I remember well a fateful day of pheasant hunting. Afterwards, I sheathed my Fulton double-barreled 20-gauge shotgun, and it hasn’t seen daylight for fifty-five years.
I hunted a bit during high school—squirrels now and then, but mostly pheasants. Sometimes, I’d drive my mother to the country school where she taught, then I’d hunt the roadsides while driving slowly back to Barneveld. You had to be super-cautious when road hunting. More than once, I’d seen a pheasant ahead of me, alongside the road, but I didn’t dare to shoot. One never knows when a vehicle may be coming over the next hill.
Shooting into the fields that were adjacent to the road was the only safe shot, but it seemed that pheasants preferred risking their lives alongside the road. If they only knew—because I wasn’t a very good shot—I was less likely to harm them than the vehicles that traveled those roads.
Other times, I hunted my Aunt Anne’s and Uncle Earl’s farmland. That was less risky than road hunting, and sometimes, but not often, I brought a pheasant home to complete its life cycle in Aunt Anne’s oven.
I put my double-barrel away for several years when I started a profession and began married life. In the mid-1960s, a couple of teacher friends asked me to go pheasant hunting with them. I hesitated at first, but eventually agreed. I dusted off my Fulton double-barreled 20-gauge, joined my friends, and we headed toward recently harvested cornfields.
We chased a few birds that wouldn’t rise, and then one flew up directly in front of me. I raised my trusty double-barrel and sent a charge flying. The bird was so close that I couldn’t miss, but I almost did. There were barely enough pellet holes in it to bring a bird down, but down it came.
I looked at that beautiful bird lying dead in front of me on the ground, and that’s when I began to do some soul-searching. Why? Why did I want to kill such a gorgeous creature? I didn’t even like dark meat, so I couldn’t rationalize that I killed it for food.
Right then and there, I swore off hunting forever. I’d not criticize others who hunt, but for me, if I was to hunt anymore, it was going to be with a camera.