Raven the dog bounded through a thick hedgerow with his floppy black Labrador ear flipped inside out with excitement.
A pheasant exploded from the ground, flying in a graceful arc over a farmstead on South Buel Road near Ames. Raven’s hunters were caught up in the undergrowth far behind and the bird slipped away.
“Come back here,” shouted one of the hunters through the heavy brush. The regular pheasant season opened Monday morning. Mark Viscosi, his brother Pat and friend Pete Desjardins donned their camo jackets, grabbed their shotguns and loosed their dogs for the hunt.
The three local men scoured a section of field where 7-foot-tall corn met hedgerow, a perfect place to find pheasants, according to Mark.
“As long as we can keep them out here in the corn,” he said, explaining that the undergrowth of the hedgerows is too thick for a clean shot.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website, “Annually, about 30,000 adult pheasants are raised on the Richard E. Reynolds game farm in Ithaca and released just prior to and during the fall pheasant hunting season.”
About 25 of those birds were released on Thursday at a farm near the field the three men were hunting.
But it wasn’t a good opening day. “Awful,” is how Desjardins described it.
“We’ve been out here two hours and only got two birds,” Mark said. “Most years we would have our limit [of two each] by now and be out of here.”
A stiff breeze rustled the cornstalks, which was one of the problems, the men said. Pheasants, like most non-hunting humans, stay under cover in bad weather. When it’s wet, cold and windy, it’s hard to get the birds to flush.
“They’ll just run around in the corn stalks,” Mark said. “They’ll never fly if you don’t have a dog.”
Angus, the group’s second black Lab, lost the scent of another bird in the hedgerow and the hunters stopped to pose for a picture with their two birds.
“There was a youth hunt over the weekend,” Pat said. “Everybody with a kid and a dog was out here shooting.”
“It hammered the pheasant population,” Mark said, “I haven’t even shot my gun today.”
For the day though, they were lucky to get anything.
A few miles up the road, Mortimer Grainer was in his house, out of the cold wind.
“We’re old, so we’re resting,” he said. He and his son Seth spent the morning in a neighboring field seeking pheasants, but saw nothing.
“There is a thousand acres of corn and just a few birds,” he said.
Locally, coyote, wild turkey, cottontail rabbit and ruffed grouse seasons also opened Monday. Deer season opened for bow hunters as well.