Northeast of where I live, anonymously situated on the prairie near a small town I use as a base of operations for many of my upland pursuits, there is an impressive old barn that stands as a centerpiece among a collection of discarded buildings from a homestead that is decaying into a windblown western landscape. Sprinkled in its shadows are a variety of old farm implements that decorate the countryside, reminders of a time when life had a clearer sense of priority. Near the edge of the homestead yard, next to a corner stretcher and a ball of rusted barbed wire is a large dead cottonwood tree currently being reclaimed by its mother. Buried under the tree are the remains of my two pointers, Phoebe and Chili, who I lost to cancer at the end of last season.
|Dan's hard working Lab Gracie|
|Friend Dan walking through a particularly tall piece of cover|
The field is under the protective care of a lonely elderly gentleman I'll call Hank, who I have gotten to know quite well over the past decade. He lives in a modest brick home that was built many years ago next to the old homestead that overlooks my bird paradise. Hank is a funny and entertaining fellow. A religious man, he's always quick to offer me a bit a scripture every time I stop by to pay him a visit. He has an ominous looking German Shepard named Blue that suns himself on the South facing doorstep every afternoon. Blue has an unapproachable demeanor and ferociously threatening bark that does a terrific job of keeping other hunters from bothering Hank for permission to hunt his property. Fortunately, I discovered early on that Blue has an affinity for fresh ground meat which I bring him each week during the hunting season. My gift renders him an utter pussycat.
|Scott and Elsie after a successful visit to the field|
Hank has been generous with his property. We seem to share the same loathing of pheasants, albeit from different perspectives. While I am tormented by the long tailed jackal for the number of times it has made a fool of me, Hank is annoyed by how early they wake him up in the morning. I have been permitted to take many friends to the field each season, which I do often. The only cost is a pleasant conversation with Hank that I look forward to four or five times a season, a few pounds of ground elk, a roast or two, some steaks, and the toll I'm required to pay Blue with each visit. I have walked this stretch of ground countless times in a variety of different conditions, driving snow, hot dry temperatures, a rainstorm or two, and once, in a perfect fog that left a succulent bouquet of bird scent on the ground for my dogs. The birds held that day. Each trip is special and unique in its own way. I have yet to pay a visit to field and be disappointed. Sometimes the field ends my day in only a few minutes with three quick shots and a full vest. More often than not, it takes a little more searching before a quarry is earned, but never has it failed to produce.
|Evening at a cornfield next to the field|