This past Saturday, my regular hunting buddy couldn't make it out. I had my son, Chase, who is 7 and had recently gotten his first shotgun (single shot .410) and my friends son, Ross, who is 6 and is about a month from getting his first gun.
The boys are always fired up about going duck hunting with daddy and as my friend couldn't make it, he asked me to take his son along with me.
We set up for the standard mallards and woodies we get on the particular pond we were hunting. About 20 minutes after shooting time, we had a group of woodies respond to the call and come in right on top of us. WE elected not to shoot and just enjoyed the show they put on for us. They spent about 15-20 minutes hunting acorns that had fallen off the numerous wateroaks that line the banks of this pond. At this point they decided to head somewhere else and took off. About an hour later, I was regretting not letting Chase shoot one of them as he has never killed a duck by himself with his own gun.
Shortly after kicking myself mentally for this blunder, Ross starts talkng about all the ducks in the air. I look up over the blind top and see approximately 45-50 mallards in two groups locked up about 50 yards out and sailing straight in to the open water in front of us. I told Chase to stand up and cock his gun and then to pick out a bird and just before he sits on the water to put his bead right below his chest and pull the trigger.
One big green head was out front and I knew this was the bird Chase was looking at. Being a lifelong waterfowl hunter and a dad, I couldn't breathe, blink, or twitch. I am not even sure my heart was still beating. Just before this big redleg hits the water in front of us...BOOM! Duck hits the water while the rest of the two groups do a hasty backpeddle and upward retreat. The duck on the water flaps his wings and follows them out. I wasn't ready with my gun for a follow up and by the time I realize what is going on, it's just too late for my 3" #4 steel to do any good. My heart sank and I think Chase's broke. We were all staring at this duck flying acroos the pasture away from the pond and all I could say was "sorry, buddy, it's my fault I didn't back you up". About the time I get this out, the ducks sets his wings and glides straight down over the hill on the other side of the pond about 200 yards away.
Chase, Ross and myself all jump up and secure our guns, grab the dog and head that direction. We top the hill and laying in the pasture with its wings spread, just like it was still gliding, was Chase's big ole greenhead. As you can well imagine, we were all elated at the sight. I let Chase go and pick it up rather than sending the dog as this bird was to be mounted and we wanted no ruffled feathers.
My taxidermist called me this morning and said the only hole in the skin was a single pellet through the neck.
What a great hunt and great day. The boys were very excited about the mornings events and kept talking about how close the woodies had gotten and what an awesome sound they made when they whooshed into the decoys, as well as the shot that Chase made and how we thought the duck had gotten away and how we found it in the pasture laying just like it was flying.
After this it was off to the taxidermist to let Chase pick out his mount pose (he chose flying) and to take pics for the album and posterity.
As a hunter, this was one of the most memorable hunts of my life. As a dad, it rates as one of the most precious life experiences I have had. I beleive I have been asked and answered the question "When can we go again?" 30 times since we left the pond Saturday morning. And you know what....It's a danged good question. I think Thursday morning should be about right. Perhaps, Chase will get his first woody on this day. It won't be the same as this past Saturday to me, but it will be close.
Take your children hunting if they express an interest. It is one of the most gratifying experiences as a parent to see your child succeed at something they have a strong desire to do. Maybe when I am older and can't do it by myself anymore, my son will take me as I take him now.