It has been a year that has passed and I am finally able to find the time to put some words down to paper to describe and event that I can only explain as “magical”. I have written before about my energetic 6-year old son Ben but that was always related to fishing. This time I get to pen an adventure about what it was like to experience Ben’s first time in the field for a hunt.
Thanks to a generous offer from Mr. Todd Berg and his incredible wife Veronica, “V” to all her friends, we were able to head down to Rooster Heaven hunt club for a chance at some dove hunting. To say I was nervous was and understatement. Ben hadn’t been around guns that were being shot and had not had any experience with seeing an animal lose its life. You see his mother is a vegetarian and is strongly against the harming of any animals. This had always been an uphill battle when we were married.
Making memories like this day was, and is, very important to me and I knew that this was going to be a special one. There were many thoughts running through my head as to how he may react to the gunfire and to the death of an animal. I was also nervous about inconveniencing Todd and V with having a young child along on a hunt. In the end all my anxieties would need to be put aside and let things happen as they will.
I remember making memories with my father as I was a child. Remembering the small things always brings a smile to my face. This was important to me that the day be full of memories and it certainly was. We got up way before dawn to start our 2-hour drive to the dove fields and a quick stop at McDonald’s for a breakfast treat and we were on our way. As a side note, Ben still remembers stopping for breakfast that day. It always brings a smile to my face when I think about that.
I don’t know who was more excited about the hunt, me or Ben. On the drive down, we went over all the rules of safety and also discussed what happens when we shoot an animal. This was a difficult conversation as it is not easy to explain to a young child that we are about to take the life of an animal. Blunt and honest was the only approach that I could think of. Explaining to Ben that the sausage in his breakfast sandwich was once a pig that was raised for food opened the door to a further explanation of how anything we were to shoot we would eat and it would not go to waste.
During our safety talk I could see Ben was completely engaged in every word I was saying. For being really early in the morning I could see that he was eager to learn and was excited about this adventure. There is one thing that sticks in my head about our ride down and that was his comment when our talk was finished. He looked at me from the back seat and said, “Daddy, the important thing is that we have fun!”. This blew me away and a tear formed in my eyes.
He was right! All my anxieties melted away and my chest stuck out with pride as to the young man that he was becoming. He got it, he understood the message that this trip was all about. This was going to be a magical day and he would not be the only one to learn something on this hunt.
When we arrived at our destination we met up with Todd and V and headed for the fields. Ben was excited to meet our hosts, however his favorite would be Deuce the wonder dog. This flat coated retriever would make a friend for life in Ben as the day went on. Deuce warmed up to Ben almost immediately and he stuck by Ben’s side for the duration of our hunt.
As dawn broke I spent time explaining to Ben about the decoys in the sunflower field and also let him clip on some of the decoys that I had brought with me. It is the small things like this that will remain in his memory bank for life. He had his chair, a snack, his ear muffs, and best of all a smile on his face.
As fate would have it the first bird that came into our field was on my side. I let Ben know that there was a bird coming in and that I would be shooting soon. The bird came in and my shot was right on target. We marked where the bird fell and soon Todd was over with Deuce and Ben tagged along to retrieve the first bird.
What happened next can never be repeated in life and words do not capture the moment that was about to occur. Todd described what took place and I hope to relay the emotions of the moment that took place. Ben helped direct Deuce to the bird and when the dog found the bird he brought it to Ben’s hand. Ben relinquished the bird from Deuce’s mouth and stared at the bird with a look of amazement and awe. He carried that bird to Todd with pride and from where I stood I could see the smile on Todd’s face that was from ear to ear.
They both approached me and Todd had a tear running down his cheek. He embraced me and we both had a good man cry right there in the Dove field. My little boy was becoming a man and he was taking the world of hunting on with grace and style. This single bird meant more to me than any of the hundreds of other birds I have shot in the past. This is a memory that will be in my head as well as Ben’s head for the rest of our lives here on this green earth.
The rest of the morning was slow as far as hunting went, however Ben was able to learn how to work with the dog and even slogged through some cornfields to help retrieve a downed bird. Our gracious hosts even took the time to sit Ben down and cut apart a shotgun shell to explain all the inner workings of the shell and how it does its job.
We ended our hunt before lunch with only a handful of birds, but a million memories that will last forever. Ben watched with amazement in his eyes and V dressed out the birds and he was full of questions and V had all the right answers.
With a belly full of food and a head full of memories we both hoped into the truck and made our way home. My face had a permanent smile and when we were less than a mile from the fields I looked into the rearview mirror and saw that Ben was completely asleep and dreaming of what I could only hope was future hunts.
This story is just a small example of what memories have and will be made with Ben. There are many obstacles in life and hurdles that we all have to overcome so I hope that this little adventure may inspire others to get their young children out into the field and away from the TV and video games. As sportsman we all need to think of the future of our sports. The future is our youth and without them our sports are in danger. Teach them young and be patient.