Pheasant Hunting in Colorado
It was a chilly morning as I drove out to Rocky Mountain Roosters on the high plains of central Colorado. The pine trees were coated with frost on their north-facing sides from a cold front that came through the night before with some moisture in the air. It was sunny and 21 degrees, getting warmer as I continued on the 1 ½ hour drive. I was meeting a good friend of mine, John Padilla, and his 10 year old son Joe to hunt pheasants. As I drove over the rolling hills and pine-covered bluffs, I thought about what a special day this was going to be. Young Joe had never been hunting before, and being a part of a child’s first hunt is not only heart-warming, but also something I take very seriously.
I have known John for 19 years; we met while working at the same company back in 1994. We did some things socially together back then; we played softball, went out for beers once in a while, and had an incredible weekend when my then-wife was out of town, but that’s another story. Over the years we have stayed in touch professionally, and when we met for lunch a couple of months ago, we decided to go on a pheasant hunt together. When you hunt with someone it builds a deeper bond than playing softball or drinking beer, and I was really looking forward to this day.
I met John and Joe at the Rocky Mountain Roosters clubhouse, and I could see the excitement in Joe’s eyes to get out and hunt. We got Joe a 20 gauge shotgun to use for the day from the clubhouse, and then went out to the clays range to do some shooting. I think the gun was taller than Joe is, but he did his best to handle it. John showed Joe how to load the gun and operate the action, told him when to put the safety on and off, and helped him with his aiming technique. The clays were a little difficult to hit, for all of us, but once we got in the field it was a different story.
Our guide was RJ, a sophomore in high school, who comes from a family of bird hunting guides and dog trainers. He had been working as a protégée for the past 6 years, and this was his first season as a guide, and he had learned well. He had German Short-Haired pointers – Jester, and Jewel, and then later we gave Jester a rest and hunted with Mojo, who was a beast of a dog, what energy he had!
We drove a couple of miles from the clubhouse on a rough two-track road, weaving through the rolling hills to our hunting area. RJ got the dogs ready while John, Joe, and I got our cold weather gear on and got our guns ready. At the time it was about 26 degrees with a slight wind from the north, and a scattered covering of clouds in the shape of a horse’s mane, which meant a storm was on its way.
We headed east with the dogs scanning the ground in front of us. Click here to see a video. It is amazing to watch bird dogs work, and they thoroughly enjoy doing what they do. These pointers range from side-to-side within gun range, and they freeze on point when they find a bird. If one dog finds a bird and points, the other dog will stop to honor the point, and the dogs will hold until the guide instructs them to flush. Pheasants like to hold still if they feel pressured, and they will run before they fly, so having dogs is crucial to success.
It took a while to find our first bird, but then the dogs got birdy with their short tails flipping quickly from side-to-side as they closed in on a bird. Then the dogs froze like a statue, waiting for RJ to give the signal to flush, and then we had our first pheasant in the air, which I completely missed. We got into birds pretty consistently throughout the afternoon, and John made some great shots, bringing down three pheasants. Click here for more video.
The cold north wind picked up in the afternoon, and low clouds covered the sky. After we took a quick rest, RJ put Jester in his crate and brought out Mojo, and we headed out again. At a rise of a hill Mojo went on point, with Jewel holding steady about 10 yards away. We approached slowly, got our guns in position, and RJ gave the command to flush. The pheasant flew up and then caught the wind, and Joe made an excellent shot to bring down his first pheasant! What an exciting moment that was! Mojo retrieved the bird, and the look on Joe’s face was priceless.
It was a great day of hunting, and I have to say something about little Joe. First of all it is great to see a dad like John getting his boy out there to hunt. But Joe was amazing today! It was cold, it was windy, he was carrying a gun as big as he is, he had to keep up with us adults walking, and he never complained once about anything. We easily walked five miles today, and not on a bike path, rather on rugged terrain, and Joe kept up with us with no problem. He was so excited about the whole trip, he was a little trooper. Just to see his enthusiasm and grit, that’s the kind of young people that we sportsmen need in order for our traditions continue. It was very satisfying to see Joe have the day that he had, and before we made it back to the clubhouse at the end of the day he was asking when he could do it again. What a fine young boy! Click here to see Joe’s comments.
If you read my articles or know about me, you know that for me it is all about the experience, and today was one of the best experiences I’ve had. To see a young boy go on his first hunt and get his first pheasant was just a gem in my life, I truly enjoyed today. I hope that I will have many more hunting adventures with John and Joe in the future.