This year our Friends and Family Squirrel/Pheasant Hunt took a different course due to a basketball tournament that left most of our hunters unable to attend. This opened the door for a few new participants. Three first-time hunters and their mother met us at our cabin for a lunch of Michelle’s award-winning homemade chili. After lunch, we headed down to Cedar Valley Preserve to hunt pheasant.
Once we got to the hunt preserve, I spoke with the owner, Jeff, about a plan to set up targets first to get the boys and mom used to shooting the shotguns. My wife Michelle, neighbor John and neighbor David M. all jumped in to help mentor each shooter one-on-one to ensure proper gun handling. Once they were comfortable and all safety precautions were met, we proceeded to have them shoot some trap to build confidence needed to hunt flying pheasants. After a box or so of 20 gauge shells, we were ready to hunt. Jeff directed us to a field with patchy cover so we would be able to see the birds better when hunting buddy and man’s best friend, Hunter (my yellow lab), was turned loose to flush the birds.
The first hunter up didn’t fare so well but David M. (who I rarely see miss) backed him up with an unbelievable shot from his great grandfather’s side-by-side 12 gauge. The next brother stepped to the plate and had the same result with David M. cleaning up. The brothers where not deterred, though, and were ready to go again. This time when the bird flushed, Max had the perfect follow-through and made a great shot on a beautiful rooster pheasant. His reaction was the most instantaneous and genuine reaction I have ever witnessed in the field. As we all took a moment to celebrate, congratulate him and take a few photos, I couldn’t help but smile inside. After the short break, David P. (the brother- not backup David) was up and feeling the pressure to not be outdone by his brother. Soon Hunter was birdie again and up went another rooster, with this time David P. making a great shot and taking his first pheasant. As Hunter retrieved the bird and all eyes fixed on David P., his reaction was as good as his brother’s. The hunt ended with lots of photos, congratulations and smiles all around.
As I drove my own vehicle back to the club house, I took a moment to reflect on the day before asking Jeff’s dad, Jerry, to teach the hunters how to properly clean the pheasants. During my short ride, I was reminded again why I do this and why each experience is special to me. The memories of David M. with his dad and a group of new hunters years ago. David shooting his first pheasant and his dad handing down his gun to him. Passing on the tradition. Taking my nephews on this same hunt years ago. Watching family friends and boys grow into young men over the years. It’s the camaraderie, the tradition, the friends (new and old), the smiles, the laughter and so much more.
I want to thank the young men and their mom, David, John, my wife (Michelle), Cedar Valley and everyone who was a part of the day. I am blessed beyond words and Thank You all again for the new memories created.
Art & Michelle Helin have enjoyed the outdoors their entire lives. Here, they share their passion with you.
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