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Chilly wind wicked for pheasant hunters

Breezy opening day keeps the birds hiding in corn and the hunters at home.

October 31, 2004

Bayard, Ia. - Wind gusts of 40-50 mph and temperatures 45 to 54 degrees gave pheasants the advantage for Saturday's pheasant season opener.

An estimated 130,000 hunters searched the state for the ring-neck pheasants. In some parts of Iowa, rain fell after the 8 a.m. opening.

Aaron Parker, 34, of Urbandale leaned against the wind and whistled commands to his dog, Sam.

They started the day hunting sections of a farm owned by Aaron's grandfather, Ace Parker, 81, of Carroll. The farm is between Coon Rapids and Bayard in Guthrie County.

Aaron has hunted on opening day with other Parker family members and friends since Aaron began to hunt at 11. Going along on Saturday's hunt were Aaron's brother Chad Parker, 37, of Ames; his father, John Parker, 57, of Ellison; his cousin, Chuck Parker, 27, of West Des Moines; and friends Jeff Menz, 35, of Urbandale and Mark Mueller, 27, of West Des Moines.

Sam worked along a fence line as the hunters walked down a hill. He stopped abruptly, indicating a scent. He stayed for a few minutes, then moved on.

"He's going to get fooled a lot today," Aaron said. "Every time he catches a scent, the wind just blows it away."

Sam had already pointed on a couple of hens and the group had seen a couple more hens fly up as they moved up the first finger of timber, but they saw no roosters.

"See that field over there, the one that had been corn?" Aaron asked. "When I was about 14, my grandpa had that all in sorghum. We used to walk into that and see all kinds of birds get up."

Luck improved as the hunters moved from the timbered area to the grassy Conservation Reserve Ground. At least five hens were spotted before the roosters (only male pheasants can be shot) began to take flight. But because of the wind, the whirring of wings couldn't be heard as the pheasants rose from the grass.

Just as Aaron was discussing how it would be nice to have one more dog, shots rang out. Several roosters had gotten up in front of Chad, Chuck and Mark. They bagged two.

This was Jeff's first pheasant hunt, and he got off at least one shot. The bird was bagged, but he wasn't sure he shot it.

"I've been wanting to try out pheasant hunting for a while," said Jeff. "So even though I'm old enough that I didn't have to, I took my hunter safety course and Aaron asked me to come along."

By 10:30 the group had bagged six roosters, most from grassy areas. By 1:30 the hunters had nine roosters and were planning to hunt for another hour.

Limited success was the story across the state, according to conservation officials.

Between 12:30-2 p.m., conservation officer Dan Pauley in Carroll County saw few hunters.

"With the wind, I think the hunters are quitting early," Pauley said. "There is a lot of standing corn and the pheasants are going in there and that's where they'll probably stay for the day."

Conservation officer Brad Baker in Iowa County said he was seeing fewer birds.

"I've had everyone asking, 'Where are the birds?' " Baker said. "We got hit hard by spring rains, especially on the Iowa River corridor, the water was out on both sides of the river."

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