Editor’s note: Jones wrote about his trip to Gackle, N.D., to hunt waterfowl and preach in the Oct. 21 Outdoors Weekend section. He will hunt and preach in early December in Huron, S.D.
In Iowa, as in Minnesota, deer hunting is king. So when Pastor Peter Marty of St. Paul Lutheran Church turned to his congregation in Davenport and asked who might take me pheasant hunting, he didn’t get a big response (Nov. 11-12 was the height of the deer rut.) Only one hunter, Ron Welser, offered.
I drove to Davenport for my second hunting-and-preaching trip of the fall. Central Iowa appeared to hold some birds. So on my way to Davenport, I stopped at two public hunting spots near Ames. My yellow lab, Albert, and I walked fields for more than four hours. We didn’t flush a single pheasant. Ron called me on my drive east that evening. “We’ll get birds tomorrow,” he promised.
He and his friend Tim Munson came by my hotel the next morning and picked me up. We drove just over an hour north, and then I understood Ron’s confident guarantee: We pulled into Three Hills Hunting Preserve, and Ron generously laid down money for birds.
I consoled myself that Albert can’t tell the difference between a wild pheasant and one raised in a pen, and out we went. Albert performed like a champ, and we got most of our birds, including a memorable shot I made on a chukar flying through woods.
I drove the next day to a couple public spots that were full of deer hunters before I found a parcel of Iowa Habitat and Access Program land in Clinton County — private land that allows public hunting. It was gorgeous: 135 acres of grassland with three food plots and some woods. Albert flushed three pheasant hens and brought me another that he caught (it’s only legal to shoot roosters).
In preparation to speak at St. Luke on Sunday, a woman approached me. She asked me how the hunting was, and I told her. She agreed that there are no pheasants in that part of Iowa anymore. And then she confessed that she is part of the problem. She explained that she is a farmer, and that she plants her fields road-to-road, plowing under any wildlife habitat.
“But,” she asked, “when I’m getting 200 bushels of corn an acre, can you blame me?”