For at least a few hunts each year, my son has been tagging along with me and my buddies since he was 3. It's a tough balance, that often times feels more unbalanced towards the selfish side, to maximize the time I get outdoors while still giving my kids a taste of what consume's their Dad's thoughts on a seemingly constant basis. This past weekend provided that unique opportunity to get my son outdoors with the state's youth hunting days for waterfowl.
I wasn't really sure that we were going to even go, its a decision that I put squarely on him. The last thing that I want to do is force hunting on either one of my kids, so when presenting the youth opportunity to him, I let him know it was his call. Even if he just wanted to go bow hunting with Dad instead, we could do that TOO. The point of this weekend was to spend some time outdoors with just he & I. Well, it didn't take him long to say he wanted to go, but then came the next step; understanding that he was going to be shooting.
So, with my good buddy John letting me borrow a youth model 20 gauge, my son & I headed to the shooting range on Saturday afternoon to get him comfortable with handling the gun. He's been around guns quite a bit, but we still spent several minutes reviewing everything about gun safety before we even loaded a shell, much less took a shot. With a stationary clay pigeon positioned on the ground at 20 yards, he handled his first shot fairly well, mainly because he wasn't familiar with recoil so there wasn't any hesitancy. The next couple shots however, I could tell he wasn't as sure of himself, so I took a couple turns letting him launch clays into the air for me before we had to head for home. Our conversations on the ride revolved around the plan for the morning, and despite my own uncertainties, he still remained committed to hunting in the morning.
The plan was to hunt with only one shell chambered while we're sitting side by side so that I could assist & talk him through everything step by step. We hunted a nearby feeding spot that is usually a good producer of early season wood ducks, plus as an added bonus it's youth friendly since I can drive the truck right up to the spot to unload. The early morning drive was filled with laughs, and I think I was now more at ease seeing Caleb's sense of excitement. As Kip Moore's "Somethin bout A Truck" was playing on the radio, my son was singing along but changing the words to "Somethin Bout A Duck." I wish I woulda recorded that. It was good stuff.
With everything unloaded, I went to go park the truck. To my surprise, Caleb wanted to wait by the decoys with Timber... in the early morning darkness. I don't know if I would've done the same at his age. So, off I went to park the truck a few hundred yards away, returning a coupleminutes later to my boy & my dog anxiously awaiting, "What can I help with Dad?" More good stuff, as he handed me decoys and told me where to place them in the pond. Next, we stashed the empty decoy bags away then picked out a big oak to set up next to.
"Dad, check out that sunrise" as he's pointing to the east at the warm, glowing, red sky.
"Yeah that's awesome isn't it? That's one of the best things about being out here. We've got about 15 minutes till legal light buddy, how bout some candy?" I said.
"Heck yeah! This is great! We better not tell Mom we're eating candy this early."... "Hey Dad? Do ducks always float in the water when you shoot 'em?"
"Yep, unless you only cripple it by shooting it's wing, then they can swim away & even dive under water on you."
"What about geese? Do they always float too?"
"Yep, but again, you've got to make sure they're dead because if not it makes for a tough retrieve."
"What if you shot a Tiger in the water, would it float too?"
"Lol... I don't know buddy, I've never shot a tiger but if you see one be ready to shoot!"
"Hey Dad? I'm gonna go pee on a tree real quick before it's time to hunt"
Sitting together back at the oak tree, it wasn't long before a small group of woodies started to slice through the morning air and splashed down in the water. "Dad, Dad, Dad!!! Ducks!!!"
With Timber starting to whimper behind us, there wasn't much we could do except watch them swimming out in the middle of the water. It was legal light, but they were out of range for any type of shot. Moments later, as if on cue, a few more birds zipped down from the heavens and swooshed across our spread before putting their landing gear down to splash in with the other swimmers out of range. Now Timber was whimpering and trembling, I was smiling, and Caleb was wide eyed and smiling too. Before I could whisper anything, three more splashes sent ripples through the water just outside of our decoys. As Caleb slowly shouldered the gun, I reached around his back to help slide off the safety. "Take the shot whenever you think you're...." BOOM!!
"Did I git him?!"
Seeing the shot bubble the water beyond the bird, it was a clean miss. The sky was full of fleeting woodies.
"No buddy, I think you were just over top of him. Lets stay ready though because they'll be back"
We ejected the empty hull, and I it slipped into my blind bag as a future memento. We didn't end up having any more solid opportunities like that one although we did have more birds come in and buzz us, and of course we had the last group of the morning try to land on us while I was picking up decoys. Instead, we sat back and watched the wood ducks do their thing just out of range. We talked about logs sometimes looking like alligators, we ate more candy, peed on more trees, burped, farted, and threw sticks for Timber to retrieve. All in all we just had a good time outdoors being boys, and I think I might have even lit a little bit of a fire inside my son for what hunting is all about.
Here's a couple pics from the hunt...
Garden spider that my son found along the field edge
Just gotta be in the water...
Gotta have face paint TOO...