A Quest for Prairie Chickens

9f693548-593a-4198-93a7-845289e894d9 Pheasants Forever Journal editor Tom Carpenter is a tiny speck under the immense Kansas sky. He and his pup, Lark, slowly trod across the vast, lonely landscape in search of early-season prairie chickens this September. 

How many of you have tried to bag a prairie chicken? If you’re a quail hunter and you’ve not tried the early Kansas chicken season, you should. But be warned: It 'aint easy. It’s hot. It’s windy. It’s dry. It’s tough. Impossibly tough. The glaring, utterly inescapable sun will beat down on your head as you walk mile after endless mile in search of a bird more apparition than solid form. You’ll top crumbling, fossil-encrusted ridges that were once part of an ancient inland sea, and you’ll stare off to a distant horizon across what is now a waving, largely unpeopled sea of grass, and you’ll despair of ever finding a bird in all that silent, implacable vastness.

And when you do find the birds, when the faint scent of game finally wafts across your dog’s nose, more often than not the birds will flush out of range, aloft and untouchable on that ever-blowing plains wind, leaving you standing there sweating, swearing, and wondering why the hell you ever agreed to do this. And then you’ll go back to camp, exhausted, and peel yourself out of sweat-and-dust-encrusted clothing that still carries the faint scent of countless steps through prairie grass. You’ll try to cool down, recover, grab a beer and cook dinner, try to remember the last time a damn bird so squarely kicked you in the teeth.

You’ll go to bed to the sound of the wind, always the wind, rustling through the branches of the gnarled old prairie cottonwood you’re camped under, and you’ll wake up before the sun, make coffee on the campstove, load up the dogs, and go do it all over again. Because it’s addictive, and because nothing earned is ever easy, nothing special ever given without a price to be paid.

Did Tom ever get his prairie chicken? You’ll have to read about that in the Fall 2019 Upland SUPER issue. And to get that, well, you have to be a Quail Forever member. Reading about Tom's hunt is just one more in a long line of great reasons to join Quail Forever today.