Waking in the morning and trying to find out which prey to chase can be a daunting task if you live here in North Central Washington.
With poor water conditions and fish returns there is no steelhead to chase, lake closures keep my boat on the trailer and caught in between seasons, my bow sits and waits. Don’t get me wrong I scout, check cameras, and shoot my black block… a lot. But I can only handle so much routine of draw, level bubble, pin, finger on trigger, locked in, and breathe… release. Shooting is a passion but too much can burn a hunter out before late season even gets going! Luckily here in North Central Washington there are always options.
My phone rings and one of my closest friends, Matt Feathery (aka hunting buddy/fishing buddy) asks what I was planning on doing for the day with a hint of anticipation under his question. I told him I’m planning on running down south go grab a couple bins of apples if you want to come with then just have some honey-do’s around the house to knock out. Well before I could finish he broke his eagerness and asked quickly if I wanted to go chase some pheasants. I replied rather quickly, “Well I have to get apples but the honey-do’s can wait!” Matt simply said, “Come pick me up.”
After we were loaded up with apples we made our way back to my family’s ranch, unloaded the bins, and set out some apples for the deer in one of our fields. A couple shooters have been coming in. I could see the anticipation in Matt’s eyes as we were packing up to leave. It was time to go hunting.
I through on my Sitka gear and tore out the door and started the truck. I had dropped Matt off at his house to grab his camo and shotgun and now I returned to see a grown man with a look on his face of a child on Christmas morning. That’s why he is my go to friend; he is always excited, eager, and ready to be on the water or in the woods. After scrambling through town, picking up the dog from his parents’ house we were headed to wide open spaces. Arriving at our first location we unloaded ourselves, loaded up our guns and set out to find some roosters. After walking around this drainage area/field area with thickets on the edges we were left empty handed. Feeling slightly discouraged we loaded back up and headed to a well-known but often under hunted drainage.
Arriving at our second and last spot for the day, we packed up our gear and loaded our shotguns eager to see what this drainage had in store for us. Excitement brewing, the dog shaking, we set off only to come across another hunter who previously hunted the area. The feeling can be described as seeing that nocturnal buck you waited for all season on you trail cam, day after the closure at 8 a.m.
After hearing how successful the hunter was and feeling of moral slightly low, we said hell with it, let’s bat cleanup and headed out through the drainage anyways. After waking about a half mile or so and only jumping up some huns, reality began to set in. We had one section left to walk out when our Matt’s dog, Maisy, started tiring out and I stepped in as the flusher. Working my way down the drainage and Matt off to my left side hilling we had to see something. About a quarter mile later a section of thick cover lies in front of me and I begin to bulldog my way through it. Eyes half closed I push through the sticks and yellow leaves then the sound every bird hunter knows, wings. Looking forward I see him bust from the brush, draw up my gun but had no shot. The view I had was something like when you’re told to cover your eyes as a kid but you peak through your fingers. But I could see it was a rooster and I yelled, “BIRD!” Pointing in the direction of my fleeing prize, Matt looked at me and saw where I was pointing and drew is shotgun and locked on. I lost sight of the bird through the thick brush but saw and definitely heard Matt letting the pellets fly. Matt pumped another shell in the chamber and squeezed again. He yelled back at me with wide open eyes, again like a kid on Christmas morning, “He’s down!”
Maisy suddenly found all sorts of energy tearing into the brush after the scent left behind. Seconds later she emerged with her trophy and delivered it to her ever grateful master. A beautiful prize, well earned.
Matt, Maisy and myself finished out the hike with no other birds but and couple quail. It was a great walk in our beautiful country with some good friends. Can’t wait to do it again, and remember, sometimes to truly find yourself, you must get lost in the wilderness!