Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pheasant Weekend With Mom

I am continuing the mom theme here at the Chevalier blog. This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my mom hunting for the first time! The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hosted the Becoming an Outdoor Woman upland workshop in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The workshop was designed for beginners and those who have never hunted before.

This was the first BOW workshop my mother and I have attended and we didn’t know what to expect. We arrived at the Klamath Falls Wildlife Area Saturday morning to a group of welcoming volunteers and eager participants. There were approximately 14 women ranging from mid twenties all the way to seniors.

The morning session was all about safety and what to expect while in the field. We were encouraged to ask questions and really get involved in the session. Questions ranged from how many pellets it takes to kill a bird, to chokes used for upland game and also bird identification.

After the classroom session we headed to the local trap and skeet club to practice firearm safety and improve our shooting skills. It has been years since my mom has shot a shotgun. An instructor worked with her 1-on-1 starting with how to safely operate the firearm, then they worked on patterning the firearm and then it was onto shooting clay pigeons. While my mom was getting 1-on-1 instruction I was able to spend time shooting clay pigeons with other participants.

When we were familiar with our firearms and felt confident, we headed back to the Klamath Falls Wildlife Area for a BBQ lunch. We paired up with a guide and a dog. My mom and I partnered with Jerry and his German Shorthair Miss Contessa from the Klamath chapter of Unlimited Pheasants.

We loaded up his vehicle and headed to a field. On the drive Jerry explained to us that Miss Contessa was a pointer and the difference between a pointer and a flusher. He also gave us the run down of what to expect in the field.

Within the first five minutes Contessa was pointing. Jerry signaled for my mom and I to move forward and get ready. My heart was racing; I couldn’t believe we were already on a bird! Jerry walked up to Contessa and flushed the bird. That rooster took off like a B-52! I heard my mom shoot as I put the bead on the rooster’s head, I squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. In the midst of excitement, I LEFT THE SAFETY ON!

We all got a good laugh as the rooster glided away on the horizon. Jerry called my blunder “Excuse # 37.” I think we also decided that mom missed because of “Excuse #24: the sun was in her eyes.”

It seemed like Contessa was pointing every 100 yards, there was so much action. I have only seen upland dogs work on TV. It was such a treat watching Contessa work. When she was on a scent, her head would get really flat, like a cobra and jerked at a breakneck pace. When she pointed, she stopped panting, but her tail would wag her entire body. She was so patient and enthusiastic, as flush after flush my mom and I would miss the shots. Contessa would look at us as if she was saying, “it’s ok, I will find another bird for you!”

It didn’t matter that we were missing; we had so much action and were thrilled to see every flight pattern possible from the pheasants. By the end of the first day, my mom and I each got a pheasant (mostly out of luck).

Jerry taught us so much that afternoon. We learned how to read Contessa’s body signals, how to mark where a flushed bird landed using landmarks and how to aim and shoot at a flushing rooster.

It was really cool to see the bond between Jerry and Contessa as well. They have been hunting together for nine years, Jerry doesn’t have to give Contessa direction in the field, nor does he have to verbally communicate with her. I simply can’t explain how dialed in Jerry and Contessa are to one another. I asked Jerry what his secret was with Contessa, he smiled and said, “You just have to know and understand your dog.”

The second morning mom and I woke up sore from all the walking and shooting we did the day before. That did not slow us down, as we got ready to head back to the Klamath Falls Wildlife area. We were so pumped to get back in the field and HUNT! We gulped down our breakfast and loaded up in Jerry’s vehicle. Contessa was ready to go too, she was scouting from her window as we drove to our unit.

No matter how many times we flushed birds, a shot of adrenaline would rock my body every time Contessa pointed. The coolest part of the second day was when we were driving by a dried up pond. My mom yelled, “STOP, please.” She saw a rooster standing in the middle of the pond. We parked and noticed there was not one, but TWO roosters standing in the middle of the pond! As we walked to the roosters, (who hid in a tiny patch of cover) my mom stopped and whispered, “There is one right in front of me.” Both Jerry and I thought she was seeing things. She kept insisting that there was a rooster less than five feet in front of her. Sure enough there was. The rooster was on the run and Contessa was able to corner him in thick brush. Mom and I stood about seven yards apart and got ready for the flush.

Contessa flushed the rooster, and he flew up and right, I had to lower my gun because my mom was directly to my right. This gave me the opportunity to watch my mom track the bird and make the perfect shot. Contessa went into the vortex of thick cover and made one heck of a retrieve. I can’t tell you how cool it was to watch everything come together so perfectly for my mom! We all yelled in joy, hugged and high-fived.

This past weekend was amazing. We learned so much about upland hunting. Mom and I have decided that we want to return to Klamath Falls for a yearly girl’s hunt. I want to thank the following for making this weekend happen:

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Outdoor Skills and Education

Becoming an Outdoors Woman

Klamath chapter of Unlimited Pheasants

Oregon Hunters Association

A super special thanks to JERRY AND MISS CONTESSA, you taught us more than you will ever know!

Here is a video of my mom cleaning a pheasant for the first time!

Shannon’s Gear List:

Berretta 686 White Onyx 20ga O/U

Winchester Xpert® Steel Upland Game & Target

SHE Outdoor Apparel Upland pants and shirt

ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

Roxanne’s Gear List:

Mossberg Silver Series 20ga O/U

Winchester Xpert® Steel Upland Game & Target

SHE Outdoor Apparel Upland pants and shirt

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