To be honest, I was tired of walking. Pheasant hunting, for me, has always been just a walk to pass the time. If I happen to bag a bird, great. If not, I’m never terribly disappointed. There’s just no passion in it for me. In fact, it’s really just an excuse to spend some time with my old friend, Casey. I’d brought a couple of buddies on this hunt with him and the four of us had managed a bird or two, but our rooster-per-mile ratio left much to be desired and I was tired of walking.
Mercifully, the guy whose land we were hunting pulled up about that time. He had a brand new Ruger Red Label 20 gauge in the seat beside him and he handed it to me to admire. Then he handed me a couple of shells, but as we’d already walked up the one pheasant that called that mile section home, I didn’t have anything to shoot at. He pointed to a pile of pipe on the other side of the road and casually commented that there was usually a cottontail or two bouncing around in there. I crossed the road and sent a dozen bunnies scattering to the four winds. There were pipes everywhere, each one was choked with cottontails, like rounds in a tubular magazine. The two shells I’d been handed were still smoking when the other three guys stepped around the truck and joined me in the pile of pipe.
What happened next can only be described as a massacre. At the landowner’s urging, we shot every shell in our vests. Turns out, he’d recently had to put a calf down after it stepped in a hole and broke its leg. Rabbits were blamed and war was declared. The landowner told us to leave the rabbits for the coyotes but none of us felt good about that so the decision was made to clean them, instead. I think we were all dreading the chore ahead of us when Casey mentioned that he could save us a lot of time and trouble by cleaning the rabbits without a knife. He went on to say he’d watched a YouTube video where a man field dressed cottontail by simply squeezing out their insides and selected a test bunny. Taking a firm grasp at the neck, Casey started to squeeze south and the rabbit’s abdomen immediately swelled. Every time he took another grip, the rest of us took another step back. When it was clear that something was about to pop, Casey spread his legs, raised the rabbit above his head and then flung it at the ground like he was driving home a railroad spike. I instinctively closed my eyes but the noise that followed left no doubt as to what had happened. It sounded like a week old cow’s carcass had been dropped off the roof of a two-story building. I opened my eyes to see the two guys I’d brought along on the hunt laughing hysterically.
Casey quickly pulled me to the side.
“Man, what’re they laughing at? They tired or something?”
“Beats me, buddy,” I answered, “but I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that you’ve got rabbit guts hanging from the brim of your cap.”
That was years ago, now, and unfortunately, as evidenced below, Casey’s field dressing skills have improved dramatically. Those long, pheasant-less walks are a lot less entertaining.