Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My son the future hunter

This past Saturday I managed to get out for my first grouse hunt of the season. Actually, two little short hunts. At my little woods in northern Wisconsin. My 8-yr-old son, Aaron, and I were at our place for half the weekend. You all heard last year about his anti-hunting sentiments. I took your advice, especially that from Mr. Mike, who mentioned that reading Outdoor Life as a boy turned him toward hunting. I've been showing that magazine to Aaron ever since, reading part of it to him and letting him pore over it. In recent months he's become very interested in guns. He'll spend hours looking at all the gun ads in OL, as well as Gun Dog, Pointing Dog Journal (I know, I know--I expect my next dog to be a Brittany; sorry, Rich), Upland Almanac. Also the ATV ads, knife ads, and photos and articles about anything related to animals or birds. Let's just say his anti-hunting days appear to be behind him.

Well, on this trip I let him decide whether to bring a buddy along (a big favorite of his) or to bring Betsy and go grouse hunting with me. He chose hunting. I packed my gear along for the day, during which I also planned to work on our building. On Saturday morning at 7:30 he popped out of his sleeping bag and asked, "Can we go hunting now?" As he ate his breakfast outside, I heard him shout, "I just saw two grouse fly over me!" Yeah, yeah, I thought. Probably crows or starlings.

I sprayed us up, got the dog ready, put some ammo in my vest (Columbia hunter orange, over a sweatshirt and under a Lewis Creek Marshfield waxed jacket), and we headed out into the woods. Aaron carried his SxS cap shotgun. I carried my SKB 20ga SxS with skeet chokes in both barrels. I had him walk slightly behind me and off to the side a little. After about 20 minutes of slow creeping through the woods, a grouse fluttered into the air off to my right. It didn't go far, but Aaron got a good look at it. "That was definitely the kind of bird that flew over the cabin," he assured me. Hmmm, I thought, it must be so then. He wouldn't likely be wrong on a comparison like that. I called Betsy over and put her to the bird, which flushed straight north. My first shot of the season went far astray, knocking a branch or two off an aspen as the bird soared toward a stand of balsams. Aaron was still delighted. "That was loud," he observed, not apparently too disappointed with my miss.

We followed the bird into the balsams, and one got up from the ground off to my right. I didn't shoot, though it was a decent chance. On the report, another took off from the balsams behind us. At about 30 minutes in, Aaron said he was getting tired so we walked straight back to the cabin.

He spent the day playing with his cousin, who lives nearby; I spent most of the day with my tool belt on. The woodstove will be working next trip and we've got insulation scheduled for Oct 21-22. Things are progressing, slowly.

At 6:00 we were back for our second hunt of the day. This time we took a different loop south toward the creek, where a bird flushed twice out of sight and disappeared (to the west?). Toward dusk we headed back to get ready to leave for home. As we walked down the driveway from our field into the woods, just after I'd told him why grouse are often found on or near gravel roads, Aaron suddenly asked, "Daddy, is that a grouse?" Sure enough, a bird was standing near a little puddle on the road just 30 yards ahead of us. I hadn't seen it in the gathering twilight until he said something. I called Betsy over by me and walked toward the spot with her. Aaron trailed behind. At about 6 yards, the bird finally took off straight south into the woods. I fired once and nicked it, again and dropped it. For about the second time in my life, I actually connected on a bird that I'd seen on the ground before the flush.

Aaron was ecstatic. "We got a grouse, Daddy! We got a grouse!" he shrieked. As always, but more than usual, this was a minor miracle. Not least because he'd been able to see the whole thing from his safe vantage point behind me. Also, of course, because I'd hit a flying grouse. He got to see Betsy find the dead bird where it had landed off the ground in the middle of a clump of hazel bushes. He chose to carry it back to the car. "This must be the biggest grouse you've ever shot," he offered. Yeah, it sure is a big one. He admired the bird during the walk, commenting in a steady stream about how he'd first thought the bird was a rock and about its beautiful plumage and about how we actually got a grouse! I cut the tail off for him and it now decorates his bedroom. Which his mom just loves. But my son is evidently on a path to an avid hunting career. He's looking forward to hunting at age 12, maybe getting his own .22 at 11, maybe getting a BB gun before then. Oh, the possibilities!

So here are the day's statistics: An hour and 30 minutes of hunting on our 30 acres of woods, 6 grouse flushes, two birds shot at, one in the bag. And one very happy and enthusiastic second grader.


KGT said...

AWESOME Post! Warms the heart. Looking forward to hunting with this young sporting chap sometime.

Superior Shooter said...

Excellent choice on how to spend your time - your kid will never forget that day and you've gone a long way to helping another one join the ranks (of wingshooters)!

pathwalker said...

THAT was great. Good guiding.

Ernie said...

Great post and congradulations on your future hunting partner. Only one corrention you might consider, "So here are the day's statistics: An hour and 30 minutes of hunting on our 30 acres of woods, 6 grouse flushes, two birds shot at, one in the bag.", to this you may condider adding "a liftime on memories that cannot be errased by time for either of us. Hope to read more hunting stories for both of you as the years melt away.

Jim Tantillo said...

I've read this over several times this week--still love it! thanks, Jay, for posting this. Hope the weekend at Old T. is going well.