Jeremiah M. Murphy
“When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.”
Ernest Hemingway wrote that.
I think he got it right. I remember the first pheasant I shot and I remember the last, and I can’t tell the difference between the two. The anticipation, the thrill when a rooster flushes, making the shot, seeing the bird fold – for me, that’s every successful shot I’ve ever made. It’s an experience that doesn’t diminish with repetition.
The Sunday after this past Thanksgiving I was invited to hunt with a group of South Dakota bloggers and folks, like me, who comment on South Dakota blogs
This was quite a collection of hunters. The invited bloggers and commenters split, ideologically, very sharply between left and right. They then split further along various fault lines into several minor factions.
In the sometimes oxygen-deprived world that is the South Dakota “blogosphere”, comments and blog items among and between these folks are often pointed. Debate can be intense; name-calling can be creative and harsh; and feuds are fairly common.
So, what happens when you bring a bunch of verbal warriors together and arm them with shotguns?
They have a great time, that’s what happens. They get along just fine. To paraphrase the prophet Isaiah, “The bloggers hammered their keyboards into shotguns and their mice into shotgun shells. Blogger did not lift up keyboard against blogger . . . “
Thanks to the outstanding generosity of Nick and Mary Jo Nemec, we had land to walk and great food to eat.
That was the scene at what Todd Epp labeled the “Treaty of Holabird” hunt.
That’s not to say the group was quiet, we kept up a non-stop banter. But it was lighthearted compared to the back and forth often seen on the blogs.
Within that lively conversational whirl, there was still the matter of hunting.
Driving east that morning I had lowered my expectations to match the lateness of the season. I guessed there wouldn’t be too many birds. I’m not a great shot. Instead I anticipated and looked forward to the walking, the fresh air, and the company.
However, once we were in the fields, it was a different story.
As I walked a thin plowed strip with Kevin Woster, a bird got up a distance in front of us. He was flying fast, low, and away. I really didn’t have much of a shot but I took a shot anyway - no luck.
But, that rooster and that shot turned my day from a walk in the fields into a hunt. After that, I was all ears and eyes. I was Elmer Fudd. I was primed, I was ready. I was gonna get the wabbit (or, in this case, the pheasant).
Soon another rooster got up. This one was different from the first – a much better prospect. He flushed nice and slow with his body turned to present the best target. I slid off my safety as I raised my gun, and . . . “BANG!” . . . I heard Woster’s gun bark as Kevin nailed the bird.
Okay, maybe I was not so primed and ready as I imagined.
We worked our way from field to tree line to creek bed to bluff to field that afternoon. I had a few shots over the next couple hours but most of those birds were so high it was difficult to say if they were pheasants or the 2:42 flight out of Pierre. But still, I was hunting, and loving it
Then, late in the afternoon, another rooster flushed right in front of me and, as Woster was a ways away, I got him (the pheasant). Before I could collect that bird, a second rooster got up behind me and I had more good luck.
Hemmingway had it right - a successful shot, no matter the circumstances, is a common and welcome experience. Same goes for the company of good folks. By those standards, the “Treaty of Holabird” hunt was as good as hunting gets.
Jeremiah M. Murphy lives in Rapid City. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Originally published in the January 13th, 2008 Rapid City Journal)
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