Sweating to the Ringnecks
by Bob Hendricks
(According to Bob McDonald who secure permission to run this article,
it ran in January 2002 issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine)
Let's face it Christmas is a time for indulgence. Presents, giving, and
food, and more food, and more food! When Bob McDonald invited me to join
him on a pheasant hunt I thought well of course. It wasn't that I loved
hunting pheasants second only to deer that prompted me but my desire to
stay in top physical shape and burn some of those bad old calories that
I took in at Christmas. Yeah that is the reason and I am sticking to it.
Besides I just couldn't get into Richard Simmons and his sweating to the
oldies when I could get into sweating to the Ringnecks and hey bring home
yet another dinner to eat. This slightly portly XXl hunting machine needed
a short workout and killing some birds would be just the ticket.
We would be hunting at Roger Osterberg's Coon Creek Cacklers hunt club
in Garden Prairie Illinois. Bob would be bringing Cooper the big hearted
Vizsla to get the birds up for us. We met Roger at a field where we would
be hunting and he showed us where our hunting boundaries were located.
We had a very nice chunk of land all to ourselves. While you can get a
guide and dog from Roger the great thing is if you have a dog, he leaves
you alone and lets you hunt your chunk of land and enjoy it all to yourself.
Cooper was sporting a new Dunn's Dog vest that he had gotten for Christmas
along with a ton of other gifts Bob informed me. He was ready to hunt
the moment he jumped from Bob's jeep. I always enjoy hunting behind this
great young dog with the big heart because he as an excellent nose and
a desire to please. Two traits that any hunting dog needs.
Almost immediately he led us into a strip of unpicked corn. He's getting
birdy Bob commented, and sure enough the Vizsla was locked on a nice hen.
The hens were holding tight and the roosters were running. We flushed
the hen and my Ruger Red Label downed it in one poof! Coop ran to the
bird inspected it and picked it up and brought it to Bob's hand.
A cold front had just came in and took with it the fifty degree weather.
Though I had a set of coveralls on I was cold at first and my beard and
mustache were stiff with ice. This has always been the best barometer
for me on the cold. If my facial hair freezes up it is cold. However in
no time I was at a good walking pace and actually sweating under my coveralls.
The fold back rag mittens with the fingerless gloves were great for this
type of hunting.
I put another Federal High Velocity number #6 load in the first barrel
of my double stack and snapped the old girl shut good to go again. We
were reaching the end of a strip of corn and I saw a rooster on the ground
up ahead. While every bone in my trigger finger begged to send him to
rooster heaven I opted to be sporting and move in on him to get a good
flight out of him. The wary bird moved back into the corn with Coop in
full pursuit nose to the ground. The rooster took us to the end of the
standing cornrow only to survive the barrage of our guns. I noted that
this rooster was a personal quest now for me as I watched him land in
a far corner of the field in a patch of switch grass.
Coon Creek Cacklers is a great hunt club with over 300 acres of prime
pheasant habitat including swamps, long grasses, sorghum, picked corn
and standing corn. Roger allots each of his members forty acres to hunt
for themselves, which means you never ever run over any other hunters.
The birds are extremely wary and the challenge is definitely there because
of the varied habitat and the challenges for the hunter.
Coon Creek Cacklers is dong daily hunts and is one of the last clubs to
offer this but Roger would like to go with a membership run club. I noted
his membership price and couldn't believe how reasonable it is.
Coop was really birdy as I tightened the grip on Lady Ruger. Bob was right
behind him with his trusty Remington 1187 in hand. This bird had taken
us from corn, to long grass, to brush areas, when all of a sudden he flushed.
This bird was truly one of the biggest roosters I have ever seen complete
with a tail to die for. Bob swung the Remington around as though he were
on a turntable and downed the bird before you could say roast pheasant.
Bob held it up and I don't know who was prouder, he or Cooper, but both
had good reason to be proud because this bird was one smart rooster with
a set of spurs showing he was no new comer.
