The sky could have been bluer. It had that steel-gray appear that in a distinct setting may possibly have been named ‘sullen’. But, clouds notwithstanding, I knowledgeable nothing at all sullen throughout the current South Fork Hunting Preserve continental pheasant throw.
Not only was this my initial ‘throw’, but the occasion is a driven shoot, producing it European-esque and therefore a fantastic venue for the drop-dead beautiful, Verney-Carron Azur SD Eloge Grade 20 Gauge Shotgun I would be carrying. Jérôme Lanoue, Ken Buch and the Master Craftsmen at L’Atelier Verney-Carron had been the generous providers of my shotgun-for-the-day.
Two widespread themes characterized the morning’s shoot. 1) I was stopped by absolutely everyone who saw the sophisticated 20 gauge shotgun prior to, throughout and following the hunt with comments like, “That is wonderful!”, “What a stunning shotgun!”, “How significantly does that expense?!” two) Jacob Nash and Colby Phillips (co-owners of South Fork Hunting Preserve in northeast Georgia), along with their dog-handlers, pheasant skinners, security monitors, chefs, and so forth, and so forth offered a wonderfully enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere.
I’ve in no way had a a lot more enjoyable day in the field, even with that ‘sullen’ sky.
A good deal of our enjoyment came neither from the shotgun nor the venue, but as an alternative from watching the 4-legged members of our entourage. But a lot more about that as the story unfolds.
As usual, I was accompanied by my lengthy-suffering, non-hunter wife and photographer. Do not get me incorrect, Frances is not in the least anti-hunting. So I have no explanation why time and time once again I heard her more than my gunshots yelling “Go bird!!, go bird!”
But, I digress. Frances and I arrived at the South Fork house about 7:30 am. Registration was due to get started at eight, providing us time to take a photo of the hopeful hunter – full with vest and Verney-Carron shotgun laid (stylishly) more than my shoulder – and post a brief blurb about the hunt on my Facebook web page and weblog.
Many months earlier we had been hosted by Colby and Jacob on an upland hunt. The preceding hunt predated the acquire of their new house that incorporated the wonderful 3-story (plus a crow’s nest) ‘clubhouse’.
With 3 bedrooms on the initial floor, every with its personal ensuite facilities, complete-kitchen, sitting rooms all through and various balconies-cum-decks on the several floors, I was sorry that we had not spent a evening or two as guests. Just after touring the clubhouse, we headed to the field in which stood the pheasant tower.
The South Fork employees would be releasing 260 birds in batches of 10. A bullhorn blast from the throwers in the tower would signal the get started of every 10-bird session, and would be sounded once again following the 10th bird had been released.
Although pen-raised, the vast majority of the pheasants flew like wild birds I’ve hunted out west. I took most of my shots at birds that had gone straight up, leveled out at intense altitude and had been producing a bee-line for the forest that surrounded the field.
After we had witnessed the loading of all the pheasant cages into the tower . . .
…we produced our way back to the clubhouse to gather our firearms, shells, camera gear along with our initial stand assignment.
Fortunate quantity 20 was exactly where Frances and I would take up residence for the initial 10 birds. Just after that we would move counter-clockwise about the large field till we came back about to the #19 stand. But, we had a lot of hunting to do prior to that would take place.
Shortly prior to the final guidelines from Colby and Jacob, the latter spotted the Verney-Carron 20 gauge on my shoulder. Like so several other individuals that day, Jacob asked to take a appear at the wood, engraving, checkering and finish of the Eloge Grade V-C. He agreed that it was a operate-of-art.
Of course, the unanswered query was irrespective of whether or not I would be in a position to reside up to the look by hitting some of the higher-flying birds.
Frances and I took up our position at the #20 stand bordering the mixture sunflower and millet field.
Quickly, one particular of the ‘throwers’ stood up with the bull-horn to give reminders of protocol and at the finish yelled “Everybody have enjoyable!”
He ducked back down beneath the height of the tower walls and blew the horn heralding the initial bird’s launch. It wasn’t till the sixth pheasant that I had an chance to shoot.
Frances caught me set and prepared to fire, which I did, with each barrels, when watching the bird proceed on its merry way.
I had just adequate time to quietly swear, eject the spent hulls and shove in two a lot more shells prior to my subsequent opportunity presented itself.
This time the pheasant shuddered with the effect of the shot from the initial barrel and tumbled out of the air from the second. One particular of the dog handlers released a stunning chocolate Lab who charged in, snatched up the hen and brought it back to his master.
I was glad that the ice had been broken, but the birds had been appearing also often and promptly to devote significantly time congratulating myself. The bullhorn indicating the finish of session one particular came and we sidled our way to the subsequent stand.
In the method of pre-hunt introductions, we had come to be acquainted with the loved ones group who occurred to be assigned to a stand subsequent to ours. The group incorporated an eight-week-old black Lab puppy named Mattie.
Frances and I had been smitten. In particular endearing was when Mattie came more than throughout the shoot to comfort me following one more missed shot. Plopping herself down at my feet, she was the fantastic image of the part that I am particular she will quickly assume – a brilliant and stunning retriever.
Sadly, I was staring at Mattie when the subsequent bird came inside shooting distance.
Ahead of lengthy, one more Pheasant silhouetted against the battleship-gray sky sailed across our front. Frances captured the shot string streaking toward a collision with the swiftly moving bird.
As the bird tumbled from the air a second dog handler sent his companion into the field. This time my pheasant (one more hen) was brought back to field’s edge by a stunning black lab, a vision of Mattie in the future.
Maddie repeatedly helped ‘her’ boy carry pheasants knocked down by the boy’s Dad.
The day continued to be a delightful mixture of missed shots followed by gentle ribbing from nearby shooters, and hoots of “great shot!” when I [too infrequently] connected with the side-by-side Verney-Carron.
A bit of a surprise to me was the reality that I promptly acclimated to switching amongst the double triggers. I was concerned that my possessing previously employed only single-trigger shotguns may possibly make the transition to a two-trigger firearm challenging. That was not the case.
Of course my fast acclimation implies that I can not blame fumbling with the triggers for my score of seven pheasants out of several a lot more than seven possibilities. It wasn’t the fault of the shotgun.
A lot also promptly, Frances and I arrived at the final station of the morning. The bullhorn sounded and, as promised a couple of moments prior to by the ‘tower guys’, all hell broke loose. Two participants had been no-shows, which meant that there had been additional birds left for the final throw.
The two guys in the Tower threw with a vengeance. Birds had been barely leveling out prior to the subsequent singles or doubles had been rocketing out of the tower’s open roof. The firing reached a crescendo that reminded us of a battle reenactment.
A scrumptious house-produced meal awaited us at the clubhouse, when all the birds had been shot (or not). It was a good finale to an remarkable morning of fellowship about hunting.
The practical experience reminded me of a Ruark quote: “We had a quite very good morning,” the Old Man stated. “I believed you did quite very good for an amateur…”
I was certainly an amateur at hunting continental-style ‘driven’ pheasant. But, boy was it a thrill to see these birds flying against that slate-colored sky, even if rather a couple of of them escaped with the sound of my two-barrel salute ringing in their ears.