...and shoot, and shoot, and shoot. In late September, Kabe and I went looking for a big fat Mallard Drake to pluck and roast for one of our Holiday gatherings (have you seen the price of an organic raised duck in the market??? Sheeese!). Colorado, like many states, offers a chance for youth hunters to hunt a few days before the regular season opens. It's an effort to attract folks to the sport of hunting and get them the chance to have a high opportunity for success. And hunter numbers are important whether you hunt, believe in hunting, or just like wildlife.
The way our wildlife management is set-up in the US is that hunters, almost solely, pay for managing wildlife. Your tax dollars don't. Plane and simple: hikers, climbers, bikers, bird watchers, campers, and trail runners don't fund wildlife - state wildlife agencies that manage species like Elk and Grouse also manage species like Herons and Preeble's Jumping Mice. Through a special tax on hunting equipment and the license fees hunters pay to help all sorts of species. So keeping hunting, across generations, is paramount to keeping a funding stream for the science and enforcement and habitat enhancements needed to support wildlife.
Back to the story.
Leaving the house at 5am, when you know you have hockey practice later in the day, is a little daunting for a 10 year old (he negotiated away from a 4:30am leave time). We set-up on a marsh in the middle of a State Wildlife Area (bought with hunter's dollars) and within a few moments the first ducks of the morning had ripped the air above our heads and landed just outside of range.
It was a good morning. Makabe learned that to hunt is to shoot and to shoot and to shoot and that going hunting and seeing game and getting shots does not mean that you'll be coming home with much to share. 18 shots later and dozens of views of twisting ducks, we were duckless, but wiser. The gift of these youth hunts is that the adult can't hunt. We coach. And in that experience I felt more akin to my Dad. I found myself using similar lines, "Are you aiming or just shooting holes in the clouds?", laughing, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder as we talked. For Kabe, it was fun and disappointing all at the same time. His Mom calls these feelings, "Double-dip Emotions". Mostly, in my experience, I find that it's what it feels like to hunt.