Prairie Chicken shooting was once such a simple business as scarcely to deserve the name of sport, for the half-grown chicks were killed in August while still under the charge of the old hen. At present Hunting of these grouse begins with October, and the work upon the mature and powerful fowl is not only elegant sport, but of a nature to test the skill of any shotgunner. The bevies now become broken up, scattering about singly, in pairs and small bunches, and then with the approach of winter packing into coveys of several hundred. The larger the packs or the colder the weather, the wilder chickens become and the more difficult the work of the hunter.
Very finest of the prairie grouse shooting is to be had on the occasional warm sunny days that come in November and December. Then while the big fellows are not tame, and certainly not tame shooting, they will frequently permit the gunner to approach within half gunshot, and a half dozen of the powerful birds in the strength of their lusty growth and the beauty of their winter plumage will afford intense satisfaction to any sportsman who prefers quality to quantity.
The full-grown Prairie Chicken is rather more powerful of wing than the quail, though from his size he seems to move slower. He is, however, not so sharp in getting away from the mark as his little cousin, and hence he lay to a point like the latter would be easier shooting. But the late fall Prairie Chicken does not lie as close as a quail, the rise being anywhere from twenty yards to a long gunshot. It follows that straightway chances are the exception rather than the rule, and the distance of the spring makes it needful that nearly every shot be well judged and given its proper allowance ahead. Almost invariably daylight should be seen between the point of aim and the bird, the lead being anywhere from a foot to eight feet where an old cock crossing at forty-five yards may need more at full flight.
In the course of a day hunting Prairie Chicken nearly every description of shot known in wing shooting may be seen. Occasionally a bird will rise under your feet and drive away low over the short-coated prairie, but the majority will be quartering away shots at every conceivable angle from straightaway to a directly incoming. Frequently the Prairie Chicken will spring to a height of thirty or so feet, and then drop away with whip and twist and flash of wings toward the distant horizon.
Numbers of Prairie Chicken will cross at right angles tot he hunter, demanding as much leas as a mallard, and sometimes a pack will come stringing along like English driven game, yielding the hunter as a hot a thirty seconds of shooting as he/she will ever experience.
The Prairie Chicken being a heavy bird, cannot reach top speed as promptly as a quail, and they have a way of climbing for the first few yards that keeps them within gunshot when a quail or ruffed grouse would be putting such a space between them and the gun that shooting at them would be useless.
Only the wisest hunting dog will serve well on a November Prairie Chicken hunt, an animal which can scent the birds from fifty to two hundred yards. One that will not attempt to approach the bird except in close company with the hunter. On birds that have packed and become excessively wild, two men may often work together to advantage; one hiding in the grass while the other pushes the game towards him.
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