My Son's "First" Pheasant ~ a story
Here is a picture and story about my little guys first pheasant hunt. It is my passion to get more women and kids in the outdoors. Hope you enjoy.
P.S It won't take you all long to find out that I'm a little long winded!
Brady and I were snuggled up on the couch getting ready to take in our daily dose of Sesame Street when the phone rang.
ďItís Grandpa and he wants to know if we want to go pheasant huntingĒ, I exclaimed to the twinkling pair of little blue eyes looking up at me.
ďI wanna go! I wanna goĒ Brady shouted with the wild, untamed enthusiasm that could only come from a three year old little boy. He immediately sprinted to his bedroom and returned seconds later fully armed with his pump action shotgun in one hand and his camo bibs in the other. His gun had an orange tip at the end of the plastic barrel, indicating that it was indeed a toy. It wasnít a toy to Brady though. It was as real as his extensively vivid imagination. I guess it was obvious that Sesame Street would have to wait.
I laughed at his excitement as I sat upright and emerged from my cocoon. He and I were the only ones home, but our house erupted in what seemed like mass chaos as the blasts from Bradyís gun and the thunder from his active footsteps echoed throughout our once peaceful establishment.
I quickly went to get ready and left Brady to his fun. Sure it was loud and a wee bit obnoxious, but who was I to argue with a three year old about his tried and true methods of getting pumped up for the hunt? Besides, my swelling pride overshadowed any and all clattering that was taking place. I thought how incredible it was that in just three very short years, my husband and I were blessed enough with the opportunity to instill in Brady our passion and excitement for hunting and all that it has to offer. And at that very moment on November 14, 2008, he was more than ready and willing to take on the opportunity and quite literally run with it.
Earlier that spring, my Dad and brother had decided to embark on a new experience. They applied for and received their wild game breeders permit and dog training license, after which they ordered 300 day old pheasant chicks. In our area of Northern Illinois, there arenít many pheasants or any other species of upland birds for that matter, so this was an important conservation effort and their way of giving back. Ultimately, most of the birds would be turned loose and hopefully survive long enough to begin a successful breeding cycle. We were all optimistic that their hard work would eventually pay off ten fold when we started to see more pheasants locally.
On this unseasonably warm mid November day though, we had a different plan for about fifteen of the birds. A certain chocolate lab by the name of Boomer would be unleashed and allowed to show off his natural instincts and abilities in all of their canine glory. We were also enthusiastic at the prospect of putting a little pheasant on our plates in the process.
Brady confidently strutted out of the house like a tom turkey gracing a group of hens with his impressive existence. His little toy gun was slung over his shoulder and he was sporting a bright orange sweatshirt he had gotten when we were in Tennessee earlier that spring. He grunted as his small arms heaved his weapon of choice into the back of our Polaris Ranger.
ďLetís goĒ, he shouted as he climbed up on the seat and wiggled around until he was finally comfortable. I finished sliding into my boots and set my gun case beside his in the back of the Ranger.
We didnít have to go far. Just across the road to my Dadís house. ďI gonna shoot them pheasants!Ē Brady bellowed for the entire minute that it took us to get to Dadís where we were greeted with smiles and excitement. My brother Jason and his wife Shana arrived shortly after with a crazed Boomer in tow.
Next we had to catch the pheasants, and if youíve ever attempted this in a fairly large area, then you know that it doesnít come easy. A hundred or so cock pheasants scattered and flew every which way as we slowly sauntered through the pen. No matter how sneaky and stealth like we thought we were, the birds were always one wing ahead of us. Bradyís blue eyes were alive with trepidation and as big and round as half dollars. He stayed unusually close to us as we continued to stalk through the birdís home court. To anyone who may have been watching from the outside, Iím sure we all looked absolutely ridiculous and after what seemed like a very ample amount of time, there were finally fifteen very irritated birds in the cage. It was a teeny bit ironic that it took us longer to catch the birds in the first place than our entire hunt would last. But thatís my favorite thing about hunting. Whether youíre hunting deer, turkeys or hand raised pheasants, it truly is the entire experience that makes the end result rewarding.
