First Rooster Down
It was a crisp November evening. The sun sat lazily on the western sky as the glow of sunset started to cast shadows on its surroundings. I grew excited as I laced up my boots. I could hear what seemed to be the world’s biggest rooster pheasant crow somewhere in the wash behind my house. I looked up at my dad and his smile met mine. I had my boots on now and I couldn’t get off the back porch fast enough. Dad handed me the single shot 20 gauge before he crawled between the barbwire fence in our backyard. We were going on my first pheasant hunt. I was nine years old, and this single experience will have changed my life forever.
We walked in silence as we made our way across the hay field behind the house. Not much could be heard besides the jingle of the bell that hung around Copper’s neck. He was THE greatest bird dog a boy could ask for. Copper was large for a German short haired pointer. He carried a beautiful liver colored head that fit well with his liver speckled body. We rescued him from a breeder that was a little too unkind to the old boy. He always acted grateful for the way we treated him, and repaid our kindness by becoming one of my best friends.
We were getting closer to the edge of the mouth of the grease wood and Russian olive filled draw now, and Copper was beginning to get birdy. I was told to keep my eye on him and to watch closely to how he moved. I had seen Copper work several times before but something about this time was different. Maybe it was the fact that this would be my first time actually shooting over him that made my heart beat a little faster. I watched him like a hawk, studying his every move. He was starting to move slower as we approached the biggest Russian olive thicket there was. I looked at my dad and he nodded. It was time for me to take things with a little more seriousness.
All of the sudden Copper’s leg came up and what was left of a frost scarred tail stuck straight out. He was on point and my heart skipped a beat. I clicked my gun off safety and pulled back the hammer. Dad saw that I was ready, and at the slight sound of his “hissssst” Copper dove into the thicket. An explosion of cackle and bright red feathers broke through the sky as a giant ring neck rooster broke through the top of the thicket. I swung around and fired. The minute I hit the trigger that poor rooster ended up in the top of a Russian olive. That tree slowed him down enough for my untrained eye to put a bead on him and bring him down. As the feathers settled all was quite. My legs shook as I looked up to see dad’s face beaming as he exclaimed, “you got him, you got him! Great shot!” It was more the tree’s fault more than mine that the rooster lost his life that eventful day, but I couldn’t have been prouder of myself. Copper made a flawless retrieve, and we made our way home as the sun continued to set.
It took the walk home for my nerves to settle enough that I could actually speak. That night defined a little bit of who I am and will continue to impact my life. One rooster is all it took to define my career and life. I am now the hunting manager at Pleasant Valley Hunting Preserve and I strive to ensure that all that come and hunt at Pleasant Valley have every opportunity to build memories like mine.
First Rooster Down