Pack Ice, No Visibility, and Wild Roosters

Rain turned to sleet as the temperature plummeted. A layer of black ice formed on the interstate. We battled slick roads and fog for two hours, then it cleared, leaving only dry pavement. The winter’s first big storm had tracked south and we dodged the brunt of it as we headed toward the Dakotas.

As soon as we’d put Montana in the rearview mirror we began looking for likely habitat. We wanted to get in an hour’s hunt before we headed deeper into pheasant country. Finding a bird would be nice, but mostly we wanted to let the dogs stretch their legs.

Finding a section of PLOTS (Public Lands Open To Sportsmen) land we headed off the highway to try our hand. From afar, the grass looked thinner than I’d hoped for and a small stretch of cattails provided only modest cover. But five minutes into our walk the dogs were birdy.

A rooster erupted under the old dog’s nose and she quickly dispatched the retrieve. Shortly after a covey of sharptails flushed wild. We then bumped a covey of Huns. I’d let my dogs run beyond gun-range in a short cut stubble field. With dark approaching we circled back to the truck and one more rooster flushed in front of my buddy’s pup. With a rooster each and lots of action it was far more than we’d bargained for.

Giddy, we roared through the last hundred and fifty miles to the farm we were going to be staying at for the next five days. We arrived a few hours past dark and settled into an old single wide. We then sent a our buddies a text to gauge their progress.

While we had missed the storm, they hadn’t been so lucky. While we were shooting pheasants they were ten hours deep into their drive, which had become a white knuckled affair inside of a ping pong ball. What should have been a nine hour journey turned into a fourteen hour nightmare.¬†Fortunately everyone arrived safely.

While two of us had had a solid start to the trip, the main course was still ahead for all of us.

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