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Opening Day: Duck & Pheasant

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

On opening morning in Massachusetts, the anticipation was electric as the hunters gathered at a Western Massachusetts pond. The first light revealed wood ducks off the roost, and the decoys were set. Luke held his excitable 2-year-old gun dog, Dallas, close to prevent her from breaking at the first shots. As shooting hour began, a group of mallards swooped toward the decoys, and Luke shouted, "Shoot!" However, Ryan's rusty aim allowed the ducks to fly on by.

A spectacular sight unfolded as a hundred or more ducks ascended from the cattails and trees, making it feel as if the entire Mississippi Flyway had landed there. Dallas, usually an upland game dog, faced an unfamiliar challenge in waterfowl retrieval. Luke guided her to a downed wood duck, but it took flight before a follow-up shot.

With a hop, skip, and a jump North, Zach, and his faithful dog Jack settled in their blind along a Northern River in Western Massachusetts, hoping for a successful hunt. Opening morning passed quietly, devoid of birds, but a powerful bond grew. Nature's silence allowed Zach, his Dad Dave, and their gun dog, to connect on a deeper level.

While ducks eluded them, the true victory lay in the unspoken understanding and camaraderie that flourished in the quiet moments. Along the peaceful riverbanks, they found success of a different kind, one forged through shared experiences, the unbreakable bond between generations, and the unwavering loyalty of a beloved gun dog.

Despite missed opportunities and surprises, the hunters remained undeterred. This opening morning symbolized their unyielding bond, the spirit of adventure, and the unpredictability of the great outdoors. As the day continued, they embraced the misses, knowing they were all part of the memorable journey, and they eagerly awaited what other stories and unforgettable memories the day would bring.

Later that evening, the tables turned for Zach, Dave, and his brother-in-law Jake during their pheasant hunts at Bennett Meadows and in Bernardston. While they struggled in the morning, they managed to flush several birds including 2 Hen's and 2 Rooster's. Jake tagged along for his first-ever pheasant hunt. He ended up connecting with a Hen being the MVP with the best shot of the day.

Meanwhile, further south, Luke was on a successful mission with a fellow member of his gun club in Amherst, MA. They headed to a field stocked with pheasants raised at their club. Luke and his loyal gun dog, Dallas, proved their worth as they flushed three hens, successfully retrieving two of them.

It was a day of redemption and cherished memories, as missed opportunities in the morning were compensated by a successful evening hunt, underlining the unpredictable yet rewarding nature of the hunting experience.

Thank God for Opening Day. It's time to get back out there again.

We all love helping out. MassWildlife's Hunters Share the Harvest Program is kicking off again and expanding to help out Massachusetts residents in need. Donations of meat harvested during the season make a big impact, learn more at

Friendly reminder! We all love a good hunt and a beautiful fall day. All hunters are required to wear blaze orange during certain seasons and while hunting certain species. We highly encourage all outdoor users who are in the woods during hunting seasons to wear blaze orange hats and/or vests. The same applies to dogs, wearing a vest or bandanna for visibility could save their life!

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