Sense of the Pheasant Season

February 18, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Scott Terning examining a rooster from a previous pheasant season

Scott Terning examining a rooster from a previous pheasant season

The day is finally here – pheasant opener. Many sportsmen have been counting down since about mid-July. And with good reason, it is a time in the field unlike any other. It is a circus of the senses and the experience is remembered not only by birds put in the bag, but through the absorption of the trip by the mind and body.

My second-favorite smell of the hunting season is the smoke that slowly rises from the chamber of a shotgun after a clean shot. My favorite scent, of course, is the odor of pheasant meat in the oven or crock-pot slowly wafting out of the kitchen accompanied by the aroma of wild rice or acorn sqash. Like fallen leaves and the earthen dustiness of harvested fields, the scents of the hunt are the harbingers of fall. Certainly, with their noses, the trusted hounds of autumn experience all of these scents at a much greater magnitude. How they separate the game from everything else will always remain a mystery.

Usually, those outdoors scents are borne on the wings of a slight breeze or a stiff wind out of the north. As Canadian air takes hold of the region, the face and hands detect the transition to this favorite season. It may be that the weather stays cool and tiny snowflakes fall during a walk in the CRP. Eyelashes may fill with white flakes to match the slight layer of precipitation on cattails and corn stalks. Or it may be that the day heats up and the autumn sun requires hunters to layer-down into t-shirts and baseball caps, allowing for one last taste of warm weather on an afternoon walk.

It is on those walks that the cackle of a rooster – a high-pitched “catch-me-if-you-can” – breaks over the rustle of a dog in hot pursuit through the grasses. The resounding bang-bang of shotgun fire follows. The whisper of the wind through the reeds of a valley bottom and the commotion of a hen flushing underfoot keep hunters aware and their auditory senses on edge. The sounds add to the stimulations of the season.

The taste of fall is best experienced around the table with friends and family after the hunt, cold beverages and warm autumn foods from the garden like carrots, squash and potatoes complement the meat of the new season’s quarry. The pheasant is the walleye of wild game. The mild meat is easily seasoned and can be prepared in a number of delicious ways. Whether done traditionally with cream of mushroom soup in the slow cooker, or substituted in a spicy Tex-mex dish for chicken, pheasant provides a taste unlike any other time of year.

But of all the senses, sight is the one which truly reaps the bounty of pheasant season. Gold, orange, red and yellow leaves adorn the trees. Equally beautiful colors glimmer from the body of a rooster on the wing or in hand as the bright light of the autumn sun shines down. A dog on point is a beautiful sight, and the haphazard battalion or reconnaissance group you might be a part of while stomping through pheasant country is always fun to observe – out of step and out of perfect formation – as the party marches onward. The brown-red dust of gravel roads, the crisp blue of autumn skies, the pale white of faded cornstalks and the last few glints of green on a few trees range over the visible spectrum of color.

All of these sensations – from the first orange rays of sun coming over the horizon to the pink clouds in the sky that faintly light the way home – await you this pheasant season…in our outdoors


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