“Rooster,” Jimmy Beachum yelled as his English pointer, Mickey, stood through the flush.
Toddler Alex Beachum covered his ears as shots rang out. Riding in a backpack his mom, Kristine “Kris” Beachum, had fabricated for him so his dad could take him hunting, Alex was never far from dad’s hunting adventures.
Moving from bustling Plymouth in 1978, the Beachum family relocated to middle-of-nowhere Deerfield Township north of Howell. Moving away from their family and friends, the Beachums planted their roots in rural Livingston County with only a party phone line to connect them with the life they left behind.
“My dad needed to bird hunt,” Alex said. “And for my mom, as she had done throughout her life, she sacrificed her pleasantries and wants so that her family was happy and whole.”
Alex’s memory of his mother is best exemplified in her willingness and acceptance of his father’s obsession with pheasants and bird dogs. It was this willingness, sacrifice and selflessness that inspired Alex to donate $25,000 to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to stock rooster pheasants on state game areas in memory of his mother, Kris.
The Michigan Association of Gamebird Breeders and Hunting Preserves, through coordination with the DNR, will stock state game areas throughout Southern Michigan with rooster pheasants in 2021. The stocking will take place on nine state game areas for the first pheasant season from Oct. 20 through Nov. 14.
“It was tough to leave Plymouth for my mom,” Alex said. “For a mother of two small children to move to the middle of nowhere, with no family and friends and to essentially enable my dad to pursue his passion, is a profound testament to how devoted of a wife she was.”
After moving to the Livingston County farm with two kids in ‘78, Jimmy and Kris added two more children in short order. It didn’t take long for Mickey, the family pointer, to get gray in the muzzle and arthritis to set in. As time passed, the kids’ endeavors took center stage, and pointing dogs and pheasants became a distant memory sporadically interrupted by a rooster crowing on the farm.
The Beachums lived an ordinary rural life — with sports, spelling bees and growing pains being a part of everyday happenings. They were finally becoming a part of the community they had joined years before.
Kris’ beloved boxers replaced bird dogs and Jimmy longed for the day he would again be able to walk behind a pointer, gun in hand, and hear a rooster crow as it flushed from under his feet.
Through it all, there stood Kris, always willing to lift her children or husband up when needed or give them all some tough love when called for. She never lost her selfless nature and ability to make those around her better.
High school dances, college acceptance letters, proms and graduations eventually came for all the Beachum children, and all four left and started lives of their own. Jimmy and Kris, whose lives outside of work were dedicated to their children, started to feel the strains of an empty nest.
Things come full circle
“Dad got restless,” Alex said. “Mom knew he was, and she knew what it was going to take. She knew he needed a dog and to start hunting birds again.”
In the early 2000s, Kris decided not to continue owning boxers and told Jimmy that he could again take up his obsession with bird dogs. In 2004, she went as far as actually helping Jimmy plan a South Dakota pheasant hunting trip.
“She was so supportive that she encouraged him to resume hunting in South Dakota and even did the internet research in 2004 to find a family outfitter on private land for my dad to call upon,” Alex said. “It is only fitting that my mom found the guide; she was really the guide of it all.”
Alex and his father grew much closer through the South Dakota pheasant trips, and the pair say their matriarch is the reason why. Those trips have been an annual event save for one year — 2019.
In the fall of 2018, Kris fell sick. The doctors gave her six months to live. She never lost the zest for finding joy in the happiness of others.
“Unsurprisingly, mom insisted that we embark on our annual South Dakota pheasant trip that she had been the main architect in years before,” Alex said.
To the very end, Kris was always putting her family, friends and community service above all else. She outlived the doctor’s prognosis by 12 months. With family by her side and at the height of a global pandemic, Kris passed on May 20, 2020.
“With the world stopped, no one leaving home and a pandemic preventing us from holding a memorial service for my mom, I was in a bad place,” Alex said. “I stirred for weeks and months about how to properly honor my mother.”
Honoring a memory
“I was reading a publication one day where Ken Dalton (Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative founder) was pleading for a generous donation to help stock state game areas with pheasants,” Alex said. “At that moment, I knew what I had to do.”
Within hours, Alex was on the phone with Dalton who helped facilitate the $25,000 donation to purchase pheasants for stocking. In total, Alex’s generous donation in honor of his mother will buy about 1,700 birds in 2021.
“This fall, it would bring joy to my family to see a bunch of other families in the designated state game areas putting up roosters and filing gamebags,” Alex said. “While my mom was not a hunter herself, she loved my dad and his passions to the extent it has shaped our lives significantly.”
For Alex and the Beachum family, the $25,000 donation is a fitting tribute to their mother whose selfless attitude was best exemplified by her passion to make those around her smile.
“Just like my mom gave the sacred gift of time afield and the special camaraderie it brings to my dad and me, I want to give that same gift to other fellow Michiganders with a generous and highly symbolic donation of pheasants to be released for all to enjoy, in honor of the life and memory of Kristine Ann Beachum,” Alex said.
Starting the week of October 20, rooster pheasants will be stocked throughout nine Southern Michigan state game areas: St. John’s Marsh, Erie, Point Mouillee, Crow Island, Pinconning, Lapeer, Rose Lake, Cornish and Leidy Lake.
The season will open on Oct. 20, and rooster pheasants will be stocked at the aforementioned state game areas until the week of Nov. 14. Pheasant hunters will need a $25 pheasant license in 2021 to pursue pheasants on public or hunting access program lands in the Lower Peninsula for ages 18 and above.
License sale revenue will be used to purchase and stock rooster pheasants during upcoming pheasant seasons.