Home Lifestyle COLUMN: A nice Christmas suprise

COLUMN: A nice Christmas suprise

J.A. Bolton

Several weeks ago, my friend Tom called and asked if I would like to join him as a guest on a pheasant shoot. Well, I really jumped at the chance because I have never eaten or hunted pheasant.

The date of the shoot was Saturday, Dec. 26. The event would be held at Honey Hill Hunting Preserve just southeast of Whiteville.

Our shooting time was scheduled at 1 p.m. so we left Tom’s house about 10 on that cold Saturday morning.

As we rode down Hwy. 74, I had a lot of questions about what to expect when we arrived at the preserve. Tom had told me when he first called that I would need three boxes of 12-gauge No. 4 shot and an orange hat.

Well, I had plenty of orange hats, but finding the right shells nowadays can be a chore. Finally, after visiting several stores on different days I was able to secure the right shotgun shells.

Our trip down Hwy. 74 passed quickly and took us through Richmond, Scotland, Robeson and Columbus counties. I’m always amazed as I view the large farming operations and fields of our southeastern counties. The tall pine trees around the edges of the fields seemed to reach forever upwards toward the sky, while the ghostly Spanish moss hung from the Cyprus trees located deep in the swamps.

Tom had told me that another friend of his, Carl, would be joining us at the hunting preserve. Also, the cooking staff would have a great lunch prepared when we got there.

Seems the closer we got to our destination the more excited I got. You know, kinda like a kid on Christmas Eve.

As we entered the dirt road going to the hunting preserve, we had to stop as another group of pheasant hunters was winding down their hunt. This was a good chance for me to watch as a staff member located at the top of the hundred-foot tower was releasing the last few birds of that hunt. The birds seemed to fly in all different directions and, man, were they fast!

Staff members pulled crates of pen-raised pheasants up the tall tower using a tractor hooked to a wire cable and a pulley. The hunters would take stations in a huge circle around the tower, some in the woods, while some stood in the fields surrounding the tower. After several birds were released from atop the tower, the hunters would rotate to a different station. Only one bird was released at a time but I’m thinking over a hundred birds were released in every direction on each hunt.

As the birds were shot, staff with dogs retrieved the fallen birds. Tom had brought his Boykin Spaniel, Gunner, to retrieve our birds.

Not long after we got out of our truck, Tom’s friend, Carl, pulled up. Carl was from Raleigh and was a retired army veteran. Boy, you get Carl talking and he can tell you story after story about his time in service. Some stories were just too hard for him to tell as he had been a prisoner of the Taliban for several years.

Finally, they called us for lunch and, boy, did they have a spread! On the bar were large pans of pit-cooked eastern barbecue, baked beans, slaw, homemade hushpuppies, sweet potato soufflé, and last, but not least, there were four or five types of dessert. We took our plates outside and, mind you, I ate my fill of barbecue and thoroughly enjoyed a large slice of 12-layer chocolate cake.


Around 1 p.m., we took our stands around the tower along with all the other hunters. Not only were there men there, but a lot of hunters had brought their kids or grandkids to shoot.

I had just got my gun loaded when I heard the guy in the tower yell out that a bird was being released. I never did understand what he said, but each time he hollered, a pheasant came sailing down. 

Now some of you might just be thinking that shooting birds like this might just be too easy. Well, believe me, it’s not! Being released at 100 feet, that bird can be traveling some 40 miles per hour when he gets close enough for you to shoot. That’s close to 50 feet per second and you never know the direction the bird will fly.

As I said before, after 10 or so birds have been released, you pick up your empty shell hulls and proceed to the next station.

It was on my second station that a bird was headed right for me. As I raised the gun to shoot, the sun blinded me and all I saw was bright specks, so someone else shot the bird.

Now, a pheasant is not only hard to hit but harder to bring down. The number of shots and misses at each bird from several hunters could be as many as 10 to 12 shots.

As the man in the tower called for us to change stations, I had figured out that to be able to kill some of these birds it would require me to lead them some 15 feet as I shot. Why, it didn’t take me long and two boxes of heavy load shells, to start getting my share of birds.

Tom’s dog, Gunner, was really doing his job of retrieving and bringing our birds back to Tom. Why, it was so funny when a wild crane decided to fly through the hunt. You could tell by the bird’s actions that he knew he was in the wrong place. As the crane flew past Tom, Gunner looked Tom straight in the eye as if to say, “Why didn’t you shoot, Dad?”

At the end of the hunt, our dead birds had been picked up and cleaned. They were placed in plastic bags along with ice and divided between the hunters.

This was a hunt of a lifetime for me. I met so many wonderful people, although with this pandemic there were few handshakes. Also, most everything was held outdoors, but everyone was very safety-minded with their guns and themselves.

Today, I have lasting memories and pheasant in the freezer, all thanks to my friend Tom and his dog Gunner for a job well done.

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at ja@jabolton.com.



Previous articleIndividual campaign contribution limit to increase to $5,600
Next articleOPINION: Democrats’ glaring strategic mistake