By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

First and foremost, I need to offer a number of apologies:

* To the Russell County landowners, whose game I poached. Granted, I didn't see any purple fence posts suggesting that written permission was needed, but I should have asked first.

* To the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks game warden, for taking game out of season.

* To my fellow motorists who surely wondered what on earth I was doing when I quickly swerved into the passing lane on Interstate 70, without the slightest glance to my left or without signaling. Having said all that, it seems I should also apologize to the Kansas Highway Patrol for the above traffic infractions.

But it was all justified.

Like any other criminal, I had no alternative. The devil made me do it. I claim the Twinkie defense, the too-much-caffeine defense or anything else that I can think of.

Bottom line, however, I have to blame the rooster pheasant that decided to come sailing out of a farmer's field, flying low as they are prone to do.

I slowed down, swerved slightly, but I still hit him. And oh what a sound a pheasant crashing into the side of a Toyota Tacoma will make.

In fact, I could feel him hitting my vehicle.

I was afraid that he would rise slightly, trying to pass over my truck and come crashing in to the windshield to sit in the seat beside me.

As he hit and I realized there was no disaster at hand, the thoughts came flooding to mind. I remember a Kansas Highway Patrol dispatcher telling me of how he hit a deer, thankful he didn't swerve and overturn his vehicle. I remember him telling me how frightful it was, watching that deer smash into the front of his vehicle.

It was no cake walk watching that bird inching closer and closer to a vehicle going 70 mph.

That's why, for the record, I really shouldn't have to make any apologies. All of my infractions, if you will, were justified.

I was only reacting to an unprovoked assault, granted it was an assault by a pheasant.

Let's face it, the pheasant left the farmer's field and came onto state property. I certainly didn't take the pheasant; rather, he took me, but he was worse for the wear.

And the swerving and lack of signaling a lane change? Well, that's just a natural reaction. Fortunately, I didn't lose control and kill myself or someone else.

So I am innocent after all.

Best of all, however, came when I pulled off the interstate at the next exit ramp, There, I reluctantly got out to survey the damage, expecting something terrible on my otherwise door-ding less truck.

Surprisingly, the bird took perfect aim at my front tire. It's obvious he was thrown up under the fender, but there were no feathers on the truck and nary was there a drop of farm-truck brown (dirt) disturbed from the side of my pickup.

The bird, I know, didn't survive. He couldn't, not the way he went under the tire.

Now, I'll simply pass on trying my hand at that venture again. I prefer using a shotgun.