Opinion: Jet shows how hunting has changed in a generationI’m no expert on small jet aircraft, but the one dropping gently from the west over the Missouri River toward the Chamberlain airport last Sunday afternoon looked like a Cessna Citation.
By: Terry Woster, Republic columnist
I’m no expert on small jet aircraft, but the one dropping gently from the west over the Missouri River toward the Chamberlain airport last Sunday afternoon looked like a Cessna Citation.
We were driving across the Interstate 90 bridge between Oacoma and Chamberlain when the jet whispered over the highway and then disappeared behind the eastern bluffs. Clearly, the aircraft was somebody’s private jet. It was late on the second day of opening weekend of South Dakota’s main pheasant hunting season.
It’s a guess, but I figure the airplane either had a scheduled landing to pick up a waiting party of hunters who had finished a day or two in the fields or carried a group of folks with plans to hunt somewhere in central South Dakota during the coming week. Either way, it was a quick reminder of just how much pheasant hunting has changed since I walked the fields with my dad, Uncle Frank, my big brother and my older cousin.
I don’t hunt these days. I haven’t for years and years. It was easy when we owned the land and didn’t need permission from anyone in the world to go chase some birds. As everybody knows, I’ve never owned a hunting license, and I’ve almost never hunted on any land that folks or my uncle and aunt didn’t own. (I sometimes hunted the neighbors’ land when I was young, but so it most kids back in the Soil Bank days. If you knew who owned the land and the owner knew whose kid you were, it was sort of an exemption to the general rules of licenses and so on.)
Anyway, when it got to the point where I needed to ask permission to hunt somebody’s land, I kind of quit going. I’m not very good at asking for stuff from people I don’t know. You should have seen my technique the summer I tried to sell advertising for the Chamberlain Register (and tried is the operative word in that sentence).
Some people are good at approaching others and forming those kinds of relationships. I admire people who can do that, and I saw a few of them back on the farm. My dad made friends with a couple of guys from Sioux Falls, and a couple of other guys from the Black Hills, largely because they asked about coming out and hunting our land. I never knew how those folks and my dad first bumped into each other, but they became regulars around the place.
As far as I know, they were courteous, decent hunters, respectful of our land and the neighborhood and not inclined to shoot more than their limits of whatever bird was in season. My dad would take time from farm work when they showed up, if he could. If he couldn’t, he trusted them to know where to go and where to avoid.
I don’t believe we ever asked them for anything, but sometimes they surprised us with gifts. My dad and my uncle each got a shotgun from one or another of the hunters. One of those hunters sometimes had fresh fruit shipped to us in the middle of winter. That doesn’t sound like much in these days when the big supermarkets have fruit and vegetables all year long. In those days to get fruit in the winter a person had to be friends with a sorcerer — or a grateful hunter.
Those guys came hunting for as long as I was around the place. Not long after I graduated from college, my dad died. We sold the land and no longer had an easy connection to a place where we could have hosted those longtime hunting friends, even if they’d still been around.
Things were simple back then. Truth is, Dad died before it could get complicated. Had he lived, his hunting pals might have flown a private jet in for the pheasant opener. I wish I’d had the chance to find out.