Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Lessons for the Sportsman in training.
When I was a kid, my Grandfather used to spend several months at our home and in the Summer we would spend a few weeks at his place on the lake. We did a lot of fishing in those days and I learned much of what I know about the outdoors, hunting,fishing, and camping from this Old School gentleman Sportsman. My Grandfather spent the leisure time of his life chasing deep sea tuna, walking fields for pheasant and Hemlock groves for Grouse,training his dogs, fly-fishing, participating in the occassional Crap game and following Baseball and the horses.
When I was about 7 my Grandfather and I had a ritual. When he was putting me to bed, we would play a sort of game directed at preparing for a hunting or camping trip. He would ask: "What is the first thing we need to pack?" I would reply: "Our guns" or "A tent"...and the game would progress until we had each mentioned all the gear we needed to go fishing or hunting or camping...right down to the frying pan, matches, extra socks,tent stakes,shotgun shells and playing cards. He would always remark: "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it." This was his philosphy for gearing up for an outing. I realize now he was preparing me for my own adventures in the Field.
My son is 13 and when he was about 8 this set of lessons came back to me in crystaline memory and I was aware I needed to teach him similar lessons in my own way. One afternoon we were getting ready to go to the Hunting Club for a Dove shoot in mid-September. My boy was ready to carry his own gun in the Field under my supervision.I had been teaching him gun handling and shooting with a youth model hammer action .410 single barrel. He was quite handy and safe with this gun and was breaking tons of clay pigeons whenever he got the chance to shoot with me.
As we were loading my Jeep I told Joey, who was bouncing around with anticipatory excitment, to make sure he got his gun from the cabinet, put it in it's case, and grab a box of shells. That was the only time I mentioned it and we went about our packing. I was certain he was going to forget his gun amidst all his 8 year old excitement, clowning and lack of focus. When he was back in the house I quickly grabbed his gun and hid it under the back seat.
The next morning after feeding the dogs and eating breakfast, we began to get our things ready to head to the Sunflower patch where we would wait for the morning flight of Doves. I carefully removed my .20 ga. Beretta from its case and put 2 boxes of shells on the table. I then asked Joey to get his gun so I could load it onto the ATV we were going to ride to the Field. His young face was immediately gripped by an expression of horror and doom as he realized he had not paid attention to my instructions and forgot his gun. I asked him if he remembered his gun as I had told him. He uttered a faint and choked "No" and looked as if he may loose a few tears. I told him about how my Grandfather and I went over the things we needed and always had the right gear when we took to the Field. I also told him that he was going to have to sit with me in the Field without a gun since he had failed to listen to me and forgotten his. He was crestfallen and sullenly went outside with the screen door banging behind him.
I took this opportunity to go to the Bunkroom and get his gun from under the bed where I had secreted it the night before when we arrived at the Cluhouse. When I came outside Joey was sitting on the ATV with a frown petting our dog Archie. I pulled his .410 from behind my back and said: "I guess your glad I remembered your gun?" His face changed from a frown to a smile in an instant. As I handed him his gun I said: "Always remember how terrible you felt today when you realized you were here to hunt and forgot your gun. Next time you will not forget the important things. Someday I may not be around to remember for you." Joey replied: "Thanks Dad, I won't forget again."
In the photos above Joey is piloting a boat on Upper Saranac Lake after fishing and displaying his catch. He carefully organized his tackle box before each fishing excursion with the precision of a professional. He is also pictured sitting in the Dove field with me this year when he made a nice crossing shot with his new .20 ga Browning...the water skiing shot is random but one of my favorites. The shot with me and my dog Archie is last New Year's eve day when we had a successful Goose hunt on a cold snowy morning in the corn fields at the Hunting Club.