I don’t know if Waterfowlers are born or made. Of course it takes an introduction to the outdoors and those stories and heritage is what waterfowling is all about. But I also think that a small part of it you’re born with. When my son Tyler started tagging along with me in the blind he was 5 years old. I was very careful where and when I chose to bring him. December in Kansas is unbelievable for greenheads but can be brutal weather and no place for a 5-year-old.
So, I tried to make sure I got him out early for some teal seasons and those early mixed bag hunts which are always fun. I did not see it in him right away although he always jumped at the chance when I asked him if he wanted to go but on this last Sunday during youth season I saw something in him and I knew that he had been watching me and learning from me without me really ever knowing I was teaching.
As any waterfowler knows half the fun is the preparation, when I told him last week we were going on a solo youth hunt he asked every night when we were going to start getting ready. It was just him hunting so our spread was pretty minimal but he wanted to touch everything leading up to the hunt.
He helped rig each decoy, he wanted to clean his gun, he laid out his clothes and gear and I just could not wipe the smile off my face leading up to the hunt. It just flooded me with memories where I would not sleep at all the night before because I was so excited. When the alarm clock went off at 5:00 AM he was up and ready to roll. Of course we had to make a stop first for powdered donuts.
We got set up a bit late; we hunted in a marsh with buck brush so we took our time with him wading out in the water. We had kicked a lot up going through the marsh that morning so I knew he was going to have his chances.
It was 38 degrees, and here he is standing in 12 inches of water and his eyes were glued to the sky. We did not really think about it but it was a really difficult setup for a kid and I just kept asking him repeatedly if he was ok, are you comfortable, are you cold, and then it happened!
We had worked a few ducks in the morning but this one Gadwall wanted in bad, we had no wind so he wanted to get behind us and come in over the top of. I tried to keep one eye on this duck and one eye on Tyler but then my attention quickly turned to Tyler and I was in shock.
He knelt down a little, he peeked through the holes in the blind to catch this duck behind us, then as the duck got on top of us he leaned way back, put his face down, got in the shadow of this old blind and grabbed his gun at just the right time without anyone telling him to do anything. I knew right then, yeah he was ok, he was better than ok, he was a waterfowler!