I sat on the back of my tailgate this afternoon, soaking in some of the precious autumn sunshine, listening to the blackbirds twittering in the trees, and smelling the tantalizing aroma of burgers sizzling on a grill.
All around me were family and friends, laughing and telling stories, and waitin’ for the burgers to cook. But me, I was only absent-mindedly listening to their conversations here and there. Not really contributing much.
Mostly, I was in a state of mindless focus. Concentrating on pluckin’ the feathers off the pheasant I’d shot a couple hours earlier.
Dry-plucking a bird is like that though. It’s one of those slow, tedious tasks that takes a fair amount of patience, a bit of focused attention, and a lot of love.
(Love’s actually the main ingredient.)
If you’ve never hunted before, it might seem weird that a hunter would love its prey, but that’s exactly what happens.
The more time you spend in pursuit of something, the more you grow to love it. At least, that’s my take on it. It’s certainly the case with me and pheasants.
I’ve been chasing those stinkin’ birds ever since I can remember — and the chase has led me through thick and tangled swamps, with cattails over your head and water over your boots; it’s led me up dry, rocky mountainsides full of sagebrush and cactus; and pretty much everywhere in between.
We’ve hunted through blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. And yet, we’ve also enjoyed some absolutely gorgeous fall days (today being one of them). Heck, I’ve even swam icy rivers to get to those silly old pheasants!
And through it all, my respect for the birds just grows and grows. In fact, somewhere down the line, I realized that I truly love ’em.
I tell ya, it’s kind of an odd feeling to swing a shotgun towards a cackling rooster, hoping to bring him down — while at the same time hoping that he gets away…
You actually find yourself rooting for the opposite team, in a way.
But, like I always say, if you throw enough lead up into the air, eventually you’re gonna hit something. And when I do bring a pheasant down, that love for the bird is what spurs me to use as much of him as I can. “Everything but the cluck,” or so they say.
The breast meat generally gets cubed, breaded, and fried for our family’s big “Pheasant Dinner” get-together. Later, the wings will also be breaded, fried, and then glazed with some spicy honey mustard. The legs are a must for “Gumbo Night.” The hearts and livers get chopped up and stir-fried for a knock-your-socks-off taco salad. The gizzards get corned (just like corned beef, but wilder). And of course, the feet and carcasses get made into broth.
But y’know one of the main reasons I’m so grateful for pheasants?
They give me an excuse to spend time with family. With Ryu. With nature.
As I sat there on the tailgate, enjoying the sunshine and admiring the beautiful plumage, I couldn’t help whispering a silent “Thank you.”
I’m grateful God gave us pheasants.
You also might like last year’s rant:
Cuz honestly, who doesn’t like to be thankful?!