Monday, October 12, 2009

For the first time in many, many years, when the Minnesota pheasant season opened at 9 a.m., Saturday, I had a camera rather than a shotgun in my hand.
I decided that Madelia's first annual Pheasant Phest was a big enough deal that I ought to take that in instead of traveling to my customary opening day spots with my usual hunting buddies. Duty called, as it were.
Of course, I could have been carrying a shotgun in addition to the Nikon. Early on, I was invited to hunt with the contingent of Madelia area hunters who were celebrating the opening of the season.
But I learned long ago that when one divides his attention between making photographs and another activity, in this case, hunting, neither ends up being done very well.
So I just committed to carrying a camera in the field as I trailed the group of hunters and dogs, enjoying the camaraderie that is part of such an event.
Of course, as it turned out, two of the three roosters the party bagged got up at my feet. I missed 'em with my camera but others in the hunting party managed to drop the birds with their shotguns.
Now I'm sure there those folks out there, particularly after watching Vikings Twins games, who believe that being a photographer at various events must be a great thing because, after all, photographers frequently have what appears to be the best seat in the house...and for free, no less.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Sidelines are not the best place to watch a game. That's why football teams always have coaches stationed high above the field to relay to the sidelines what's really going on.
What's more, court side or the sidelines aren't the place to be if you are an ardent fan. It's considered bad form (even to the extent that officials will ask offending parties to leave) if someone in the press ranks is openly rooting for one team or the other.
Dispassionate detachment is the expected sideline decorum in the working press corp. And work it is, as we compete informally with all of the other image makers who are shooting photographs, as well. There's a reason it's called work and that we get paid to do it.
It turned out that there was really nothing remarkable to shoot photographs of at the pheasant opener. What's more, by all accounts, the bird shooting was sparse enough within my circle of hunting buddies that I really didn't feel like I missed too much. Just way too much corn out there, yet.
But on late Saturday afternoon, after I'd written the story for the Sunday edition and edited the photographs, I finally managed to get out for the last hour of daylight to give my spaniel a chance to stretch his legs.
We hunted a public area that undoubtedly had been pounded by hunters earlier in the day. Our efforts were rewarded with a brace of roosters that we intercepted as they headed from the corn back into their roosting areas.

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