Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Meet Frank

Critters, Girlfriend, Hunting, Romance, Strange But True

The Door County Fish Farm and Game Club does much to promote the rich heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping on the peninsula.  For instance, last weekend I walked to the other side of the road to congratulate a youngster who had traversed the field with a big old gobbler slung over his shoulder.  I heard the single report of a shotgun only thirty minutes earlier.  The answer to the Ford pick-up materializing on the shoulder of the road before sunrise was revealed.  He had been hunting with an adult mentor during Wisconsin's youth hunt.

And he had a smile on his face a mile wide.

The club also raises day-old pheasant chicks and once they are fully-grown releases several thousand into the countryside every fall.  A few eventually wander onto our property.  Autumn walks with the dog always include a shell vest and a shotgun.  From time-to-time one of those pheasants finds its way onto our dinner table.

The thing about pen-raised birds is they're not particularly hardy.  Any that make it to winter usually succumb to predation at the hands of fox, coyote and hawk.  This winter was different.  It was quite mild and not a great deal of snow accumulation.  When out for walks with the dog I routinely found pheasant tracks in the snow mixed in with all the turkey tracks.

On the rare occasion that any of these birds make it to spring they're typically incapable of naturally reproducing.  Sure, you're probably thinking - Who could be so stupid that they couldn't even reproduce?

That's a problem with semi-domesticated wildlife.  They haven't got the basics down.  Including procreation.

Enter Frank.

Frank the pheasant showed-up this spring and adopted a tangly hedgerow of ancient lilacs surrounding the old farm house foundation as his home.  I figured Frank to be a pen-raised bird because he's not wary enough of us and the dogs.  But I figure that Frank has just enough wild genes in his blood that he not only survived the winter - but he showed-up fat and sassy.  Frank seems perfectly content to peck at the compost heap, pick at grit along the roadside and generally hang-out in the lilacs.  He's even had the presence of mind not to fly into the path of a vehicle. 

At least so far.

Frank's arrival was also accompanied by a handful of problems.  The least of which is that his amiable presence has earned him a name.

A larger problem is sharing the space with the dogs.  We worry little about Sister the blonde Lab.  She's still sporting an external fixator on her foreleg and is generally under restraint all of the time. 

Girlfriend is another matter.

This past weekend the black Lab and I had just made the turn on the last leg of our one and a quarter mile morning walk when we had an encounter with Frank.  Seems Frank was also out for a stroll along the roadside ditch.  When the dog scented the rooster all mayhem broke loose.  Springing into action Girlfriend took chase.  Frank had to flee for his life with Girlfriend on a fresh scent.  Smashing the tone button on the remote controlling the dog's e-collar I hollered - No Bird!  No Bird!   With the dog intent on her mission I had a vision of the bird flushing towards the road with the dog in hot pursuit and getting squashed by a speeding gravel truck. 

I hit the zapper on the remote.

Excellent field discipline prevailed and the dog trotted back.

If a hunting dog could give you the hairy eyeball this one did.  Girlfriend was probably thinking - What do you mean, No Bird!  That was A Bird.  Who are you to interfere with my job.  And why are you carrying your pistol instead of a shotgun.  You humans are crazy. 

That's not the end of the problems that have accompanied Frank.  Spring time is also the mating season for many of Wisconsin's birds.  The gobbler turkeys are strutting for the ladies and gathering their harems, the cranes have been dancing at the pond, the woodcock are engaging in their aerial displays and the blue birds are deciding upon which nest box they prefer.  Love is definitely in the air.

Even Frank has gotten into the spirit of things and has romance on his mind.  Every time I approach the lilacs to dump something in the compost heap or am puttering-about in the machine shed I can count on Frank to be strutting his stuff and crowing-up a storm. 

The problem is that beginning with the day he hatched Frank has been surrounded by humans.  His tiny pheasant brain may send one signal but as a consequence of his upbringing poor Frank has imprinted upon people.  To him we are no different than another ringneck.  And it would seem that Frank's libido is misdirected. 

He is crowing and showing-off for me... 

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