Don’t blame Zach Burnette for celebrating a little bit, a couple days shy of his 14th birthday.
The 13-year-old Cass City resident was all smiles when I caught up with him at lunch on opening day of pheasant season 2019 in the Thumb. About an hour or so earlier Zach had made a nice shot on a quartering pheasant and dropped the bird along the edge of a field thick with big bluestem and an assortment of other prairie grasses. MON Field Editor Steve Griffin’s young Brittany Beanbag was nearby, made an admirable retrieve, and Zach’s first wild Michigan rooster was in the vest.
Zach and his dad, Don, were part of about a dozen hunters and a half dozen bird dogs who gathered at Tom Lounsbury’s 100-acre family farm in Cass City for opening-day festivities.
Cool temperatures in the low 40s greeted us as the sun began to rise in a partly cloudy sky and it didn’t take long for the lead to begin to fly.
We’d broken up into two groups to work back-to-back fields. The group in the south field had the first flush and promptly dropped a rooster.
The action was steady for the next couple of hours as we took turns flushing birds – shooting at some and killing a few.
About mid-morning, with a bluebird sky above, I heard someone shoot down at the east end of our field. I immediately thought to myself, ‘Boy, I hope that was Zach.” I was glad to learn that it was.
Our host has been planting his family farm strictly for pheasants for the better part of two decades. With assistance and guidance through Farm Bill programs, federal funding is secured and native prairie plants and grasses are planted and/or managed each year. Turkeys, rabbits and whitetails also thrive in the thick vegetation along with an assortment of songbirds.
Tom has never stocked pheasants on the property, but year in and year out wild pheasants are plentiful.
We gathered back at the house and topped off the morning with a pot of Ginny Lounsbury’s delicious homemade chili, sandwiches, cider and homemade molasses cookies. When we compared notes, we realized we’d combined to flush 12 roosters and 11 hens and put four roosters in the bag.
Not a bad start to the season!
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