|Walking across a large green field we neared the intersection of two rock walls. As we climbed over the wall ahead of us, something caught my eye. About forty yards forward of our position two cock birds emerged from the high cover. The duo was sneaking through the gradually thinning grass along the wall until they were obviously exposed. Crossing back over the wall we had been following, my senior Navy partners got into a flanking position. I hurried to get myself into a good shooting position. Just as I thought the birds were about to launch skyward, they disappeared over a low spot in the wall. Suddenly, as one of my companions approached, the birds flushed, heading back towards me. I shouldered the gun and caught the first bird as he passed in front of me. I quickly swung the gun to my left and knocked the other rooster down. A perfect “going-away shot.” My aim, however, was slightly off-mark. With the shot’s impact the big cockbird set his wings and sailed to the edge of the field near another wall. He hit the ground hard, obviously crippled, but with the speed of a sprinter ran the last few yards and disappeared over the wall. |
Mr. Kim climbed over the wall and whistled for the dog to join him. He sent the dog to the spot where the rooster was last seen and the dog instantly went on point. We approached with a casual caution, expecting to find the bird lying on the other side of the wall. The dog remained locked-up on a very solid point while we searched the cover. The four of us searched the thin strip of cover but could not locate the bird we had all seen hit the ground. With the dog still holding point, I approached the spot in the wall where I had seen the bird cross. For the first time I realized the dog was pointing the wall! Noticing several gaps and spaces in the wall, I began inspecting them closer. Removing several of the rocks from the wall I spied the unmistakable tips of rooster’s tail feathers. With some maneuvering and the removal of a few more large rocks the rooster found his way into my gamebag.
With late afternoon upon us, we began making our way back towards the truck. At the top of a hill the dog became very “birdie” near an old rock pile. His nose was up in the air and working overtime. The wind was beginning to pick-up speed as it traveled across the barren landscape. As the dog turned the corner, he became increasingly interested in the brush around the rock pile. He turned and headed towards the far end of the ancient stone mound. Suddenly, in mid-stride he froze, as if turned into stone himself. He locked on point at the corner of the rock pile. As I approached the dog, he took one step forward; I stopped with my gun at the ready. Mr. Kim said something slowly, yet firmly in Korean and the dog returned to a solid point. I could see his muscles straining as he tried to prevent himself from creeping in on the unseen birds. Knowing pheasant, however, they were probably moving on the dog.
The dog held tight, we approached in a line. Mr. Kim and I were to the left with my partners again spread-out, to the right. As we closed the distance to the rock pile, several birds got-up on its far side. My comrades unleashed a barrage of naval gunfire. Before the shooting had ceased, I saw two big roosters fall and several other birds fly away. The dog was still holding point ahead of us. As we closed the gap a nervous rooster scrambled skyward cackling loudly, I swung the gun to the left and dropped him before he could reach the safety of a bordering thicket.
Reaching into the grass, I held-up the rooster and began to admire it. The bird’s colors and markings seemed brighter, more highlighted in the waning light of “The Land of the Morning Calm.” Mr. Kim came over with a big smile and nodded. He lit a cigarette and patted the dog’s head, praising him in his native tongue. Even though we could not fully communicate to one another, the message and meaning was somehow conveyed, one hunter to another.
There would be a hot meal and a restful night of sleep awaiting us, followed by another full day of hunting. Although, a building storm front would bring degrading weather, we did manage to shrug-off the falling temperatures and brace ourselves during the brief periods freezing rain. And we managed to flush a few more birds.
The Navy and Marine Corps teamed-up to hunt pheasants on Chejudo Island, in The Republic of South Korea. The Author and his senior partners take a break next to an ancient wall after a morning hunt. (Mt. Hallasan can be seen in the background).
Photo by: Mr. Kim
Even though more than a decade has passed since my two days on Chejudo Island, it remains indelibly etched in my mind’s eye as one of the best pheasant hunts I have experienced. Not just because the birds were so plentiful, it was the cumulative nature of the entire experience. The uniqueness of the location, the beauty of the land and the personality of it’s people all combined to leave a lasting impression. And it taught me a valuable lesson, that the love of the outdoors, the freedom of being afield with dog and gun and respect for wild creatures can transcend languages and even cultures. My adventure on Chejudo Island was my own personal pilgrimage to the home of one of North America’s favorite game birds. As I reflect back on that time spent afield, the memories remain as clear today as the photographs in my album. And, there poised atop my bookcase, as if to reinforce the recollection even further, is a mounted rooster standing on a piece of dark red pumice rock, his tail is more than two feet long!