December 8, 2011 at 8:15 a.m.

A boy's first pheasant hunt

A boy's first pheasant hunt
A boy's first pheasant hunt

Thinking back to when you were 12-years-old, what do you remember most? What events took place at that time of your life which became so indelibly inked in your memory that you recall them with crystal clarity? I remember my first pheasant hunt down near Gaylord and Pipestone, Minnesota, with my dad, uncles and grandpa. The fond memory of that trip is as clear in my mind as if it happened just yesterday.

Now I have a son who is 12-years-old, and one thing I didn't want to see come and go this year was an opportunity for my boy, Anders, to experience his own first pheasant hunt, with his dad and grandpa. However, a long road trip out to western Minnesota or the Dakotas and the time and expense associated with such a trip, made me begin to think of options closer to home, which led me to investigate some of the hunting preserves and clubs in the nearby area. A few weeks ago, after careful research and reading various reviews of such places, I chose to give Wings North a call. Wings North is located just outside of Pine City and would allow Anders, his grandpa, Ron, and me the chance to experience a quality pheasant hunt together, all within an afternoon.

I have never done any preserve hunting before and didn't know what to expect. Chad Hughes, owner of Wings North, simply explained, "Every day is like opening day." Like I said, I'd never hunted at a place where you pay for birds. For some reason, I had visions of birds just standing around in an open field, waiting around somewhat stupidly for their unfortunate fate. Well, my preconceived notion of a hunting preserve could not have been further from the truth. Yes, birds are released prior to the time you take to the fields, but the birds we hunted at Wings North were anything but stupid. They behaved just like any other pheasants I've encountered in the wild, hunkering down in heavy cover and holding tight until our guide's dog sniffed them out. Any ideas of what others unfairly refer to as a "canned hunt" evaporated very quickly.

The birds burst from the tall grass in a flurry of wing beats, cackles and iridescence, and we as hunters were afforded no more advantage than the birds we hunted. Ron, Anders, and I needed to be sharp and swing our guns true if we were to hit any birds, and I'm happy to report that we all shot pretty well that afternoon.

Anders, having never shot a game bird prior to this trip, impressed Ron, myself and our guide, Dave, with a shot of about 40 yards. Watching Anders shoot, I was heartened to see that he didn't just throw the butt of the gun against his shoulder and snap off a shot. He swung the gun's barrel on a good plane and led the rooster as it quartered away and was rewarded with the sight of a bird neatly folding its wings and falling back to earth. It was evident that he had been listening to what I'd been trying to teach him about wing-shooting.

We shot a total of 10 pheasants that afternoon, with Anders taking credit for three birds. I was quite proud of his performance.

Anders' first pheasant hunt, like my own and his grandpa's before that, will no doubt be burned in his memory, fondly remembered for the rest of his life. I took a number of good photographs chronicling that historic day. The late afternoon sun, not long before it touched the horizon, cast a soft, golden light that shone on a timeless image; a smiling boy, his shotgun cradled under his arm, proudly holding a number of colorful roosters.

Submitted by Dan Brown

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