2022 Veterans’ Pheasant Hunt
by Ed H Edwards, Lansing Chapter Member, avid hunter, and fisherman
It was an honor and privilege to attend this wonderful event!
The gaudy rooster left the tower and headed our way climbing to clear the trees between the release tower and our shooting box. It crumpled at the shot, either my swing was right or he was the victim of coronary occlusion from the muzzle blast. In any event, it was a good start to the morning!
For the 7th consecutive year, Crooked Foot Upland Bird & Game Hunting Club hosted a spectacular Veterans’ hunt on November 6th with participants from every branch of our military. SCI Lansing was a platinum financial sponsor of the event and I was able to attend with a fellow board member, Matt Delong, as SCI representatives and participate in the hunt due to a few cancelations.
The day started out with coffee and donuts followed by the national anthem, raffles, and a safety briefing.
The total number of shooters was 89 which sounds like a lot however 910 pheasants were released!
Vets just sign up and show up, the hunt is zero cost to the participants and even includes ammo!
The club has three release towers circled with box blinds spaced about 100 yards from the tower. Pass shooting pheasants is challenging; roosters look like they are barely moving and 1st-time shooters typically miss from behind or only pull a couple of tail feathers until they get the hang of it. Hens come out of the tower like wild ducks and a fast swing is necessary to connect. At least 1 out of 3 birds released get past the shooters and are hunted up with pointing and flushing dogs after the tower shoot is finished.
A post-hunt lunch was served and included roast pork loin, mashed potatoes, corn, and dinner rolls. Tasty comfort food that left everyone well nourished.
Club volunteers cleaned and packaged the birds and packages of six were available for any participant that wanted them for future enjoyment.
A big shoutout to Crooked Foot for organizing a 1st class event for such a worthy group!
Pheasants are only native to Asia and are the most successfully introduced wild game bird in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world!
The story of how pheasants were introduced from their native China to North America is quite interesting. Owen Denny was responsible for the successful introduction and he did not have any science background or knowledge of birds of the world.
Denny was by education and profession a lawyer that drifted into political government work. His political appointments included an assignment to the post of consul for the USA in Shanghai in 1877. He adapted readily to life in China and its unusual meals not available in his native Oregon. The dish he enjoyed the most was roast pheasant!
Feeling he could serve his country by shipping pheasants from China he made a plan to do so. Investigating earlier attempts he found out the pheasants did not survive when shipped in small cages. He made shipping arrangements with the ship Isle of Bute. A twenty-foot square bamboo cage was constructed amidship with a habitat including a fine gravel floor and tubs of shrubbery. Many bags of small grain were loaded to get them through the journey.
Just before the ship left the Shanghai harbor ten trapped wild roosters and eighteen hens were placed in the enclosure. This historic shipment of pheasants arrived safely in the Portland, Oregon harbor on March 13, 1882.
The pheasants adapted to the fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon and in 1891 the first pheasant season in the USA occurred. Word of Oregon’s pheasant success spread and live trapped birds were planted in other areas. In 1911 Oregon began incubating pheasants in the first large-scale state-operated game farm. Other states followed with pheasant farms and Michigan did so in 1917 and had its first season in 1925! Up through most of the 1970s pheasant hunting was more popular than deer hunting in most of Michigan! October 20th was an unofficial holiday in some communities and vacation and sick days outnumbered November 15!
Regrettably, wild pheasants have not fared well in the long term in Michigan. I shot my last opening day 2-bird limit in 1977. At the time I had a Brittany and hunting with my father for the last time it was a perfect morning; 4 points, 4 shots, and 4 dead roosters!
Back-to-back blizzards in January 1978 and 1979 were rough on pheasants and bobwhite quail which were also plentiful at that time. Deep snow (most roads were closed for 4 to 6 days) and subzero temperatures killed many and those that survived were weak and easy prey for predators and very few made it through the winter. Both species are greatly missed by those of us that had the privilege of hunting them in that time period.
Nowadays visiting operations like Crooked Foot brings back those memories!
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