Monday, October 5, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

My son J and I tagged along on a trip with Jon and Wes for a prairie chicken trip to north central Kansas, about a four hour drive from KC.  We hightailed it out of town after work on Friday, and stayed at a Super 8 motel while the hardier Jon and Wes camped out in 42-degree weather.  It was the best of both worlds, frankly... we got the campfire, marshmallows, and bourbon... while they got the cold sleep on the terra firma.

We started the morning hunt somewhat frustrated... one of our honey holes (Jon and Wes had done quite well there just a couple of weeks ago) failed to yield a bird within shooting range.  At this point, a bit of frustration and self-doubt was seeping in.  Those who hunt will understand -- wondering if somehow, some way, the bird gods are testing your patience, mettle, and dedication.  I'm not someone who measures success by fulfilling bag limits, but I do enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of good dog work and an occasional connection with a bird.

That afternoon, as I was feeling sorry for myself, the Astro warbled.  It indicated Vegas was on point, just over the hill ahead of me, about 60 yards away.  I didn't hustle much -- I was a little frustrated by her performance thus far this season.  She seemed enthusiastic enough, but for one reason or another, she wasn't making any productive points.  I figured this was yet another tweetie bird encounter.

I crested the ridge along with Jon, and we discovered Vegas locked up with Jon's setter Ike close behind.  I still was in no hurry.  Jack snapped a picture or two, and Dottie trotted up and reluctantly honored, and then locked up hard.  By this time, Wes had joined us and we moved in to flush the offending meadowlark.

What happened next will stay with me for many years.  Three prairie chickens erupted within arm's length, presenting amazing straightaway shots as they flew down a draw.  I've always been a remarkably quick shot, and I fired the first round.  MISS!  (I said I was a quick shot, but not necessarily a good one.)  About that time, I remember hearing Jon fire to my left, exploding one bird, and then dropping another.  I lined up the second barrel of my SKB 385, slapped the trigger, and dropped the third bird.  About that time, the dogs broke to retrieve the birds, and a fourth chicken erupted from the same spot.  It barely rose from the ground, gaining speed, but putting itself right between us and the dogs. 

Our guns were empty, and neither Jon nor I had much of a shot anyway.  At about 40 yards, the bird veered to the right, presenting Wes with a difficult, but makeable shot.  And make it he did.  After more than a bit of whooping and hollering, we collected our birds (including an amazing find by Ike for that last bird, that had hidden itself deep in some grass).

I write this as my family and I digest said birds, after a healthy marinade in soy sauce, olive oil, liberal sliced garlic, and rosemary.  PC's are more like venison than chicken.  My daughter described them as rich, and she's right.  Rich in flavor, and rich as in the way I feel after a good meal that has been provided for me.


  1. Wow, that Oregon takes some pretty good pictures!

  2. Yeah, I was impressed. Of course, my son will be the first to tell you that it was the photographer that makes all the difference.