Kids say the darndest things, while hunting

Truly one of the joys of life, and one of our duties as men, is to introduce children to the outdoors. I was absolutely blessed as a child to have parents and grandparents who loved the outdoors. Growing up in Southwest Kansas in a farming and ranching community was an idyllic childhood. My grandparents were best friends and their favorite hobby was trout fishing. Surprised about trout fishing in Kansas? I would be too, there aren’t any trout.  But, from Southwest Kansas the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado beckon only four hours away.

At any time, I can think back to watching my grandfather’s, Wilber and Jess, casting a fly into the Cimarron River of New Mexico or the Roaring Fork in Colorado. They laughed forever about a day on the Roaring Fork when I was about 6 years old. A huge pine had fallen into the river. You could walk out onto the trunk to where the tree’s roots had made a dandy little pool in the middle of the rushing river. About a half dozen trout floated in a circle surrounding the fly I was so happy to offer. They seemed mesmerized but refused to bite. I don’t know how long I sat there in that “Roaring Fork Standoff”. Grandpa Jess hollered, “time to get back to camp it’s gonna get dark”. The six-year old at the end of the log, in the middle of the river, shouted back, “I’m not leaving this log until I catch a damn fish!” My Grandpas thought that was hilarious, my mom not so much.

My children Matt and Katie accompanied me one day on a spring turkey hunt in Southeastern Kansas. Rock Creek, flowing through the Flint Hills, is beautiful and has some excellent deer and turkey hunting. Sneaking silently through the woods with my then 9-year old son and 4-year old daughter, just kidding. Silently through the woods with small children never happens. I was amazed we came upon a flock of turkeys pecking around in an open meadow. There was a creek beside the meadow which provided great cover to sneak within 75-yards. I stealthily crawled up and placed a decoy in sight of the flock, then we set up to call. I began with my go-to box call. A few sets of incredible yelps and, nothing. I switched to my slate call, put some emotion into it and, nothing. They didn’t even look my way. I then pulled out the real deal, a mouth diaphragm. I looked over at the kids. Matt was sound asleep. Katie was looking at me, totally unimpressed. About half way through the first calling sequence Katie, loudly said, “Dad, face it, they know you’re not a turkey!”  Obviously, she was correct. I did get a turkey later that season. Only because Matt was tired of walking and wanted to stop and rest. As I was sitting on a log a flock just happened to walk by. At the shot I about scared Matt to death because he was, of course, asleep.

A miracle happened this year for us in Oklahoma, we actually found a deer lease. It happened about the end of August so being wrapped up in preparation for elk hunting we spent little time in the field. Threw up a few stands in likely places and were pleasantly surprised with the number of deer seen. Another first was my youngest son Jack, age 8, deciding he was ready to join the hunt. We crawled into the 2-man ladder stand and seemed like it was going to work well. Of course, there was ample coaching on stay still, don’t move at all if deer are seen, don’t talk, don’t do this, don’t do that. I’m sure he was thinking, I thought this would be fun, I must have thought wrong.

Taking a break from coaching I looked up to see a buck about 50 yards away. Jack, there’s a deer. It was a decent 8-pointer, he meandered around a little then moved away from us. 50 yards is about twice the distance I would shoot with my recurve so the deer was safe. As I was telling Jack he had done an excellent job he said, Dad there’s a bigger one. Sure enough, a larger buck was in the same local as the previous one, unfortunately he continued on the same trek and out of sight. 15 minutes later a half dozen deer appeared, and they were headed towards us. They turned out to be does that eventually passed on both sides of our tree. Jack did an outstanding job of being still and quiet. I turned with a big grin ready to encourage him about a job well done. He sat there frowning with a look of utter disgust on his face. What’s the matter?

Why didn’t you shoot? Jack, they were just small does. In a forceful tone he said, Dad, size doesn’t matter, just shoot something! The next weekend I let my son Matt sit in that stand, knowing his compound had significantly more range. Jack and I sat in a stand a 100- yards away. A half hour into the evening a buck suddenly materialized from nowhere, coming from a direction I didn’t expect. Dad, do you see him? Yes! Then I realized he was a decent 8-point. A little stunned I also realized he was standing 30 yards away broadside. By the time my mind registered, this is a shot you can make, he was moving. Stop, stop I was thinking, but of course he didn’t. What he did do was go into the trees then come back out a couple of times and meander everywhere around us except in range. In my infancy of partner hunting with Jack, once again I turned to say, wasn’t that cool! He gave me the same look as before and said, what’s your excuse this time!

Men, one of the most important things you can do is introduce a child to the wonder of the outdoors and the thrill of the hunt. But, be prepared to hear anything. Perhaps even a little constructive criticism. Because kids say the darndest things while hunting!

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