Setting: Idaho west of the Tetons. Aspen and conifer forests among sagebrush and agricultural fields.
Characters: Beaters, Tweeders, and Pheasants (not to be confused with “peasants”)
Plot: My friend EmJ and I left our home on the east side of the Tetons during the dark hour before 7:00am. After getting pulled over for speeding by the nicest cop I have ever encountered (and not even getting a warning), getting hit by a deer that did some significant damage to EmJ’s 2-door 2006 Honda Civic, and picking up two other friends, we arrived at the large private property of a 40-something-year-old couple. This Swedish and American couple offer, for those willing to pay $11,000 a weekend, a place to hunt pheasants. These high-paying customers wear exactly what one would picture an English fox hunting party of days of old to wear with a Western flair– think Downton Abbey meets A River Runs Through It; in sum, lots of tweed and leather was present, thus the “Tweeders.” These fancy folks were trucked around in a circa WWII truck with a cabin on top and were followed by some smaller trucks with dead pheasant hangers in the back.
The Beaters consisted of a variety of local folks, including high school students, father-daughter teams, dog handlers, four intrigued grad students such as myself, and our leaders: two angry and prejudiced middle-aged Englishmen, a snobby tweed-clad 17-year old boy, and a quiet and kind Mormon guy. We, as opposed to the Tweeders, were swiftly trucked around in the beds of white Ford F-250 sized pickup trucks through dusty farm roads. Our job was to make a very organized line around a specific patch of land and slowly walk towards each other while beating upon the trees and shrubs with a flag made out of old plastic grain bags attached to black plastic tubing to scare the pheasants into the air so that the Tweeders could get some easy shots. Now, before you get too repulsed by this entirely classist and un-sportsmen-like event, the bile in your mouth may go down to your throat when you realize that any “extra” birds they shoot go to the local homeless population.
Regardless, it was a beautiful day to make some money bushwhacking through dense roses, aspens, and barbed wire while smacking and thrashing everything in front of me as I went. There was not a single cloud in the sky, a blue which was complemented perfectly by the golden fields and a view of the west side of the Tetons. We were even provided with lunch, which we enjoyed while perched in a hay pile for over an hour while the Tweeders were slowly enjoying their lunches elsewhere.
At the end of the day, not only had we earned some cash and as many pheasants as we wanted (we took ten to eat and use for fly-tying and other crafts), but also we had mastered the art of shelling pepper-flavored sunflower seeds in our mouths and gotten nostrils full of black boogers due to the dusty roads. We even saw a porcupine! Quite the day in the outdoors with the most interesting group of people I’ve ever encountered who live it.