The James Gang & Memorial Pheasant Hunt IV

You may recall that our buddy Jim Groseclose (J1) suddenly went home four years ago today – March 21, 2010. Two weeks before that sad day, Jim Davis (J2) and I (J3) joined J1 on a James Gang Pheasant Adventure on some of the Cooke Canyon Hunt Club ground. Our armed walk with J1’s beloved labs happened on a perfect almost-spring morning. There were pheasants everywhere, and the dogs were in top form. Since that day, J2 and I have been determined to honor his memory.

Groseclose, of course, was founder and leader of the James Gang, with Jim Davis and me being J2 and J3, respectively. Being part of that James Gang, chasing pheasants, ducks, quail and chukars with two great Labs and two true gentlemen added a richness to my life I had been missing since those decades-ago days with my big black Lab, Freebe the Wonder Dog. Whenever any of us were around J1, a sense of impending adventure hung in the air.

Perhaps that sense of impending adventure is why we carry on an annual pheasant hunt tradition on one or another of the pieces of ground that brought our gang so much pleasure afield. This year, J2 exercised the membership we purchased at last summer’s Chukar Run Banquet and booked The Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt at Alice and Doug Burnett’s Cooke Canyon Hunt Club.

Once the hunt was set, anticipation grew, and I often found myself lost in thought about honoring those who made my outdoor time rich and memorable.

I can’t pass a black lab without saying a short prayer for Freebe – the best four-legged human with whom I ever shared time.

Last weekend, we dropped in on my 90-something Aunt Evy in East Wenatchee for one of our regular check-ins. We opted to take the south route back to Paradise, toward Quincy. That drive took us past the orchards where I hunted pheasants and quail too-many decades ago, and past the ponds where I learned to shoot fast enough for ducks and doves.

The house The Old Man and I built, and the orchard next door, are resting under Costco ground now. From the roof of that house, on a crisp fall day, I watched him climb down our ladder, get the shotgun and a couple of his mismatched shells, and go shoot a crowing rooster pheasant in that orchard. He handed dinner to my mom and we went back to our roofing work.

The Old Man coached and trained me in shooting and sportsmanship. He held the door open on crisp fall days, handed me his old J.C. Higgins bolt-action 12-gauge, filled my pockets with a mix of shotgun shell brands and shot size from whatever he’d had for ammo since his own youth, and said, “Bring us something for dinner.” To this day, I can’t go afield for birds without at least two different brands of shells in my pocket – a memorial of some kind, I guess.

Where were we?  Oh, yeah… Our Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt. It happened on Tuesday. After all that wind and chill, Tuesday dawned clear and temperate and almost still. J2 and I were joined by Gloria Sharp, Honorary James Gang member and our photographer for the day. Homey Bill Boyum joined us, too, bringing his classic German shorthair, Maisy, to supervise our bird-finding.

Just to hear Jim Groseclose – in our minds’ ear, at least – chastise us for missing a shot, one of us fired a single warning shot. In honor of J1’s appreciation of working dogs doing the work they were born to do, Maisy took the lead under Bill’s quiet coaching. We connected with each bird she located, but there were moments when we forgot we were armed. Two or three times, Maisy slid smoothly into the wind and came solidly on point before some nervous rooster, and nobody moved. Something about a beautiful dog on a perfect point in perfect sunshine in that crisp air had us mesmerized. At some point, Bill might say, “Uh, Jim?” and one of us would get back to the task at hand.

After a few final pictures, a round of thanks to Maisy and Bill, and words on behalf of our absent and still-missed James Gang leader, we retired to the Cooke Canyon Club House. We cleaned our birds, shared a few (mostly) true tales of bird hunting in the Dakotas and in Paradise, and took our leave.

The Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt was a success, in all the ways we had hoped it might be. Now, as J1 would often say after our final hunt of the season, it’s time to think about salmon fishing.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized