Like many other hunters, my annual hunting calendar is filled with a variety of different adventures. Depending on my success in the draw, there is usually a few solo archery elk quests, mule deer or pronghorn hunts in the western states, a family mule deer hunt in western Kansas, hogs and turkeys with friends in Texas and a few days in pursuit of pheasant and quail when the schedule permits. This mix of solo, physically demanding hunts and more social weekend hunts with friends and family offers a unique balance that I have really grown to enjoy.
Depending on the year, some of these hunts may not take place because of scheduling conflicts, limited tags or life finding one way or another to interfere. However, there is one pheasant hunt that will take place each year come hell or high water. COVID-19, weddings, work and other obligations have yet to get in the way of the annual Bird City, KS pheasant hunt each December.
This hunt resembles more of an old-school northern deer hunt than anything else. Over the years it has become steeped in tradition and is a trip that I will always make room for on the calendar. The Bird City hunt consists of a handful of college friends from Kansas State University that rendezvous for a long weekend once a year to chase birds, catch up and relive a little bit of college together.
Ty Carmichael, the commander of this troop, is a Bird City native who spearheaded this tradition back in college. Ty currently lives in the small Kansas town of 536 where he helps run the family farm and roofing business while trying to keep up with his fast-paced, go-getting fiancé Gaby who works remotely from Bird City for a national marketing firm.
The pheasant hunting team usually assembles late Thursday evening in Bird City, at the old beef jerky plant that the Carmichaels renovated into a guest house type building. Typically, the first night we eat at the Three-Star Michelin restaurant, Big Ed’s Steakhouse and Lounge. Big Ed’s is the best—and only—restaurant in town. They serve steak or chicken fried steak with your choice of domestic beer. Ty usually introduces us to his grade schoolteachers, six-man high school football coach and any other local celebrities that happen to be dining at Big Ed’s that night.
We spend the rest of the weekend chasing birds through cut corn and wheat fields, CRP, tailwater pits and old homesteads. Some years when the birds are not as plentiful, we take the afternoon to shoot clays and Tannerite when we don’t get the opportunity to exercise our shotguns in the field.
On the final night of the trip, we gather with the Carmichael family at the barn. Wade Carmichael, Ty’s dad, breaks out the deep fryer and proceeds to cook a generous amount of lamb fries. For those of you who do not know what a lamb fry is, I promise that it’s worth the google. This is usually proceeded by a handful of tailgate games, homemade obstacle courses and a late night of festivities with the Carmichael family and friends.
The number of birds varies from year to year, but the tradition lives on. As all of us venture into new stages of life, we have the occasional opportunity to spend time together at weddings or a Kansas State football game, but one thing we can count on is a long weekend in December filled with fellowship, bird dogs and shotguns.
Thank you to the Carmichael family for welcoming us year after year to the greatest small town in Kansas.
Nate Watson is DSC’s Membership and Volunteer Coordinator. Nate is a New Mexico native and graduate of the Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management program at Kansas State University. If you are interested in becoming a member of DSC, reach out to him anytime at email@example.com.