Struggling Against the Hex!

A public land limit of rooster pheasants.

Beware the hex!

A week ago my wife and I were in Minot, North Dakota for a long weekend with our son, Kevin, and his family. Pheasant hunting was on the agenda, of course.

I knew the hex was coming, but I was a bit slow. As Kevin and I were ready to hit the road for a pheasant hunt, his wife, Jen, smiled sweetly and said, “Have fun. Don’t kill anything.”

I knew the curse was coming and as soon as I heard the words coming out of her mouth I raised my hands and made the sign of the cross with my index fingers and held it up to ward off the curse, the same as if Dracula was giving me the eye.

Nevertheless we hit the road for a wildlife management area on the shores of Lake Sakakawea, the big impoundment on the Missouri River. Much of the lake’s shoreline is managed by North Dakota Game & Fish as wildlife management areas. I’ve been hunting on that area for around 40 years, going back to when we lived in North Dakota.

It was a relatively mild and sunny day, perfect for a walk through pheasant cover. The only thing missing were pheasants. We’d made a long walk in one direction and now we were circling back for a lunch break.

Our son, Kevin, on the shoreline of Lake Sakakawea.

Finally, one of Kevin’s dogs flushed a rooster pheasant. Kevin swung on the bird, shot and missed. He kept swinging on the bird but I didn’t hear a second shot. A couple minutes later he showed me a shotgun shell. The primer had a dimple on it, but it didn’t fire. The firing pin made a soft hit on the primer, but didn’t hit it hard enough to fire the shell. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen often enough that it’s not rare.

We resumed our walk and my Lab, Kiri, put up a pheasant from a clump of trees and brush. I raised my gun and started swinging on the bird’s flight path. Then a tree branch caught my cap and the bill was suddenly in my eyes as the pheasant made a successful escape flight. 

I might have thought a nasty thought or two, but I couldn’t help but hoot with laughter. I’ve often missed shots at pheasants but this was the first time I couldn’t shoot because of sudden blindness.

We ended the hunt a little later when a pheasant flushed, just out of range, about 20 feet from where we’d started our walk a few hours earlier.

Kiri and I had hunted the same area a couple days earlier while Kevin was at work. On that day we ended the day with a limit of three nice rooster pheasants. The next day I got just one bird, in brutally cold and windy conditions. It was the only bird we put up on that walk and I felt lucky to have gotten that one.

Kevin and I went out again the next day, driving through rain and snow to get to the hunting area. In a three-hour walk we saw just one bird that flew away while still out of shooting range.

Back at the truck, we had a sandwich and discussed whether we were up to more walking. We finally decided, with soaking wet, cold feet, that we’d just as soon hit the road and go home and watch football.

We listened to the Minnesota Vikings/Kansas City Chiefs game on the radio on the way back, and we got into the house just in time to see the Chiefs score a last second field goal to defeat the Vikes. 

The hex had its last victim.

Pheasants and teasing aside, snow geese were the big show. The sky was frequently filled with waves of geese, or wheat fields turned white with thousands of geese feeding on spilled grain. The huge numbers of geese are an environmental problem in the Hudson’s Bay region in Canada, but it’s hard to watch those geese without a feeling of awe. 

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