Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Every opening day holds promise, even those that don't look promising.
Usually you can count on late October in Iowa to be a thing of beauty. Football weather as some would say, crisp, clear, and cloudless. A living, breathing Norman Rockwell landscape of corn stubble fields rendered gold by the emerging sun with hulking silos rooted like giants standing silent sentry over the precious morning. It's a magical time and made more so by the promise of the first pheasant hunt of the season.
“...marching like orange clad wraiths haunting the hills and dales.”
Today was the exception to that rule. It was wet and cold and the fog hung heavy, obliterating anything beyond 20 yards. But opening day only arrives once a year and to our way of thinking, any time spent chasing "ditch chickens" was time well spent, weather be damned. Gathering around the trucks and uncasing the guns, we made the plan for the hunt. As the clock neared 8:00am, we filtered off to our respective positions on the line and began to push the tangled mess of switchgrass, bluestem, and willow thickets toward the barbed wire finish line a half mile distant. The fog made us more deliberate, more aware, and our pace reflected the natural inclination to slow down when your senses are clouded. An ethereal stillness enveloped our party as we pushed forward. Our conversations were muted, almost deferential in nature, not wanting to break the spell the morning shroud had cast. We carried on that way, marching like orange clad apparitions haunting the hills and dales as we trudged our circuit though the creek bottoms and grassy draws of the Mauer farm. Nearing the end, repelled by the creek whose water was too high and wide to cross, we turned back, slowly traversing the remaining patch of prairie that lay between us and the end of the hunt.
With shotguns slung over shoulder and our old knees voicing their displeasure, we climbed the final hill and headed back to the trucks. And like the fleeting wings of our quarry, another opening day morning had come and gone but in it's stead we held with us the promise of more days afield yet to come.