The pheasant in the picture has a 29 ¼-inch tailfeather, by far the longest I have ever seen attached to a pheasant I shot. While I subscribe to the “every bird is a trophy” school (especially in these days of low populations), this feather is so ridiculously much longer than a normal pheasant tailfeather that I’m very excited about it. It towers over the others in my tailfeather jar as a reminder that a day that starts badly can get much better. First, on my way to the field near Riverside, Iowa, (which calls itself “The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.”) the grain truck ahead of me on the highway shot a rock into my Jeep’s windshield, cracking it to the tune of a $304.85 replacement.
Then, not long into the hunt, I learned that my vest lacks pockets deep enough to hold an e-collar transmitter if you are trying to keep up with a dog on the trail of running pheasants. My transmitter bounced out of the pocket somewhere in the middle of 80 acres of CRP grasses. I’m sure it will turn up next spring as a pool of melted plastic when the landowner burns the field.
With one windshield and one transmitter to replace I seriously thought about turning around and going home before I broke a gunstock, Jed got hurt, or we lost a cripple. I am not very superstitious, but I do believe misfortune comes in threes so I feared something else bad was about to befall me.
What happened instead was that Jed caught a whiff of this rooster, who was too old and ornery to sit and let himself be pointed solidly. He slunk off. Jed stayed with him, pointing, breaking, creeping and relocating along the hillside until he finally pointed the bird from a distance. The pheasant flushed and flew straight away, so I wasn’t aware of how long the tail was until I put the bird in my vest and realized the feathers sticking out of the gamebag kept going and going.
A little later I shot another rooster over a very solid point by Jed, and my friend Rick killed one over his 11-year old springer, Clem. Three roosters for two hunters is a big morning in Iowa this year, so we celebrated with ice cream bars at a country convenience store, which we ate outside on a bench soaking up the unseasonably warm 50 degree late December weather in our shirtsleeves.
Our pheasant numbers have fallen so low these past five years that no one holds long tailfeather contests anymore. Even just five or six years ago businesses all over the state awarded useful prizes like shotguns and snowblowers for the longest tailfeather entered. This one is definitely long enough to win most contests — if only I could find one to enter.
*I don’t run my dog with e-collar very often so I had never lost a transmitter before. Apparently, though, it happens all the time, so much so that TriTronics customer service reps refer to Mondays in the fall as “Transmitter Mondays,” because 90% of the calls they get are to replace lost units.