Brad and I had planned to open our State’s Pheasant season with our friend Rusty Williams in the Canyon, Texas area, on December 1. Brad’s cancer changed those plans and December 1 found him just finishing his first round of chemo, so we changed the date of the hunt to December 22.
Our drive up Highway 84 to Roscoe where we connected with I-27 to Canyon was uneventful and only marred by the miles of wind farms around Abilene.
The picture, taken from my Suburban west of Abilene, shows almost 20 windmills, all pumping out electricity. We saw hundreds of thousand Geese and Ducks on the trip but none around the windmills. But don’t worry, “experts” tell us they have no effect on wildlife. If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you!
Shirtsleeve weather greets us at 5:00 PM when we rolled into Rusty’s drive way. His smile of greeting changed to a frown when he told us, “Boys, we’ve got some weather coming in tomorrow. Maybe it’ll miss us over in Friona!” We had noticed a winter storm that had formed in the 4 corners area and was moving east. Maybe it would miss!
Saturday morning as we headed toward Friona and before we passed through Hereford, as the sign would announce, “The Cowboy Capital of the World”, the full fury of the winter storm slammed into us. Winds 45 MPH and gusting higher, blowing snow, 24 degrees temperature and ice, 4 degrees wind chill, but we are going Pheasant hunting!
Beside a playa lake, originally formed centuries ago as a “Buffalo wallow” by huge herds of American Bison wallowing in the mud, eight fools, er ”hunters, climbed out of snow covered 4WD trucks and volunteered to be either walkers or blockers. Brad wisely choose the role as a blocker.
We headed into the cut grain field and pressed on. Bundled up so much, I was still colder than I have ever been. I was trying to figure out how I would raise my shotgun to shoot, but our first walk only produced one hen and one Coyote that Brad “passed” on figuring a long shot with #5’s, and with the wind and snow, his chances of a hit were small.
After our first half-mile walk, we were all frozen and met behind one of the trucks and all agreed that it was just too cold to continue and that we should all go back to the local cafe and await better weather. The vote was unanimous!
Ordering coffee, chips, hot sauce and chili con queso and enjoying the warmth, soon the snow stopped and the wind “let up” to around 30. In less less than an hour, we were headed to another playa , this one deeper with some heavier cover and good natural, prairie grass. As the picture below shows, much of the snow had blown away.
We would set up the blockers and cover a swath of the playa, move the blockers and cover another. The hunting conditions weren’t that bad, 28 degrees and 30 MPH wind. and, as long as we didn’t walk directly into the wind, we were OK. By 1:30 PM we had covered the entire playa and had only one shot at a rooster. We saw 25 or 30 hens and held out fire and several roosters flushed wildly, way out in front of us.
Our host, Rusty, said on opening day his group had limited out in this playa, but now, we should call it a day, and plan on being back on December 1, 2008. Brad and I accepted his kind invitation on the spot!
Rusty Williams (6’4″), below, and I enjoy a break from the wind. Rusty, a Texas panhandle native and former cowboy, was in the Army with Brad and they have remained in friends and have stayed in contact over the years.
Brad held up fine and we thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, but I have never been as cold as I was in the first 30 minutes. Four degrees wind chill and snow, was almost too much for me!
Anyway, as my Dad once told me, “Boy, if you got your limit each time out, it would be called shooting instead of hunting!”