My Only Hunting Experience

Alien birds in Iowa cornfields

I was eight or nine years old when my father said to me “Larry, some friends of mine from work and I are going pheasant-hunting! Want to come along?”

I really had no idea what sort of experience ‘hunting’ might be, but I went along. My father’s work friends met in an agricultural area outside of town. I assume that one of the men had obtained permission from a local farmer?

This hunting excursion took place after the corn had been harvested, probably in October. I was the only one without a shotgun. Were dogs involved to flush up the birds? I don’t remember.

Several pheasants flew up and the shotguns roared. My father claimed one of the maimed birds. I followed him and saw a wounded and thrashing cock pheasant. He tightened his lips and brought the butt of his gun onto the wounded bird’s head. This was perhaps the first time I ever witnessed induced death. I was shocked. Looking back, I wonder if this was supposed to be some male rite of passage?

My father stuffed the dead bird into a game bag, and we drove home. My mother plucked the bird and roasted it in the oven. The meat was dark and gamey, but our family did consume it.

During later years, when Betsy and I lived on eighty acres in Missouri, I was tempted to hunt, as we lived in an area swarming with deer, turkeys, and rabbits. We ended up leasing our place to three men who lived near St. Genevieve, Missouri. Hunting territories are rather crowded in the vicinity of St. Louis, and these three guys would come by a couple times every year and thin out the local wildlife populations. They would pick out a young doe for us every year and help me gut it and hang it up. I learned how to butcher a deer carcass. They would fish our ponds and leave us a large bag of bass fillets. It was a good arrangement for all of us! That wild meat helped Betsy and I nourish our two kids.

So I never learned to hunt mammals and birds, but I did hunt mushrooms!