I made quite a stupid mistake this hunting season. It was a rookie error, and you’d think I’d know by now.
My oldest son, Cole, had been wanting to go deer hunting, and deer hunting simply wasn’t on my radar that much this year because of my production commitments with waterfowl. My mind was going one direction, and Cole’s mind was going another direction all together.
My mistake was in waiting for the perfect time to take him deer hunting. I was looking for the right wind, the right farm, and the right conditions. I was approaching hunting season from the mindset of a hunter; that is, I wanted to get him on a great hunt. He just wanted to go hunting. My expectations were on quality, his were on quantity.
It dawned on me in mid-January that I’d made the mistake of trying to put together a great hunting experience when I should have been focused on sheer quantity, and not so much on quality.
I couldn’t make up for the mistakes of December, but I did have some time left for a course correction in January. On the spur of the moment, just this past weekend, I told Cole that we were going to grab a few decoys and head to a public land management area for a mid-day duck hunt. I told him that we’d probably not even see a duck, but we’d at least be hunting.
I informed him that I had never been to this location before, and I was literally looking on the web for maps. I was laughing the entire time as I was doing last-minute research. I even broke down and called the refuge manager, stating, “I just need a little local knowledge on how to navigate this management area to make it a decent hunt for my son.” The refuge manager was incredibly helpful, to the point of telling me where he’d seen ducks in the last few days.
So, we left at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, having conceded the fact that we’d miss the first two hours of daylight so as to be able to see where we were going and do a little scouting, but knowing we’d at least get to say we were on a hunt.
I assumed Cole would be a little bummed over it, but in truth, he was elated. We were getting to hunt, and that was all that mattered to him.
We pulled up in the parking area and could see ducks on the waters of the refuge in some seemingly out of the way places. My thought was that there’s a reason ducks wanted to be there on this given day, and even though the best areas I’d researched online seemed to indicate that deeper in the refuge would be better, we were at least watching ducks circling.
We walked smack into the ducks, flushed them as we were entering, and then threw out decoys where feathers were floating on the water. Within minutes, ducks were circling and landing in our dekes. Three shots later we had ducks in hand. It was epic.
I walked away from that hunt reminded of this simple truth: never again can I approach hunting with my boys from an adult perspective. They measure hunts differently than we do, and what makes a hunt fun for them is often very different than what makes a hunt fun for veteran hunters.
I cannot afford to forget that every hunt with my boys is about the entire experience. The road trip, throwing out decoys, watching geese in flight, exploring new territory, and most of all, having fun. Lots and lots of fun. Kid fun, not grown up fun.
It seems that with every hunt I’m trying to teach my boys something about being a better hunter. This hunt, however, my son became the teacher and yet he never offered a word of instruction. His laughter and his smile were education enough.