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It all started one day with a question. "Dad will I ever get to hunt with you when I get older?" coming from the mouth of my then 6 year old son. It caught me off guard to say the least, I guess at the time I never considered my son as a hunting partner due to his young age. But since he was potty trained and I felt I could always use another person to talk to in the blind what did I have to loose? The next weekend I loaded up the truck with my hunting stuff the night before and made sure I grabbed the car seat for my son to so he could go with "Dad" out hunting.
This particular morning was unseasonably cold in Oregon, where I lived at the time, and I made sure my son was all bundled up for the hunt so he would not get sick and me get put through the ringer by my wife for getting him that way. So at "O" dark thirty the next morning away we were to hunt one of my local hunting spots. This one in particular was a series of small gravel pits left over by the Oregon Department of Transportation from when they redid Interstate 5. About 7 gravel pits in varying sizes that as I soon found out dropped off very quickly from shore. I managed to get about a dozen mallard decoys out with lines long enough to hit the bottom and settled in with my son next to some trees and brush that made a nice natural blind near the water.
Like I stated before this was an unusually cold morning for Oregon and there was even some skim ice on the water when we showed up. Well about an hour or so into the hunt my son started asking me when we were going to go home as he was getting cold? I made a promise to myself to not force my son to stay out as long as I wanted to stay but to go home when he wanted to, so as not to make his "first" hunting trip a bad experience. I asked him if he could stick it out another 30 minutes or so to which he replied that he was sure he could. After about 10 minutes he told me that he didn't think he could last the rest of the time and would really like to go home. I followed through with my self imposed promise and starting picking up the decoys in the sometimes over the wader depth water.
As I was picking up the decoys I noticed about 50 yards away a couple of "birds" playing on a dead tree that had fallen into the water. Being new to Oregon and not knowing a whole lot about wood ducks, other then what I had read about in magazines, the thought crossed my mind but briefly as I didn't know whether there were even wood ducks in Oregon or not, later I was to find out exactly how abundant they were up there. I finished picking up the decoys and got ready to go without even having dropped the safety on a bird that morning. I looked at my son and told him about the "birds" I saw playing on the log and in the water, I also told him that I thought they might be a wood ducks but was not sure. I asked him then if he thought that before we headed back to the truck to head home would it be worth it for us to wander over there with the gun and see. He very enthusiastically thought that would be a great idea and stated, I think I can wait a few more minutes to go home dad.
We tucked the decoys back up under the tree and started the short little trek over to the area I saw the birds playing around. We drifted farther away from the water as we got closer in case they were really ducks as to not spook them outside of gun range. We eased up on the edge of the water hidden by some very thick brush hidden out of sight of the birds with my son following closely on my heels watching my every move. At the last minute we popped into the opening of the brush about 15 yards from the birds which promptly caused them to flush to safety. Well me with my crack bird identification skills, namely dumb luck, figured the birds out to be a legal duck of some kind and promptly fired one shot at one of the three fleeing puddle ducks. When that particular bird hit the water I was extremely pleased as it meant that we would not be going home completely empty handed. I didn't know how good of a fortune it would actually turn out to be at that time.
I managed to get the, up to this point, unidentified bird into the shore with the help of a very long branch that somehow ended up broke off of a nearby tree. When I got the duck in closer to the shore I then realized that I had in fact killed a wood duck, and a very nicely plumed drake wood duck at that. I felt blessed that I was able to bag a very nice duck and found it even better that it was a bird that I wanted to get mounted and hung on the wall of my house. I told my son about my plans for this treasured bird and that his being cold and wanting to go home was the only reason I even saw these "birds" down here playing on the log in the first place. At that point his pride swelled greatly knowing that it was all his doing that "daddy" got this bird at all.
We loaded up the decoys into the truck and after strapping him into the car seat we pointed the vehicle towards the house and started our trek home. My son reminding me several times along the way, how, if he hadn't been with me hunting that morning I wouldn't have even gotten that duck. I smiled at him and agreed that he was correct with that statement. He then asked if he could be the one that told mom how I got this duck when we got home. I thought that would be a very nice way to finish off the morning hunt which was my oldest son and mines first together. After he told the story to mom, I think he is going to be a good fisherman when he gets older, I proceeded to tell my dear wife that I needed to find a taxidermist to take this duck too as it was going on the wall.
That's how it all started out and was around 4 years ago. We are currently residing back in Colorado and my oldest son is now 10. Cherokee passed his hunter's education class and test this fall with flying colors and now when he accompanies me to the field he is carrying his own shotgun to kill his own birds. While he is still getting the hang of shooting moving, flying objects with a shotgun he has so far credited his game totals a grouse and a Blue Wing Teal. Most shotguns are still a little awkward for someone of his stature but he is handling that Mossberg 20 gauge pump pretty well and I think by the end of season he will be hitting more things with that 20 gauge then he even thinks he can. His younger brother Devon who is now 6 himself has been going out "hunting" with dad for a couple of years now and is readying himself to be as good a hunter as dad is, aren't kids great they think we are the best when we ourselves truly know better.
I just would like to close this article up with up a few words of encouragement for everyone reading this article to remember that we "hunters" are not the future of this great sport. As I look up at the now mounted wood duck on my wall I am reminded of one thing that was learned by me on that hunt. Our entire future depends on us passing our passion and knowledge of this great sport down to future generations. Our kids and grandkids are truly the future of this once well established and honored sport that was taught to us by our parents and grandparents of generations past. If you do nothing more for this sport then you have too at least make a promise to yourself and the future of hunting to introduce this sport to at least one new "hunter" a year whether it be one of your kids, a niece or nephew, or even just a kid down the street to show them the love of the wilderness that we all enjoy and what is available out there for the future of our great sport.
...much more to come
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