Bird Hunting Bonds a Family Bill Cooper For 3/28/18 I always enjoy watching families have fun together in the outdoors. The time spent together is often some of the greatest moments of their lives, simply enjoying outdoor recreation activities together. Few other things in life bring families closer together than relaxing and having pure uninterrupted fun in the outdoors together. Recently I had the pleasure of following along and filming a father and his two sons as thy enjoyed their first pheasant hunt together at Wil-Nor Outdoors near Dittmer, Missouri. The trio concentrated on the guide's instructions as they began their hunt, but as their hunt unfolded they laughed , and enjoyed one anothers company immensely. The stylish Brittany, Filson, that hunted and pointed birds for them proved to be the focal point of their fun together. Matt Frederickson had recently retired after 25 years of service with the Missouri National Guard. His youngest son, Joel, attends high school at Eureka. His elder son, Nathan, is a sophomore at West point Military Academy. Matt's patience and concern shown to his sons, while going over gun safety measures with them, proved especially refreshing. Father knew what he was talking about and his sons payed close attention, as if hanging on to every word he had to say. An obvious bond of love and mutual respect emanated from this small tribe of hunters. Ken Bruggerman, a tall, lanky, very fit 82-year-old Wil-nor guide added a final touch of elegance to the hunting party. Ken spent his work life as an educator and school administrator. He loves working with dogs and people. His eyes twinkled as he released Filson from the dog box. The frisky little bird dog bounced around to meet everyone and scurried away to the first bit of cover in search of the first pheasant of the day. A dog, especially a well trained bird dog, works magic on a hunting party. Like a circus clown, a bird dog full of boundless energy grabs everyones attention immediately. Too, as if on cue, everyone makes their individual comments about the dog. 'Beautiful dog.' 'Look at him go.' 'He loves to hunt, doesn't he?' Excited comments echoed through the brisk morning air as the guys followed Filson to the first food plot of milo and big bluestem. Anticipation and excitement filled the air as the hunt began. Within minutes Filson stylishly locked down on point. Bruggerman eased closer to Filson to get a feel for where the pheasant might be hiding. He quietly waved the trio of hunters to move closer to the dog on point. Once he had the guys positioned for the best shots on a rising bird, Bruggerman moved in for the flush. Filson leaped skyward in an attempt to snatch the brilliantly colored rooster pheasant out of the air as it went airborne. Bird hunters are often spellbound by the magic of the moment. A bird dog on point, the anticipation of the flush and the forthcoming shots fired, all collectively, create a hang moment frozen in time as if picture perfect. Pheasants, however don't pause for human kind hang time. The Frederickson trio broke from their shroud of amazement a milli-second to late. The cackling, fleeing pheasant had gained considerable distance before the first shot was fired. Other shots rang out, seemingly speeding the rooster's ascertained getaway. 'That bird's headed for the next county,' Bruggerman laughed. Among the raucous laughter of the Fredericksons, I heard comments about speedy birds and slow reaction times. It's the common spell that gets every bird hunter, especially at the beginning of a hunt. Everyone brushed the misses off and vowed to do better on the next bird. The opportunity came quickly as Filson pointed again, before everyone had time to regain their composure. Nathan manned one side of the food plot strip by himself, while his dad and brother manned the other side. They had all escape routes covered. Bruuggerman once again moved in behind the pointing dog to flush the pheasant. The bird leapt skyward, almost perfectly vertical as it cleared the big bluestem grass, which stood seven feet high. It caught the wind and and picked up speed as it flew over Nathan's head. In the hurried excitement, Nathan fumbled the safety on his shotgun, giving the fleeing pheasant an increased chance of escaping. Nathan recovered beautifully and fired at the fleeing bird. A tuft of feathers floated on the morning breeze. 'I hit it, I hit it,' Nathan chortled proudly. The bird sailed to the nearby woods 150 yards away. 'You hit it,' Bruggerman said to encourage the young hunter. 'We'll find that bird when we circle back. Filson will find it for sure.' Filson wriggled through the thick cover of the food plot, coursing back and forth in his attempts to pick up the scent of another pheasant. He bounded out of the cover, ran 30 yards down the side of the food plot and immediately swapped ends as he caught the scent of a bird as he ran by it. His body trembled with a solid point. Another brightly colored rooster vaulted out of the tall grass as everyone approached. Joel swung his shotgun smoothly and fired as the bird reached 30 yards. It tumbled out of the air in a cloud of feathers. The entire hunting party yelled their praises. Joel enjoyed his proud moment. Both Frederickson boys downed pheasants before dad finally connected with a solid shot. Joel and Nathan gathered around to poke fun at Matt and sincerely congratulate him on his first pheasant of the day. They had jelled as a family unit, tight, proud and committed. I held back a bit as the Fredericksons walked towards the next food plot in a tight group. Undistinguishable chatter echoed across the field. Family happiness filled the moment.