A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from my old friend, Bud Veale.
He filled me in with “the report,” a summary of his and his nephew Rick Elsen’s outdoor activities. They got few ducks on the Sunday of the second opener. Rick told me later, he shot one and Bud shot the rest. Rick is the retriever!
Bud told me about his upcoming pheasant hunt compliments of NASA. No, not the space people, but rather the North American Squirrel Association. Bud has trouble getting around and he has had a number of health issues that keep him from walking on rough ground or even sidewalk for that matter. He wondered if I’d like to join him and Rick on a NASA-sponsored pheasant hunt up at Woods and Meadows Hunting Preserve and Sport Clays near Millston. I could bring my camera and my shotgun.
Boy, would I!
So on Sunday, Oct. 19, Bud and Rick picked me up at the ranch and we motored north to Jackson County. After catching up some on the drive north, the GPS directed us down some country roads and right to the driveway of Woods and Meadows. There was a Kubota four-seat ATV parked out front of the club.
Inside we were met by our guides, NASA members Steve Earp of French Island and Lester Hanson of West Salem. We were shaking hands when Steve said to me, “I know you.” I used to make TV commercials for his business, SSE Music, he has visited De Soto High music when I was still teaching there, and I have bought a number of musical instruments from SSE.
Steve was to be the commander of the hunt. He filled us in on the rules of this type of hunt: the hunter would ride on the front of the Kubota, strapped into a swivel seat that allowed for the kind of shooting required to shoot pheasants. Rick and I would be the backups walking on either side of the rig, out 20 yards or so. We were to wait for the hunter to shoot and then we could try to take any bird that wasn’t down.
Steve explained that there would also be a physically-disabled hunter on this hunt. We were introduced and the hunter, a man in a wheelchair. He told me he had just as soon remain anonymous. Steve hoped that Rick and I wouldn’t mind backing him up on his hunt first. No problem!
We went out to the trucks and followed the Kubota and a couple of other vehicles out to the allotted area for our hunt. Here and there we could see groups of orange clad bird hunters. One wears blaze orange on a hunt like this for safety. Woods and Meadows has over 1,000 acres reserved for hunting, and their website says each area is 80 to 120 acres, but I guesstimated the area we actually covered was more like 15 or maybe 20 acres.
The fields were planted in corn, millet, sorghum, and had strips of tall grass. NASA had purchased five ring necks to be placed somewhere out in the strips.
Steve explained that when Greta or Addie went on point, we should ready ourselves. He would flush the bird and we were to make sure the bird was clear of him and his dogs before shooting.
Lester drove the idling Kubota with Bud and our other hunter’s wife in the back seat. Steve released Greta first, whose small cow bell jingled merrily as she bounced about before getting down to business. It was a perfect day with a slight breeze and occasional sunshine lighting up the late fall color.
Greta and Addie are beautiful Wirehair pointers. As we walked, I said to Steve they looked a lot like drot-har pointers I had seen other hunters use. He asked if I knew the difference, and I didn’t.
“About $400 a pup,” he joked.
He explained that at a recent show, breeders had wire-haired pointer pups for sale at one end and drot-har pointer pups at the other, priced $400 more. He explained the drot-har means wirehair in German.
It could also mean bird finding machines. The dog had to work through corn stalks and downed millet and the tall grass to find the birds. We didn’t get any shooting until we were on the return trip when Greta went on point. Steve flushed the bird, and our hunter had to swing on the bird, making a nice shot on the flying bird. Greta retrieved the pheasant and returned it to Steve. After congratulations and a photo op we continued.
Our hunter got another pheasant and a couple got away. I know I shot a couple times and wounded air for certain.
After a couple hours of this, it was Bud’s turn. He and Rick had purchased an additional 10 birds, so we had those, NASA’s five, and maybe some scratch birds to hunt. The other hunter and his wife rode along in the back seat of the Kubota now. We all took a break.
I asked Steve how he got into NASA. He told me the story of his late friend and hunting buddy, Omer Christianson. As Omer got into golden years, his ability to bird hunt was limited to being placed as a blocker at the end of a field where the dogs were working to pick up any birds missed by the other hunters. Steve said that Omer got tired of that and said that he was too much trouble for the rest. He finally said he was hanging up his guns. Omer passed before Steve knew about NASA, and he said that his participation in the club was at least partly to honor Omer’s memory.
To start off the next phase, Steve released Addie to spell Greta and we got off on Bud’s hunt. We started getting up birds right away; let me say that if Bud has a shot, the bird is down. I got one that got up and away out of his zone, and I know Rick got a couple, but Bud still has it at 82. When Steve called the hunt, I think we had at least 10 birds. The dogs had to be exhausted, but they were still reading to go. I know I was ready to get off my feet and have a soft drink and some pizza on NASA.
Woods and Meadows has a very nice clubhouse with a bar and food for after the hunt. The Cowboys and Giants (is there anyway they could both lose?) were on the big screen as we sat, ate, and reviewed the story of our NASA sponsored hunt. For me the stories are the best part of most hunts and no doubt we’ll be talking about this one over and over.
A little information on the NASA, it was formed in order to:
- Help the physically challenged and elderly enjoy hunting and fishing opportunities and recreational activities.
- Support and aid in events sponsored by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources. Such events include early disabled white tail deer hunts and duck hunts.
- Aid individuals and other organizations with similar goals and objectives.
- Contribute to the education of young people interested in the pursuit of outdoor activities related to hunting, fishing, and conservation.
I think NASA is a great organization. They are doing good things for real people who are limited by their physical condition and age. In addition, Steve and Lester are excellent guides. They were extremely positive and made the hunt fun and interesting for all of us. I commend them.
The NASA website ends with this line, “Please enjoy yourself, and tell a friend about this hunting opportunity.” I am proud to. You can learn more about opportunities at NASA by checking online at: http://www.nasasquirrel.org/
Until next time, get out...
Ellen and I photographed Zach and Gina Becker’s wedding at Pulaski on Saturday. It was a great time, and for the first time ever, we took wedding pictures inside Lambeau Field. Thanks for the opportunity kids.