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I rarely hunt opening day but I always try to go on the last day of the season. Seeing it out to the end is an important ceremony. Besides, if you have hunted enough, you’re relieved when the season ends. If you haven’t, it’s still a relief to be able to stop stressing about not getting out. It’s an occasion worth marking.

Although some of my closing day hunts are nothing more freezing walks with little expectation of success, more often they have been memorable.

This year was no exception. There’s a farm I get to hunt once a year that has always been the best pheasant place I have ever seen. I save my invitation for the last day and take my friend Rick. While the place doesn’t have the birds it used to, we still found enough to have a great afternoon on a January day so warm we hunted with our shirt sleeves rolled up. I killed my last pheasant of the year over a point by my shorthair at 4:20, ten minutes before the end of the season, then watched him point and let it fly away, as I already had three birds in my gamebag.

While we were putting dogs in their crates the landowner drove up to see how we had done. I’ve known him most of my life and hunted his place since I was in college. He is now in his 80s. Every year I wonder if this will be the last time I close the season on his place. Rick’s springer is 11 and may or may not hunt next year. The state of pheasants isn’t very good around here anymore, either, and while I am not old, I’m a year older and the end of the season marks the passing of time. Nevertheless, the last day is a day to celebrate, and Rick produced three cold bottles of Golden Pheasant* for him, me, and my young friend Peter who had come along.

A toast seemed necessary. “Let’s hope we’re all back here at this same time next year,” I said.

That is all any of us can hope for. I wish the same for all of you, wherever you ended your seasons.

*a pilsner from Slovakia. I am not ordinarily a pilsner drinker but this is one is quite good (I prefer it to the more famous Pilsner Urquel), and you have to like the name.

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