As I sit looking out the living room window white falling snow and frozen ground can be seen behind it with Snap and Belle sound asleep beside me my mind drifts back to the hunting season recently ended but is now just another memory to be pondered.There have been quite a few, well if 59 years afield qualify then it’s an accurate number give or take a couple.A few have been forgotten or perhaps more accurately would probably have been taken for granted.
Some of the earliest memories are of dad leaving with his Brittany, Snap and Uncle LO Gray. Snap eagerly jumped into the trunk of his ‘57 two-tone brown n yellow Ford Fairlane 500.Later in the day they’d return with ducks, usually Mallards and Teal or pheasants and sometimes both.I used to love posing the birds, hearing the stories and laughter that was always part of the hunt.Later came cleaning with me “helping” but probably more accurately being a nuisance however dad never seemed to care always letting me pick some feathers or explain what some organ or bird part was.Snap spent his non-hunting days in the old tin garage kennel and always fed a tasty meal of table scraps mixed in with his dry dog food but with an extra large portion after a day afield.One time later in his life he was allowed in the house after a days’ hunt but then he preferred his kennel soon panting and standing at the door.
Only after taking firearm safety with dad being a volunteer instructor, was I allowed to carry a gun but the instruction began even a few years earlier carrying a toy gun, then a BB gun and an empty ladies model 20 gauge belonging to my Aunt Ivy before I could load that single shot.It was a lengthy process but looking back one that has served me well over time and years later when I assumed my new role as a dad myself.
One recollection was of a duck hunt out at Uncle Pauls’ farm.It was only dad and me with me soon being bored off to make a blind of rushes n branches a short distance away when two separate big flocks of mallards appeared.Hiding they circled and circled.The wings made a whistling sound then suddenly they cupped n orange feet reached for the water.Half landed with the other circling too.Not able to stand it any longer I stood and shot that 20 gauge.There were so many and so close it seemed deafening .Certainly I couldn’t miss.The entire slough was a panic and a woosh of waterfowl wings. I fired two more times with dad shooting and emptying his auto.I never touched a feather but Snap retrieved his three curly-tailed drakes.I’ve relived those moments hundreds of times as though it was yesterday enjoying it each time.Now the decades have passed but evidently it made an indelible mark.
My youth happened to be in the days of the Soil Bank era and the heyday of Minnesota pheasants, at least compared to our numbers today. Shotgun shells had paper hulls that swelled if damp, road hunting was something done often in late afternoon or when legs or dogs were dead tired usually producing results.I recall long walks, well long to me, with dad out at land belonging to Jim Cooper.He lived in the cities usually only hunting on opening days but dad had permission when he wasn’t there.My legs were short and the car appeared so tiny off in the distance it seemed like we’d never get back.Telling myself each step is a step closer and even falling behind dad guess I always made it but made a promise to myself to never complain because I was hunting.In those days dad shot most if not all the birds.I might have shot at some but those memories are gone if so.I do remember my first one though but it was also Snap’s last.It was on an afternoon road hunt with mom and dad after school.A rooster stood on the inside edge of a small group of ditch cattails as we passed.Dad told me to go get him as he stopped.Uncasing that 20 ga dad let Snap out.After scenting the bird he went on point.As dad motioned me toward Snap the bird flushed.I shot and to my astonishment the bird dropped with Snap right there picking it up.I’ll never forget what happened next because he brought it to me.Holding it high dad’s smile is etched forever making a memory I’ll never forget!Thanks dad!
As you read of my past memories I’d like to offer a lesson and it’s certainly not rocket science.Because as my sons, Erik and Chad read this they will see so many similarities to how they began because the recipe was easy to follow.Today so many words, so much money, so many meetings in planning strategies take place the path to making a hunter is the same.First introduce, then create a desire by planting the seed, nurture carefully building a solid foundation.By that I mean if you, as a parent or an adult have as your ultimate goal the creation of a young hunter & begin early in life.Teach respect for others and the game afield through your example.Make this a priority and when you take them become the teacher and their experience the most important not yours!This takes time and a concerted effort.It is not something that can happen in a day or even two! The result may be the same as my experience is now because I love hunting with Chad and Erik and usually am invited along with them. Sometimes they’ll say “now where should we go next dad?”My usual response is “You’re the guide today” with a smile.They have each become excellent hunters in every way a hunter should be and certainly passionate about the sport.Now the torch has been passed to Erik with his young son, Jack (named for my father) and one day Chad too will have his opportunity!Jack, although only 3 months old already has his lifetime hunting and fishing license compliments of his Grandma and Grandpa!
Now my question for you is: Will you be a good teacher too?
Wishing you all the best in the Outdoors!