October 14, 2017
Dear Bishop Hackle,
It’s been correctly said, by one who understood the critical difference between horizontal and vertical, that fly fishing is the most fun a man can have standing up. To which I most heartily shout, “Amen!”
However, a close contender for such charismatic enthusiasm on my part would undoubtedly have to be upland hunting; I am, as might be expected, totally enamored with this politically incorrect sporting tradition.
Pheasant season has once again begun in Massachusetts, and so too has my annual obsession for getting outfoxed by glorified chickens. I certainly miss more than I hit (not unlike your sermons). As a straight, white-privileged, conservative Christian male who owns guns, shoots animals and eats them, I’m obviously a dinosaur who doesn’t deserve to live in a postmodern society. Just ask any “tolerant” Bay State liberal. Nevertheless I remain unrepentant, utterly resolute in my pursuit of ring necks.
Thus I absolutely love Opening Day. Shot-gunners, myself included, huddle together on the edge of a Wildlife Management Area, smoking our cigars and trading tales. We impatiently wait for the first rays of sunrise before going in lest an overly zealous game warden bags us.
The dogs bark loudly. They're anxious to snuffle and sniffle through tall dead grass and low dry brush in search of a tight-sitting cock. I’m right there with them, brimming with anticipation. I especially appreciate the older canines. Those maturing pedigrees are just as excited as little pups about pushing a pheasant high into the sky. Well past their prime, they nonetheless hunt considerably harder than the younger dogs do because they’ve learned their purpose in the field. They’re not easily distracted by rabbit trails like the generation behind them is.
A scraggly mutt of questionable parentage pees on some guy's foot. Another bird season begins!
Along a dirt logging road, which separates the fields from the surrounding woods, I intercept a gentleman who motions for me to come quickly. He says, "My Brittany is on point. Be my guest." A hen is pinned on the crest of an embankment. It flushes directly at head level with the man’s pointer. Instinctively I mount the gun, take aim, but then hesitate. The situation is too risky for a safe shot.
I continue walking, only a short distance, when suddenly a cackling rooster explodes from a patch of cover so close that I feel the wind from its wings on my face. Males never know how to keep their mouths shut. One ill-timed squawk is all that’s necessary to get oneself in hot water.
A sure swing . . . the flurry of feathers . . . a clean kill . . . pheasant stew tonight.
The sun is bright now. Red, yellow, and orange, the maples glow as the autumn glory of God blazes through the hardwoods. I stand on holy ground. Like Moses did, I would take off my boots were it not for prickly briars underfoot. Yes indeed, praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Doxology is not a bad way to end the day, my dear Bishop.
Soli Deo gloria,
Father Felim McAllister