We drove our caravan of two Polaris Rangers and a Ford F250 across the field and through the creek where we parked. Boomer shot out of the truck like a prisoner who had just been let out of the slammer. He went nuts when his nose engaged in holy matrimony with the distinct scent of the pheasants. We retrieved our guns from their cases and loaded our orange vests with bird shot. Uncharacteristic of his typically energetic nature, Brady imitated our every move with a profound seriousness.
We stood around for a moment discussing the safest way to go about the hunt since we had a three year old in our midst. Gun safety was more important than ever, so we decided that Brady and I would walk a little ways behind everyone else. After the first set of birds was released, Shana and I would trade places so that I would have a chance to hunt.
Bradyís shoulders hunched over a bit and he laid his cheek on the top of his little gun. His form was perfect and he was raring to shoot as the first round of birds was set free. I could feel his anticipation and almost hear the adrenaline pumping through his tiny body. I knew all too well exactly how he was feeling. We took carefully executed steps while we were walking and waiting for a bird to fly up. One did, then another. Even though the big guns were so much louder than his smaller one, I barely heard them. I watched his every deliberate move and listened to every blast that rang through the tiny speaker holes of his plastic firearm. Two more rounds of birds and our hunt was over. A few lucky pheasants escaped their doom and flew off happily with high hopes of living to see another day. The others werenít quite as lucky, but they didnít die in vain. Yet another highlight in this adventure was learning how truly tasty pheasant is and figuring out different ways to prepare the bird.
The hunt was over but the magic of that day lingered heavily in the fall air. It was a day that a little boy easily traded in Sesame Street for an extraordinary experience that will become part of who he will be as a man. Brady probably wonít specifically remember his first pheasant hunt when he was a mere three years old, but you can bet that his good old Mom will be there with pictures to display and a story to tell him as he grows from a boy to a young man to a father of his own children, eager to pass down the legacy of his strong love and respect for hunting and nature and all of Godís great splendor. At three that hunt was there for his taking. As he matures and grows, my hope for him is that he doesnít just take because he can, but that he gives because he wants to. Itís just the natural progression of life and I believe whole heartedly that it is without a doubt our biggest obligation and most important duty as sportsmen and women. That is simply, to bring our children and families outdoors with us. It may mean sacrificing that big buck, a few birds or even the wonderfully penetrating solitude that one holds so dear while sitting motionless in the woods. You may even wonder exactly what in the world you were thinking as you make your way out of your hunting blind while trying to determine the best way to peel your young daughter free of the layers of hunting clothes so that she can relieve her tiny bladder for the second time in forty five minutes. Yes, my friend, the sacrifices are great, but the rewards are so much greater. Know and remember that when you take a child, spouse or other family member into the field with you, youíre not just giving them constructive entertainment. As clichť as it sounds, you truly are handing down a legacy that will continue to recycle itself lifetime after lifetime. Generation after generation will possess an intimate knowledge of what is sincerely significant in life and will learn to apply it to every aspect of their daily living.
And yet maybe the greatest gift of all is this. In your lifetime, you may never have the privilege of seeing the direct and final results of your one on one impact with a loved one. At the end of the day, you donít take your family hunting with you because you have to. You do it because you want to. Your time, energy and sacrifice may not yield a trophy mount or anything that comes materialistically close. Instead, you will reap a reward that fits into an entirely different and much more important category. Your passion may very well become their passion and your energy, their energy. And as far as your sacrifice goes; in the end, it doesnít really feel like sacrifice at all. Come to think of it, when you ponder it under these terms, it never did!
Somewhere, I've got a picture of my grandson, at age 4, when he was dove hunting with his Dad and I. Camos, boots, lil boy camo hat and a set of ear muffs. In one hand, he's got a bag of chips and in the other is half full bottle of Dr Pepper. Most of the DP was poured down the front of him when he was trying to decide which hand to use to point out the doves that were coming in to us.
To me, that's what hunting all about. The memories...
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