I had made the mistake of wearing a polartec shirt under my coveralls
and was getting sweated up in no time along with a thirst that would make
a camel look tame. I walked to my truck and took in a good amount of the
bottled water I had brought and then it was on to the sorghum field.
Cooper was birdy again and locked on a perfect point complete with lifting
one front leg. He was frozen in the moment. I never get tired of seeing
a good dog work, that is half the enjoyment of the hunt. Both Bob and
I readied our shotguns. A big fat hen was flushed and Bob folded it in
a heartbeat. Good shot Bob I congratulated, and Cooper was at it again.
Nose to the ground we knew we had a runner and Cooper was creeping nose
to the ground as though he were sweeping a minefield. I knew the bird
would have to flush soon because we were nearing the end of the field.
Right at the end practically under my feet a big hen flushed and I swung
around to the right catching her with the first shot but needing another
to down her for the ten count. Ah, it felt good, a cold blustery day,
fresh skiff of snow and birds to hunt with a few already in the game bag.
It just doesn't get any better I thought.
We still had the Rooster that kept giving us the slip. We would see him
run way out in front of us and then sneak back into the field or cornrow.
It was personal now, no doubt about it. I wanted that bird. We worked
him up into the end of a grassy ditch only to see him run across the street
onto private property huge tail in the air as if to say, sometimes the
birds win too. I didn't really mind because that is hunting and the old
boy had earned his freedom. Maybe another day we would meet again but
for today he was safe from our guns.
Both Bob and I went on to take ten birds with them coming out of all sorts
of varied habitat. It was a challenging hunt and with Cooper that made
it all the more enjoyable. To see such a young dog want to hunt so badly
and try so hard to please the hunters behind him has to touch any hunter's
Back at the clubhouse a big smoked ham sat on the counter and we were
invited to help ourselves. We sat at the table eating and talking with
Roger. Roger Osterberg is a man with a vision and has already done a lot
with this hunting club, but his plans are to do even more to make it the
most it can be. Roger is a down to earth genuine guy that hunts and works
hard just like you and I. You are in the hands of a fellow hunter when
you hunt with Roger at Coon Creek Cacklers hunt club. Roger is a farmer
as well and has put a lot of hard work into his club to make your hunting
as close as it can be to the natural settings where roosters once thrived.
I can honestly say that the birds Bob and I hunted were every bit as challenging
and wary as any wild ones I have hunted and then some.
While I am thinking about it when you have killed some pheasants you may
either have the club clean them or you can clean them yourself. If you
do it yourself I have found a quick and easy way of doing them. Now I
don't care if I have the skin on mine so with this method you will be
taking the skin off.
First I take a pair of pruning or game shears and snip off the wings,
and the legs. Then I take my hands and pull apart the skin usually around
the breast area. Try to keep your hands feather free so it doesn't stick
to the meat. Just pull in opposite directions once you have a hold on
the skin in each hand and pull like you would on a rabbit. Most of the
skin complete with feathers will come completely off. Then I snip the
tail and the base skin holding it with the game shears. I keep the head
on simply for leverage at this point. After all skin has been removed
take the game shears and starting in the anal area cut right up the back
opening the bird up through the back. Next snip the head off and simply
scoop the insides out spreading the back slightly apart and you have one
clean bird cleaned with little mess and very quickly. I have seen experienced
hunters use this method and literally do a bird in just a couple minutes.
I like this method because it is clean and wastes very little meat and
leaves a good clean bird to cook. Try it and add your own touch if you
have a faster method of doing it.
Why not call Roger Osterberg and set up a daily hunt and check this place
out for yourself. I think you will agree that this is one club where there
is no pressure and the habitat is as natural as can be. If nothing else
it is a great way to burn some calories up. Sweating to the ringnecks,
it's a workout that not only will be beneficial to your body but also
leave you satisfied with a hunt that has all the challenges of the best
of pheasant hunting.
You may call Coon Creek Cacklers at 815-332-4728