Sharing a hunt with young hunters has lasting payback for seasoned outdoorsmen
New Year’s Day early morning was moving along on a northwest wind that was not intense, but certainly steady. At 5:30 in the morning the sky was dark, but to the east some patches of a slightly lighter sky promised the sun was on the way, even if it would be awhile till it rose.
The night before had seen some light rain, and with temperatures in the high 30s there was assurance that a nearby flooded field would be free of ice.
Five of us met that morning behind the barns of the farm where we intended to hunt ducks and geese. Three of us were veterans of this spot, older hunters who found New Year’s Eve just another night to head to bed early for a following morning hunt.
There was a difference, however, in that we invited two younger hunters to join us to hunt this morning, taking them along to a place they had never hunted before.
We gathered together, grabbed decoys — mostly of Canada geese, but some mallards — loaded a homemade cart with the fakes and headed down a muddy lane to reach the swamped corner of a large field of grass.
The cart was pulled to the edges of the shallow water. We all pitched in with the spreading of upright goose decoys — plenty of those — two dozen goose floaters and another dozen of floating mallard fakes.
The cart was hidden, and we all moved to a nearby fencerow that was overgrown with vines and multiflora rose. With extra time on our hands, we enjoyed mutual hunting conversation, especially the high school aged boys who spoke proudly of their deer hunting adventures and success.
With ten minutes till legal shooting time, we showed the boys where they would stand and hide along the fence row when time to conceal themselves came. We reminded them to be safe with their guns, and their shooting direction.
With knowledge of hunts a couple of days prior, we older hunters knew early morning ducks would land quickly out of gun range. To adjust to this, we sent the two young hunters, along with a more senior one, to kneel amongst the standing goose decoys along the water’s edge in hopes of being in range. Another senior member with his young retriever, and myself, stayed back along the overgrown fence.
About five minutes after legal time four ducks pitched directly into the water. It was still dark under cloudy skies, and everyone was unable to determine the sex of the ducks, which were mallards. It really didn’t matter, because where they landed was too far for shooting anyway.
The ducks remained, as did the three hunters kneeling in the goose spread. But about 10 minutes later three more ducks appeared. They circled a few times, got close enough for shooting, and two dropped. The boys had a hen and drake mallard between them.
Everyone then repositioned at the fencerow. Soon, distant honking was heard. A small flock of geese was enticed to come closer by some seasoned callers. When they circled close enough, “take ‘em” was called. Four fell, and the young dog had a busy time retrieving the huge fowl.
Over the next hour or so, more geese came. Some passed us by, but eventually a limit of 10 between us was taken.
As we cleaned up, it was easy to read the excitement the younger guys experienced. Their chatter was rapid, smiles aplenty across their fasces. They had hunted geese and ducks before, but had never been close to the exhilaration and joy they were part of that morning.
The spirits of the older hunters rose also. I know between the three of us, watching and listening to young hunters full of energy and enjoyment, pushed our own level of vigor and attitude a bit higher.
The boys could not thank us enough, and it was refreshing to be with young people who enjoyed this morning so thoroughly. The truth is, we owed them a bit of thanks too, because there’s no doubting youthful exuberance is contagious.