I was seven years old when the first rooster pheasant broke out of the dry reeds cackling. The old single shot 410 must have brought itself to my shoulder because all I can remember was the crack of the shotgun and the rooster exploding in a puff of feathers! It was a shot that was completely instinct and it led the way to countless adventures in the big sloughs of southern Minnesota where I grew up. I have a love of the outdoors and everything that had to do with hunting. Everything from rabbits to deer and from partridge to Canadian geese captured my interest but the most excitement and the biggest draw was a rooster pheasant bursting out of the grass at my feet.
When I was about 30, multiple sclerosis became part of my life and the more dependent I became on a wheelchair, the more elusive the dream of experiencing that excitement again became. Over my years of working with hunters with disabilities, I came to know Doug Bemel. Doug started an organization called the Broken Wing Foundation. I sent quite a few hunters in their direction over the years but never took the initiative to try to hunt myself. I finally made the decision about four years ago to take the plunge and try to relive that dream once more.
Two years of staffing challenges, a stolen shotgun, and a battle with Guillain Barre disease put things off until finally in 2017 things finally came together.
Sunrise last Saturday morning found Dion, Teresa and I in a caravan of cars making its way north of Pine River Minnesota.
The adventure began at the range where we put dozens of rounds through my borrowed 20 gauge trying to put the hurt on Clay pigeons. Once we get the kinks worked out, they loaded me up on a platform built onto the front of a jeep and we headed for the fields where the pheasants waited.
It was a real pleasure to watch the well trained pointers work the tall grass.
I know it was the end goal but I never honestly expected to look down a gun barrel at a cackling rooster in my lifetime. Words will never express the feelings that experience brought to the surface for me. It was a gift beyond imagination.
I want to share the story with the greatest gratitude I can describe toward the kind and caring volunteers with the Broken Wing Foundation.
We came together as hunters, grew to become friends, and left as brothers and sisters. You made it possible for me to fulfill a dream. Thank you and God bless you.
Great story and pictures, Don.
My dad was a rabbit man, so my brother and I grew up hunting behind beagles. Oct. 20th was the opening day of pheasant season in Michigan and school was closed, even if the city didn't know it. Our dad did and that was all that mattered to my brother and me.
We hunted a chicken farm with 40 acres of high grass and another 40 acres of corn with those notorious tops of corn stalks to beat you in the face if you let a rooster take those three 13'' beagles into the corn.
The cackling of an exploding rooster run up by three 13'' beagles at the end of a 40 acre corn field. Nothing like it.
Running that 40 acre cornfield with barrel pointed skyward, safety on and finger off the trigger.
(Safety with a gun and safety afield was drilled into my brother and me before we even began carrying BB guns.)
It was while running down those rows of corn, chasing those beagles, that I promised to someday get a bird dog.