We all know it’s important to keep your eye on the target. The bird here is proof that you need to keep your eye on the target before, during and after the shot. In fact, you need to watch the bird until it’s out of sight.
This rooster flushed wild and gave me a longish crossing shot. I shot twice. The bird never reacted. I kept an eye on it, thinking it might land someplace where we could hunt it up again. As I watched the rooster flew 200 yards then, to my surprise, collapsed in mid-air and fell dead just over the crest of a hill. I got a good mark on the fall, we took the dogs over and found it.
It turns out to have been hit by four lead pellets. Since none of them broke a wing and pheasants are tough, the bird kept going.
The moral of the story is, watch every bird until you can’t see it anymore. I’ve recovered several pheasants that flew away after being hit, then died in the air. I can only ever remember losing one rooster that kept going, a bird that traveled an honest quarter of mile before falling on the far side of a steep bluff into heavy cover where the dogs couldn’t find it.
It’s not just pheasants who will fly off mortally hit. I’ve seen ducks, geese even a woodcock keep flying as if nothing happened, then suddenly pile up. Years ago I shot a turkey at 30 yards, only to have it run away. I stood there replaying the shot in my mind, wondering how I could have whiffed when I saw wings flapping as it on the next ridge over, almost 150 yards away. It turns out I hadn’t missed after all. –Phil Bourjaily