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PHEASANTS

Miller, South Dakota, "Pheasant Hunting Capital Of The World",  not just the U.S.A. but the world! What a wonderful place for a sixteen-year-old boy with a Remington automatic 20 gauge shot gun. The limit was five cocks and two hens.

It was an economic boom for Miller, South Dakota during the pheasant-hunting season. The out-of-state hunters had to be housed and fed, and the birds had to be dressed and frozen. Local craft artists turned the feathers into decorations for hats and jackets.

The hunters came from every state, and that's how I met my first black man. He was the driver for some Texas oil men. He liked to tease us young boys in town, and we loved it. He was not allowed to hunt and we couldn't understand why. In the nineteen forties and fifties that's just the way it was.

Talk about times changing! We kids used to take our shotguns and shells to school and just prop the guns in the hallway where we hung our coats. The guns would be right where we left them, ready for our after school hunt. We usually hunted along the railroad tracks, and sometimes I would just hunt the undeveloped land behind our house where I always found three of four birds. Grandma Minnie would have the birds in the frying pan shortly after I cleaned them.

The out-of-state hunters, aided by the locals and the friendly farmers, would limit out by hunting the picked cornfields. The birds were everywhere. We would send several hunters through the field while others of us would act as blockers at the other end. My days as a blocker ended after I was peppered with buckshot by some gun-happy out-of-staters!

A friend and I loved to duck hunt, and we used to jump the stock dams early in the morning. We were doing just that one morning when, on the way to another dam, we saw something in the early morning light that simply amazed us. There, in a small shelterbelt, were pheasants roosting in every tree. We stopped the car, leveled our guns, and filled the air with buckshot. As the sun rose, we walked among the trees. There were dead birds all around us. We picked them like daisies and stashed the birds in the trunk of our car. We were far over the legal limit.

As we were deciding what action to take next, we discovered we had a flat tire. Just as we were about to change the tire, a car approached. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was the local game warden!

He said, "I heard some shooting, boys. Did you get any thing?"
I replied, "We jumped the dam and shot at some ducks, but they were too far away."
He said,  "You know, it's the law that you to have your guns plugged to hold just three shells for duck hunting. I'll have to check them." 
He looked at our guns and nodded his okay. Then he asked, "Have you got a jack to fix that flat tire?"
My IDIOT friend said, "Yes it's in the trunk."
I thought, "Yes, with all the illegal birds we just shot!",
My heart pounded like a jack-hammer until finally the game warden said he had to go.
My friend swore me to secrecy about this event, but I think by now the statute of limitations has run out. As I recall, those birds did not taste as good as the legal ones.

2001 Maurice D Karst