Monday, 3 November 2008

It's that time of year!


It has started again - the sound of guns fills the air - pheasants are creeping through the hedge into the garden for refuge.
The pheasant is hardly a wild bird round here, where thousands are bred each year for the corporate shooters. Driving down our lane between June and October, when the young poults have been let out of their housing and introduced to the big, wide world, is like driving through some bizarre obstacle course fromn "Alice in Wonderland."
The young birds crowd into the lane, pecking at their new-found source of grit. Along comes a car (a fairly rare occurrence on our lane). "Could this be the Gamekeeper with corn?" they think and rush towards it. Rash, hardened drivers keep going, hoping they'll get out of the way. (is being killed by a car any worse than being shot by a gun?); others blow the horn, slow down, stop, get out and shoo them on to the grass verge, get back in the car only to find the birds are all crowding round them again. Or, worse still, they appear to be going purposefully in one direction, then just as you move off they change their mind and rush resolutely across your path.
Last year at about this time a cock pheasant adopted us on the farm. We called him "Fez" (not very original) and after a few days he would come when we called him and eat the corn at our feet. One night he ventured into the hen house and found himself shut in for the night. Next morning he was frantic to escape and we never saw him again.
One year the farmer ran over a pheasant's nest while haymaking and came into the kitchen carrying a clutch of pheasant eggs in his cap - he had killed the mother. We slipped them under a broody bantam and reared six healthy chicks. They thrived, lovingly cared for by the bemused bantam who couldn't understand why they preferred to hide in the brushwood we put in the run, rather than under her skirt.
When they outgrew the pen we made a run in the meadow for them, only shutting it up at night to be safe from foxes. Gradually they moved away, became more wild and disappeared. We were surprised to see all six, later in the year, snug in the corner of the greenhouse one frosty night.
I don't cook or eat pheasant. Seeing them about all the time and sometimes forming a relationship with one - holding that bright eye in my gaze for a split second - has crossed them off my menue. It would be like eating a friend.
Now, when we drive down the lane , after only a few days of pheasant shoots, there is not a bird to be seen on the road. If you meet one in the fields you see that it has very quickly learned the golden rule for staying alive - when startled don't take off and fly away, run along the ground to the hedgebottom - that way the guns can't fire at you and you'll live to fight another day.

14 comments:

willow said...

Run, Fez, run!

Gramma Ann said...

That was a lovely story, and the photo of the bird shows him off in all his glory.

Sad to say I have eaten many a pheasant and they are very tasty. But I haven't eaten any in probably over 30 years. My father-in-law use to hunt them in season and share them with us.

The Weaver of Grass said...

My sentiments exactly willow!

The Weaver of Grass said...

They are too beautiful to eat gramma ann.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

How I do hate hunting.

acornmoon said...

That would make a lovely story for a children's picture book!

Janice Thomson said...

The hunters used to come to our farm too and not just for pheasant but deer and ducks and geese even though Dad had no hunting signs every hundred feet. I used to dread hearing their guns...

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Gramma ann isn't the only one that eats pheasants Weaver. So do I. Our hunting season starts in May normally along with the ducks that is. I have quite a few pheasants living on my farm and no they haven't been shot at. I just love the story you told. I raised a turkey as you know and you get attached to them - so I concur there.

elizabethm said...

There are pheasants all over the place here too. At the moment there are four haunting the end of our track where it meets the lane. They run into the bottom of the hedge just as you describe. I do eat it from time though!

Kyfarmlife said...

I dont get the joy of seeing pheasant here where I'm at....they are so beautiful and I love the post you did, so eleoquent! I've never had them they are so pretty I'd have a hard time eating them, but never say never, just as long as I dont raise anything, i can usually eat it! LOL well you wondering if I eat my bottlefed calves...NOOOOO I couldnt we sell them, thats the deal. I love the pics in your earlier posts too! I have been trying to leave a comment but it keeps knocking me off! arrrggghhh! lovely photos!

The Solitary Walker said...

Similar story round here too, grassweaver.

I think this whole thing about hunting, shooting and fishing is so imbued with nostalgia, sentimentality, hypocrisy, false facts etc that it's difficult to talk about it rationally.

For my part, as I said on my blog a year ago, I met wild boar hunters in France all the time - and sometimes found their solitary presence with a shotgun intimidating - but nevertheless often enjoyed wild boar pate at lunchtime...

Reader Wil said...

What an amazingly lovely story! How easily perfectly wild animals are going to trust humans and stay with them. Thank you for telling this.

BT said...

Super story weaver. We heard the guns going off a few days ago. Personally I don't like 'game' at all. We hear the pheasants going to roost in the evenings, they make such a comical noise. A group of solicitors has bought a huge manor not far from here and hold shooting weekends. The helicopters fly back and forth with 'clients'. Run, Fez...

Poet in Residence said...

Had to dive for cover once on the old Salt Road, a public footpath and bridleway, over to Lancaster from Slaidburn or somewhere round there. Just ambling along one fine day when all of sudden a bunch of purple-faced green-clad shotgun wielding fanatics began blasting away from their hidden places in the heather. I should have realised that the two 4-wheel drive vehicles were up there for a reason. But I never thought...