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Something for every stage of hunter during pheasant opener

WORTHINGTON -- This is the time of year my phone starts ringing off the hook.

With the pheasant and deer seasons just around the corner there are always a fair number of folks who need to get a firearms safety certificate in order to purchase a license in the next few weeks.

For the adults in this group, there is some hope. The DNR offers adults an online course to prepare them for a test that has to be taken with a certified instructor. Many can squeeze in this requirement and still make it in time for opener. There is a shooting component and this has to be scheduled with an instructor also. This online method is not available for kids though. Anyone under 18 must take the regular class when offered.

Saturday is the pheasant opener in Minnesota. I can't really explain what hunting is like to a non-hunter. There are many aspects of hunting that even hunters don't fully grasp. There are several stages of hunter development, and each individual reaches these stages at different times of their life. The first stage of hunting is how many shells or bullets were shot. The success of the outing is not based on the amount of game taken just the number of opportunities to do so.

The second stage in the hunter development is called the limit stage. The hunter is no longer worried about how many shots they take, but the total number of the species they get to clean at the end of the day. This stage, luckily, does not last very long. The problem with this stage is that there many people are in this group.

The third stage of hunter development is the method hunter. These are hunters who want to take game only by a specific method. One example would be the duck hunter, who only hunts ducks in farm fields with decoys. They would rather take one duck by this method than 10 ducks by jump shooting in creeks or rivers.

The next stage of hunting is the trophy stage. These hunters only want the biggest of most spectacular animal. These folks normally harvest very little game. They wait and wait for just the right opportunity to harvest and then might not harvest again for several years. Deer hunters are common in this group.

The final stage of hunting is the experience hunter. This is the group I fit into. If I go hunting and harvest absolutely nothing, I can still have a very enjoyable time just by participating in the hunting experience. All of the other stages have passed. The number of shots, number of limits taken, the method used, nor the size of the game taken makes any difference.

It's an opportunity to follow a great dog doing what nature has designed them to do. A dog is said to be able to smell a pheasant in the same way we smell skunks. When a dog gets on the scent of a bird, they get what's called birdy. Their nose is down, the attitude gets very concentrated, and the tail is moving at 100 miles per hour -- telling you that the age-old game of the hunter and hunted has begun.

Sometimes the bird wins, and sometimes the dog wins. But in every case, me the hunter, wins just by seeing the game of wits unfold.

There is just something in the core of human existence that has its origin in the early stages of human development. Man used to hunt to survive. Today humans hunt not to survive, but do so with the same natural instincts as the dog doing his job.

My job is to shoot well, so that when my dog does his job well I can do mine. The dog's reward for a job well done is feathers in his mouth. They feel success just like me. I look forward to a pheasant season of experiences with feathers in my dogs' mouth and a great respect for the game I pursue.

Try to experience a day or two in the field yourself. You might very well be a changed person if you do.