Pheasant Tail Tracks
By Carl H. Altenbernd

The 1995 Pheasant Season in North Dakota was just an average year. In the areas we hunt, above average snowfall and heavy summer rains hammered the Central Dakota’s keeping the Pheasant numbers in check.

Our last weekend hunt was cold and windy. North Dakota Season runs into the first week of January. I would guess there was six inches of new powder snow on the ground and strong NW winds pushed five below temperatures to well below thirty degrees. This did not stop us from busting the cattails looking for old Rooty.

Steve Syrdal and myself had hunted this spot in prior years. It is a large complex of cattails, willow thickets, creek bottoms all boarded by a harvested corn field. Our first walk through the North East corner of this complex produced no birds but tracks were every where, so it was just a function of figuring out the birds daily patterns. During this hunt Steve was hunting behind his Black Lab- Matty and I were shooting over three adult Black Labs- Doe, Dar, Bee and three seven month old Black Lab puppies named Duck, Decoy and Teal.

It is a incredible experience to hunt over three dogs at one time and throw in three hard driving puppies making the hunt all the more exciting. The commotion of six dogs in the field at one time may sound like a Chinese fire drill, but, with the proper training they handle just fine. In fact, we call our hunting approach in the field “stealth” hunting. In other words “no” hollering “no” whistles. A quiet approach in the field is a key to our late season success.

I got side tracked, lets get back to our Pheasant tracks. A quick lunch gave us new energy to walk the North West section of this complex. As we entered the area Pheasant tracks were everywhere, but what surprised us most was the beautiful Pheasant tail tracks outlined in the snow. In my twenty-nine years of Pheasant hunting I had never seen this before. As illustrated, the rooster in landing, left a perfect imprint of his tail in the snow with his feet imprinted at the base. We saw this pattern three different times. The snow conditions must have been perfect for this to happen. Our hunt continued that day, I shot two birds. I also shot and released two more. Steve never got a shot but we both agreed that the Pheasant tail tracks will always be a nice memory during the Pheasant Season of 1995.

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