Women take to thrill, challenge of pheasant hunting
Oct. 31, 2013
When Jody Bachelder took a step back away from the pointing dog at her feet, a rooster pheasant sprung into flight, practically knocking her over and leaving her so temporarily dazzled she didn't even think to shoulder her shotgun.
"I'm four months pregnant and I swear I felt the baby jump," said Bachelder, who was making her first pheasant hunt.
Happens all the time, said Scott Brosier, proprietor of Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsmen's Club near Belding, Mich., and the host of a recent pheasant hunting event for women.
"Lots of people get startled when that flush occurs right in their face," said Brosier. "I've seen guys who are built like Buicks jump when it happens."
Bachelder's disorientation didn't last long. Not too many minutes later, a rooster got up in front of her and she smoothly mounted her firearm, pulled the trigger and dropped the bird into the tall grass.
Bachelder was one of a dozen women attending the event, which was put together by Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician Donna Jones, who works at Flat River State Game Area.
Brosier -- who had put together his own women's event last year as part of a breast cancer awareness program -- was more than happy to accommodate the program. Jones lined up three chapters of Pheasants Forever -- Barry County, Montcalm County and Grand Valley -- to help with the funding, and all that was left was to recruit the gals.
It didn't take long. "I could have gotten 40," Brosier said.
Among those who signed up was Alyssa Wethington, an intern with the Gourmet Gone Wild program, which is designed to introduce folks who are not from sporting traditions to the outdoors by exposing young professionals to wild game and fish dishes. She brought her grade-school pal Shakoor Rohela, and the 22-year-olds had their first hunting experiences together.
The pair shot at -- and hit -- a bird, but it sailed off into the distance. When the crew went to recover it, it flushed again -- apparently no worse for wear.
That just made Wethington more determined.
"This is something I hope to do regularly," she said. "I like to eat food produced locally, so if I can kill something and cook it up, that's great. That's as local as you can get."
While Wethington and Rohela were making their first hunts, many of the women were veterans of the field -- having hunted deer and turkey -- though they hadn't hunted pheasants. Trish Taylor, a public-relations professional from Allegan, said she hunted rabbits as a youngster but, despite being married to a sportsman and owning a pointing dog, had never hunted upland birds.
Her husband was glad she came, Taylor said, because he wanted her to learn to hunt but he didn't especially want to take her "because I never listen to him," she said.
"It was awesome," Taylor said. "Now I want to go to North Dakota."
Similarly, Kathleen Kiester of Dimondale had hunted wild turkeys and deer, but had never pointed the Model 12 Winchester she inherited from her father at flying birds. By the time the hunt was finished, Kiester had killed a pair of pheasants.
"This is so much fun," she said. "I'm just ecstatic. They get up so fast and fly so hard. This is so cool, I'd love to do it again."
That's a sentiment echoed by virtually all the women at the event. Rohela said the experience was "really, really fun" and Wethington said she's going to "keep doing this until I get something."
Bachelder, whose husband was away on business in China, emailed him a picture from her smartphone as soon as it was taken.
"This is cool," she said, admitting that she was a little bit surprised that she made her shot. "It's different than I was expecting. I like the walking around instead of sitting in the deer blind."
DNR wildlife biologist John Niewoonder gave a presentation at the event, explaining how the DNR works and about wildlife management in general. He gave the participants food for thought about hunting as not only an enjoyable pastime, but also a vital part of Michigan's natural resources conservation
Jones was very pleased with the way things went.
"When I started at the DNR I wasn't a hunter and some of the guys showed me," said the 33-year DNR veteran. "I was hoping to target single moms and first-time hunters. It worked out perfectly. We had a lot of fun."
So much, in fact, that Jones can hardly wait to get started planning an event for next year.
To learn more about hunting in Michigan -- including different species and season opportunities, how to purchase licenses, where to hunt, and how to ensure it's done safely -- visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.