodge out of the garage and went looking for help. A few days later, I was talking to my daughter LuAnn.
“Lu, did Tom tell you about our getting locked out of the pickup?” I asked.
“Tom told me about you locking them out of the truck!” responded Lu.
This was my fault? If there was something funky about Tom’s truck, shouldn’t he have told me about it ahead of time? I still don’t know what locked those truck doors. Let me tell you about the 2005 Dodge I special-ordered from Iverson Motors years ago. The windows go up or down with a hand crank. Manuel buttons lock the doors. A manual six-speed gear shift sits on the floor. A knob turns the lights on and off. My truck does nothing but work. No high-tech things for this pheasant hunter.
See you next week.