The Last Windrow: The longest pheasant feather

Video world record pheasant

The pheasant with the longest tail feather I ever harvested was on Thanksgiving Day many years ago. That feather was an award-winner.

Most folks are headed for a Thanksgiving Day feast somewhere this week. There will be roast turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and tasty salads spread across white table cloths and in front of a crowd of humans with eating on their minds.

It was no different for me back in the early 1960s when my family motored to the small town of Westfield, Iowa, in a quest to fill our bellies and enjoy the fruits of this great country.

After a scrumptious dinner, most of the men would retire to the couch to digest the meal. The kids were turned outside where usually a scratch football game would ensue or they might explore the creek bed that traveled by our grandmother’s house.

I went pheasant hunting on one of those days wanting to work off the dressing and pumpkin pie.

I drove to an area that our family referred to as “the hills.” I uncased my old Model 97 Winchester shotgun and headed over the steep grade and down into the steep, buck brush-covered gullies and draws. It was tough going and I easily broke a sweat as my legs carried me up and down with my shotgun at the ready.

As I was crawling up a steep grade to the top of one of the hills, a large, red-faced rooster pheasant rose above the high grass and as it passed over my head I managed to place a shot that “winged” the bird. I saw the bird glide totally back to the bottom of the ravine where it dropped.

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I found the bird among the tangled mess and was amazed at the length of its tail feathers. The bird had inch-long spurs, which meant it was an old bird that had seen more years than most. It was truly a prize of a bird.

A grocery store in a town near our farm had advertised a “longest pheasant tail feather” contest that year. The feather I had measured over 36 inches. I knew it would be a contender for the prize. I journeyed to the store with my feather in hand and found out that the prize was 50 pounds of dog food.

Not what I had imagined as a worthy prize, but 50 pounds of dog food would be useful in feeding the coonhounds I was raising. The store owner said I had to leave the feather with him according to the rules of the contest. So, with some remorse I turned the feather over to him and took my two bags of dog food home.

The week after Thanksgiving I was reading the local newspaper when I spied an ad from a sporting goods store in Sioux City. The ad was promoting a contest for the longest pheasant feather. The prize was a new 12 gauge Remington automatic shotgun and a case of shells. My jaw dropped as I read the ad and realized that I would probably have won this contest. But, my feather was gone.

The sporting goods store contest ended Dec. 1. The store ran another ad announcing the winner of that contest. There was a picture of a man hoisting the new Remington shotgun with a giant smile on his face. He had entered a 36-inch pheasant feather. It was the grocery store owner and he was holding my pheasant feather.

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I remember that contest at Thanksgiving time more than any turkey dressing, mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie I ever ate. The hounds did enjoy the dog food.

See you next time. Okay?

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>