The Ottumwa Courier

May 4, 2013

Barnyard Bounty

By Babe WInkelman
Ottumwa Courier

---- — I know a wingshooter who once suffered from depression. When the grouse, pheasant, woodcock and duck seasons ended, my friend got the blues. His dog got the blues, too. His wife, because her husband and dog were downers, suffered as well. The whole household went into a terrible tailspin.

Then the wingshooter found a cure. You could say it was a miracle drug. Prozac? No, this was no ordinary drug like Prozac.

It required no prescription from a physician. Neither could it be found over the counter nor on a street corner.

No, the cure came in the feathery form of a fast-flying airborne acrobat that decoys better than the dumbest bufflehead.

It can descend from great heights with the speed of a dive-bombing falcon. Its ability to dip, dodge, flare and flee defies the skills of a green-winged teal.

The cure was a wingshooter’s dream bird and is available in virtually unlimited supply.

He had been aware of this bird his entire life but had never given it much thought beyond noticing its talent for pooping on city statues and silo tops. The creature was, and is, the common pigeon.

The light bulb went off in the wingshooter’s head while reading a magazine article about pigeon shooting in Outdoor Life magazine.

Here was the solution to his off-season doldrums.

Pigeons!

No season, no limits, no problem finding permission to hunt, unbelievable shooting practice, phenomenal dog training, fun, fun and more fun ... it was a dream come true.

My friend’s first foray into pigeon plinking happened at the first farm he encountered with visible birds.

After a knock on the house door and a short conversation and handshake with the farmer, he was standing next to a silo with his Brittany at heel and his 28-gauge side-by-side in the crook of his arm.

The walk to the silo had spooked the birds on its roof, but before long they began trickling back in ones and twos.

The shots started and pigeons fell, much to the delight of both gunner and gun dog.

With each report, more birds spilled from within the silo and out from openings in the barn and other buildings.

It was pandemonium, and as much fun as my friend ever had shooting his little double gun.

As he promised the farmer, he collected his bounty when the action ceased.

Well, the action never really did cease. But his supply of low-brass #6s did.

In all, he collected 17 pigeons of varying plumage from plain purple to bright white. ‘Now what do I do with them?’ he asked himself.

In the magazine article he’d read about pigeon shooting, it promised that pigeons (or squab as gourmet chefs call them) are amazing table fare.

So my friend took the birds home, breasted them, prepared them like duck breasts and served them to his unsuspecting family.

By appearance, they probably thought it was just another plate of woodcock. But when they ate the squab, his family marveled.

Since that fateful day, the wingshooter hasn’t experienced another day of off-season depression.

When he and his dog get the itch, they just go pigeon shooting. And they’ve barely scratch a dent in the seemingly endless supply of fast-flying, great-tasting birds.

In fact, even during the open season for grouse and pheasant, a pleasant afternoon will often find my friend leaning up against a silo with his Brittany at heel, all eyes to the sky.

Good Hunting.

Babe Winkelman

Babe Winkelman hosts 'Good Fishing' and 'Outdoor Secrets,' the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America, Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York and many local broadcast channels. Visit Winkelman.com for air times and more information.