The 39-Year Old Pheasant Hunter Contemplates Growing Up

Last December, I turned 39, which means that I will move into a new demographic bubble at the end of 2013.  As I get older, I find myself doing a lot more reflecting on things; hunts, dogs, relationships, and my own life’s legacy.
Case in point, in years prior I’d hunt one field and move along to the next tract of public ground on the map.  I lived in the moment asking “what’s next?”
This year, however, I’d get to the end of the field and contemplate how I may have been able to more effectively put the pinch on an extra bird here or there.  Or, how I appreciated the work of a beloved bird dog, the beauty of a rolling grassland or the deepness of a rooster’s colorful plumage.  In other words, I’ve found myself living in the moment asking “what have I learned?”
The same contemplative trend has greeted me in the New Year as I reflect on my hunting adventures of the past and future.  While I’ve never been one to endeavor for a lifestyle filled with “resolutions,” I’ve come to recognize the invincibility approach of my younger days is impractical.  I’ve found the compelling need to address my personal goals defining my own version of the meaning of life.
I’m guessing some readers have stopped and are thinking: “The meaning of life is pretty weighty stuff for a pheasant blog.”  Perhaps it is to some.  But, as I look into the future and think about the inevitable reality most of us will face of laying immobilized in a hospital bed reflecting on our lives, I believe my thoughts will gravitate to hunts shared with my family, birds missed over bemused bird dogs and wild game dinners toasted with hunting partners at pheasant camp.  The very same things I cherish in my life’s prime.
It is with this spirit of renewed appreciation I look forward into 2013 and offer my own personal reflections for your consideration.
Turn off the cell phone.  Like cigarettes were to the Baby Boomers, smart phones will be the plague of Generation Xers.  I hate my phone, and I don’t think “hate” is too strong a word for the disdain I feel about my inability to unplug and enjoy the outdoors in solitude.  This year, I plan on doing a better job of disconnecting, enjoying the wonders of nature and personally engaging in the conversation of my friends.
Go Hunting with Dad, Mom, Brother, Nephew, Wife, and Best Buddy.  My dad almost died about 20 years ago after a sudden brain aneurysm.  During those days spent praying alongside his hospital bed, I thought about the special times we’d shared.  Most of those times revolved around hunting.  Miraculously, my dad fully recovered and I’ve been blessed with hundreds of new treasured memories.  Surprisingly, it’s easy to take the people we care about the most for granted, even after almost losing them. However, I know from first-hand experience, the times spent with my family chasing birds are the memories we all cherish the most.
Bird Dogs Never Live Long Enough.  Readers of this blog know I am guilty of treating my two pups like children.  I love my dogs.  They have brought greater joy to my life than I could have ever imagined prior to becoming a dog owner.  My oldest pup, Trammell, will turn seven this spring.  While I hope she’ll have another seven strong autumns ahead, I’ve already noticed the sands of time tilting to the other side of the ledger.  As I look toward next fall’s hunting season, I’m tempted to embark on new adventures and new species of birds to add notches to her checklist.  To chase those ptarmigan in Alaska I’ve always threatened.  To swing through quail country for a grand slam.  However, a part of me believes that’s missing the point.  A truer, more meaningful, way of enjoying Trammell’s “salad” days would be to savor the pheasant fields, grouse woods and timberdoodle bottoms we’ve both come to cherish together.  Either way, I realize Tram’s peak has passed, but she’ll shine bright enough this year for me to savor a few more glimpses of my first bird dog’s genuine greatness.
For those readers who’ve crossed the four decade mark, what sage advice would you offer me as I approach the big 4-0 as a bird hunter?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.