Written by: Jenna Woginrich
I’m new to this, painfully new. I just completed my Hunters’ Safety course this past summer and had only aimed a shotgun at clays. I had no plans of coming home with a ringneck, but the possibility had me excited on the dark drive to our meeting spot before dawn. When I pulled my truck to the parking area on the side of the road, I was greeted by what I would learn would be the classic pre-hunt scene. My friends Steve, Tim, and Tim’s son Holden were outside their trucks, talking with coffee in their hands and Steve’s dog, Cayenne, lunging at the end of her leash. I was an emotional concoction of excited and nervous. I kept it to myself that I hadn’t felt this way since Prom Night. This was a whole different dance though, and the borrowed 20 gauge would’ve looked awkward with my teal dress from high school.
At dawn we were on the move. Cay exploded into the thick undergrowth as if letting go of her leash was a trigger in itself. We moved in pairs along the pathways and then grew bolder, walking right through the tall weeds and burdock. (I instantly learned to appreciate my borrowed chaps.) Within ten minutes of frantic, high-tailed pacing, the dog flushed a bird up in the air. It was the perfect shot right in front of me, but in the chaos of the moment I was too nervous to concentrate and missed by feet. My left thumb was bleeding like crazy from being caught in the safety latch in the frenzy. Not only did the bird escape, but I was wounded. Let’s hear it for me.
I kept my eyes and ears open. As the hunt wound down, we started moving back towards the parking area, and it was here we came across a veritable nest of pheasants. Within twenty minutes we took four birds, one seemed to come down every few minutes. When slightly off to my left a bird presented himself I took my shot and watched him drop. The thrill was remarkable, the excitement indescribable. I had taken a bird on my first hunt.
Now there’s a smoked pheasant with my name on it in the company fridge, literally. Tucked in behind the Tupperware salads and soggy sandwiches is a zip lock bag with a little brown bird, and “Jenna” is written across it with yesterday’s date. Tim smoked it last night with the other four birds we took Saturday morning at dawn. What a delicious affirmation of a day spent with friends at dawn, and a new tradition started in high grass. I doubt I’ll ever forget it, but If I need a reminder, the smoked pheasant ravioli I’ll have for dinner tonight should do it. And if I remember correctly, it’ll be a far better meal than what was served on Prom Night.