Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it – Proverbs 22:6
Wings locked, the green winged teal committed to the decoys twenty yards from our makeshift blind. Pitching and bobbing like Mohammed Ali in his prime, I lumbered to get my shotgun lined up…like Joe Frazier in waders. And I missed.
The follow up shot dumped the little feathered rocket. Lacking a dog at that time, I hoped the duck would float into the shallow water near us. I wasn’t relishing shipping cold muddy water over my waders as I retrieved the duck.
One more teal would join the first before the morning shoot ended. Perhaps you think this a meager bag for all the effort of walking over a mile into a public hunting area with a sack of decoys.
While the hunt was for ducks, I was really pursuing my son.
This was his first real hunt. Bundled up against the cold in too-big camo clothing, I had to carry him piggy back a short distance over the water to reach our little island. I laid branches over and around him to cover his movements. Around his neck was a lanyard with one of my duck calls to practice with.
As an outdoorsman, I had long dreamt of all the hunting and fishing adventures my son and I would undertake together. We spent time shooting BB guns, skeet and trap. We took nature walks when he was younger, and drowned worms under red and white bobbers. I read all the advice I could find about how to get your kids hooked on the outdoors. Above all I wanted to infuse my son and my daughters with a passion for the outdoors. I wanted to teach them to respect and care for the environment, the animals and fish, and the sport.
Alas, sometimes life doesn’t play fair, nor on our timetable. A divorce left me emotionally exhausted and distant. Time and money for outdoor pursuits were in short supply and frankly I wasn’t much fun to be around. In the interim cars and girls increasingly encroached on my son’s dreams. Any hope of hunting and fishing together seemed like an obscure dream from another life.
Indeed it was for nearly two decades.
I used to read the proverb above and think that it meant that if my kids didn’t live life as I thought it should be lived, that I was to blame for not training them well. But if you read carefully, it says that when he is old he won’t depart from your training. That infers that when he is young, he just might (and probably will) depart from it.What I read as a judgement on my parenting skills is actually a promise intended to comfort me during those days when our relationship was distant.
This season somehow, a switch was flipped. My son became much more “present” for family dinners and get togethers. He began emailing and texting me several times each week. Prior to this I might not hear from him for months at a time.
In January after I took a late season buck with my bow, he began showing renewed interest in hunting. So we hunted ducks together. I was the caller and decoy setter. Not many ducks flew as we are still in a major drought. One duck pitched in as I was putting out decoys, and my son dropped him neatly. A green winged teal. Coincidence?.
He joined my hunting lease, and we took our first ever turkey hunt together on opening weekend.
In the identical spot where I killed my first turkey several years ago, we set up, and soon had three gobblers running to us.
I was the caller, my son the shooter. I called the birds in until they were 12 yards out. I took some devilish delight in getting them that close. The ground reverberated as they all three gobbled each time I hit the call. I knew that my son’s heart was about to beat completely out of his chest. Soon the shotgun spoke, and our trophy was on the ground. I doubt I will ever cherish any hunt more.
|Justin’s First Rio Grande Turkey|
The outdoor prodigal has returned. I am short on fatted calves, but I have some backstraps that should suffice.