On my Pelee Island hunt, I was accompanied by Outdoor Canada publisher Mark Yelic (above) and editor-in-chief Patrick Walsh for the third of three annual two-day hunts. The Township of Pelee releases 4,500 pheasants every Monday and Tuesday for three successive weeks, giving the birds ample time to distribute and settle in before the hunts take place on every Thursday and Friday. The township does an excellent job of rearing these birds, as evidenced by the fact that, despite hunting with five dogs, only one bird was trapped on our hunts; all the others flushed and flew like the wildest of ringnecks.
Our host for the hunt, Kyle Davis, is the township’s environmental services manager, and himself an avid hunter, as well as angler. Accompanying him were three friends, and along with Kyle’s Lab, we had their two Nova Scotia duck tollers and two German short-haired pointers to do the heavy lifting.
Regulations dictate that the hunt begins at 8 a.m., and on day one we were dutifully parked beside our chosen field with time for a coffee before heading out. As no further permission is required, access to a particular property is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. You simply park beside whatever field you want to hunt, and that is honoured by the other groups.
Each day’s kickoff is an event unto itself. If you recall the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, you’ll have some idea of what it sounded like at 8:01 on our first morning. From all corners of the island we could hear shooting, testament to the hunter-to-bird ratio. Each gunner is permitted 10 pheasants over two days, but it matters little whether you shoot them all the first morning or take the full two days.
There clearly must have been some low-hanging pheasants, as after the initial volley, the shooting petered out to a regular but more expected level. Just a couple of minutes in, one of Kyle’s friends clobbered our group’s first bird, a rooster going straight away with an eager pointer on its tail. Then I managed to drop my first bird, that crossing rooster. And just like that, we were into birds, with everyone’s focus, including that of the dogs, on high alert.
It’s considered bad form in the business world to beat your boss in a game of golf—doing so can lead to unexpectedly finding yourself on the must-go list in the next round of downsizing. In my world, shooting is equivalent to golf, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted the invitation to join Mark and Patrick on this hunt. I mean, what would happen to my writing gig if I were to outshoot them by any significant margin?
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. On that first morning, they both proved to be at least as proficient as I was with the new Berettas we were field testing (see “Great guns” on page 5). Although each of us gassed a couple we should have made—as can be expected when targeting deceptively fast-flying pheasants—Kyle and his crew thankfully picked up the slack.
Even when pheasants abound, they’re incredibly adept at finding unexpected places to hide, so we had to be constantly at the ready and quick on the trigger as we moved from cover to cover. By day’s end, we had 33 in hand, along with plenty of kilometres on our boots and pockets brimming with spent shells. We’d definitely earned every bird in the bag.