I keep this blog mostly anonymous so that I can share details of my life that I don’t necessarily want my friends and neighbors to know. For instance, until last month I have never owned a shot gun.
I know you’re thinking, “big deal,” right? But understand that in my rural, mid-western world admitting you don’t own a shotgun is like admitting you think Depeche Mode is a sweet band; it doesn’t necessarily mean that your gay..but c’mon.
In the last decade I have begun to experience the joys of hunting. But it is something I have had to learn on my own. I didn’t grow up hunting. In fact, I never held a hunting rifle until I was almost thirty. I have had moderate success in deer hunting on our property, but the turkey have always escaped me.
It is a different style of hunting. In Missouri, we hunt deer with a rifle and turkey with a shot gun. You can also use a bow and arrow for both. On the few times I’ve attempted to turkey hunt, I’ve had to borrow a gun which is about the most unmanly thing you do.
But I am now the proud owner of a Maverick Model 88 twenty gauge shotgun. I chose this specific gun for one reason; even my 12 year old son can handle it.
Which brings me to the point of this post. My son has started showing interest in joining me in hunting. Since I am not a die hard hunter, I didn’t have him out in the tree stand with me when he was five years old. Lots of guys do, but for most of them, hunting is a way of life. Which is great. Not so much for me though.
A good friend of mine moved back to town this year and he has a son the same age. He has already been introduced to hunting by his grandfather so we decided to get together and take advantage of youth turkey season. In Missouri, kids under 16 get to hunt one weekend, ten days prior to the start of the regular season.
This hunt was destined to fail from the beginning. My friend has never hunted in his life, which means he knows less about what is going on than I do. But we get decked out in our camo, the two boys grab their shotguns (which are nearly as big as they are) and we head out into the woods about 2:30 in the afternoon.
It went about as we expected. Two twelve year old boys make a lot of noise even when they are invisible. But I’m not sure we adults were much quieter. After about 15 minutes we all agreed that we were just there to hang out and hope we see something cool.
And we did. A small deer suddenly appeared in the field about 20 yards away and just looked at us as he meandered along. That would have been the highlight of the day except my neighbors herd of cattle showed up about 4:00 and hung out about 40 yards away for the next hour.
The boys spent the whole time playing “what if” scenarios with the cows. “What if that brown one with the red tag just ran right at us?” “What if the whole herd suddenly turned to zombies.” There were no cow attacks though. They just sat out there chewing grass until the got bored and went home.
Then finally, we saw a lone turkey. 250 yards away. If you aren’t familiar with turkey hunting, your goal is to get them in to about 30 yards. The boys suddenly got very excited and very quiet. We tried calling it to us, but of course it paid us no attention at all.
So the hunt was a bust, but I learned a few things this weekend.
1. My son does not care that I know little about hunting.
At 12 years old, he was just excited to dress up, get to hold a real weapon, and see some wildlife. The fact that I suck at turkey hunting didn’t bother him in the least.
2. Kids love experiencing nature.
My son is not an outdoorsman. We have to kick him out of the house sometimes to get him away from the books, the legos, the television, etc. But he was blown away by the sight of a deer standing close enough to hit it with a rock.
3. An enjoyable experience is more important that results.
We didn’t expect to get anything. We went out to have fun and in that, we succeeded. It went well enough that I will have no trouble talking him into joining me again in a few weeks when the regular season begins.
As much as I’ve enjoyed learning these skills as an adult, I can’t help but wonder how much my life would be enriched if I were exposed to them as a child. When my son is grown, I hope he looks back fondly on these days. We’ll make fun of each other about how horrible we were and I’ll remind him that he almost peed his pants the first time he saw a deer.