The local chapter of Safari Club International used to hand out bumper stickers that read “Hunt With Your Kids, Not For Them”. It is a very prophetic statement. When I was just a boy I knew a family who’s daughter went missing. She was gone for a couple of weeks and I got to witness first hand the anguish this family endured as they searched for their daughter. I sympathize with anyone who has gone through this. In this case there was a somewhat happy ending as the girl returned but I know there were problems that needed to be resolved. So when I first saw SCI’s sticker, it hit home.
Fast forward several years and my youngest son is about to make his first adventure into becoming a hunter. He and a friend from school signed up to take the hunter safety course and I can tell you my heart was filled with pride when he went the two days and got his certificate. A few days later we purchased his first hunting license and started to make plans for our first trip into the woods as a father and son hunting team.
Squirrels were to be our first hunt. We have a cabin in the Allegany’s and you can find every type of squirrel there . And we are also blessed with plenty of nut trees so finding them is quite easy as well. We arrived at the camp the night before and got the fire going in the wood burner. October in Western New York is a beautiful time to be in the woods but the nights can get quite chilly. Once the blades started to turn on our ecofan, we were in business with plenty of warm air being circulated around by the eco friendly fan. If you haven’t seen one of these yet , they are quite unique in that they make their own electricity. I have been using one for several years. Back to the hunt.
My son has had plenty of practice at shooting targets with his .22. I started all of my children very young to get them used to firearms and teach them respect for the weapon as well as the intended target so when we left the cabin early that October morn I knew he was ready. We took about a half hour walk up over the hill to be among some beach nut trees. We settled on one that had fallen and was just the right height for a seat and began our wait. The first thing to show up was a young doe. She didn’t seem to mind that she was sharing the forest with us this day. She foraged a little and then kept going on her appointed rounds. Soon I caught the sight of a big black squirrel scampering around collecting his morning feast. My son also saw it and asked if he should shoot. I asked him if he was ready and he said yes. One shot later we had our first squirrel for the day. He was anxious to retrieve the animal but I told him to sit still and just remember where the squirrel was. About five minutes later a nice gray squirrel showed up and met a similar fate. We waited a while when it became obvious that something was coming up the hill. At first we weren’t sure what it was but soon several heads started bobbing up and down and we saw several turkeys having a little breakfast as they walked up the hill. It was not turkey season so these were going to get a free pass but it was certainly exciting to see them and to share this moment with my young hunter. We waited until the turkeys passed through and out of sight and proceeded to collect our take for the morning.
As we walked out of the woods I will never forget what my first time hunter who had just bagged his first two squirrels asked. He said ” Dad, what caliber of gun do you need to hunt Elk? ” I still laugh every time I think about it. Hunt with your children, not for them. I hunt , therefore, I am.