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Writer comes up empty handed on hunting trip

I think I’m officially a Clare County resident now. Although, I’ve been living up here for 3 years, there are certain enjoyments (if you could call them that) that you northerners take for granted- hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, 4-wheeling and on and on.

Downstate we don’t have much of an opportunity to partake in those activities. Heck most of the down-staters, or flatlanders, as many of you sarcastically say, come up here to get their outdoor fix. I, on the other hand, always went south- i.e. Florida, to enjoy the sun and water.

Well, now that has changed. A group of guys (Bill, Tom, Jim and Harold) invited me to go pheasant hunting last Sunday- a sport quite frankly I had never tried. Give me a basketball and I’m quite good at putting it in the basket. Give me a football and I can throw it a great distance. Give me a gun and ask me to shoot it, ah well, let’s just say most 10-year-olds up here, would be a better shot than I.

Maybe that’s because I haven’t shot a gun in 30 years. But, hey, I pre-warned these guys before the hunt, that I wasn’t the sharpshooter they were hoping. I did promise however, I wouldn’t pull a Dick Cheney and shoot one of them, or their dogs.

Well, we all piled into Tom’s motorhome, and began the trip to Buckley, where the pheasant hunting preserve was located. Again, me a relative newcomer, had no idea where Buckley was. I asked was it near Leota? What about Marion? Nope, it happened to be a hour and a half drive, within 15 miles of Traverse City.

Once we got there I was given my weapon, a box of shells and some brief instructions on how to work the darn rifle. Okay fine, I got it, but then we were driven to a field where a guide with a dog hooked up with us, and next thing I knew we’re walking the field, all of us about 10 yards apart.

Geez, I thought hunting was a stationary sport. I thought you hung out in a heated deer blind, drinking beer and waiting for the prey to come to you. This was more like work- walking through weeds, burrs, mud and huge ruts while carrying a loaded gun. All this while facing a howling wind- some say wind gusts were up to 40 mph that day.

It didn’t take long before the dogs chased a pheasant into the sky. One shot, two shots, I heard Harold yelling, “shoot it Mike.” I took aim, bam bam bam- no that was just my imagination, the safety was still on. In reality all I heard was, click. Dang, that was the first one to get away.

Okay, I gathered myself, and began trudging through the field, again, watching the dogs, and fighting the wind. We did this continually for about 3 hours, and during that time got our share of pheasants- at least my partners did. I, well, I did get a few shots in, but hadn’t struck pay dirt yet.

That is until we decided to end our day, and head back to the motorhome. There I was walking down the road within 10 feet of the motorhome, and I whispered to Bill, “lookie there,” a hen was nestled next to a rear wheel. I walked closer, and the hen scurried into some tall weeds 10 feet away. I walked over to the weeds, and there it was. I was literally 5 feet away, aimed my gun, and pow, the bird started to fly away. Pow again it was only 10 feet overhead. Pow, pow, two more times.

That was the highlight, or lowlight of my day. I missed a pheasant at point blank range taking four shots. I couldn’t believe it. You think I will ever live that down? How could anyone miss at such close range?

Wyatt Earp I am not. Heck Annie Oakley would shoot circles around me. All I wanted to do was get one bird. One lousy, stinkin bird. You think I could do that? Forget a 10-year-old, a blind, pregnant woman could shoot better than I.

Next time, it’s to the range for me. I’m told this hunting thing gets in your blood. In my case, my blood is already contaminated with quarts of printer’s ink. But you better watch out. Next time I go hunting I will bring home something- it might be a field mouse, but at least I can say, I’m no longer a flatlander.

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