Introducing a young hunting buddy to the woods
Look through these pages on a regular basis, and you will see evidence that for many Mainers, taking up hunting or fishing is nearly a birthright. This week alone, I interviewed a pair of 12-year-olds who have been hunting since they were legally allowed to do so.
Yes, many grow up watching their dads gear up on opening day of hunting season and head afield, longing for the day when they are allowed to tag along. Lots of those kids begin their “hunting” careers by walking slowly in the footsteps of their dads or uncles, silently creeping through the woods.
Included in those early lessons: firearms safety, navigation and basic woodscraft.
That’s how many young hunters got involved in the activity to begin with.
I was not among those young hunters.
While I had a wonderful childhood and wouldn’t trade it for the world, my dad wasn’t a hunter. Come fall, I was more likely to be found throwing a football with friends or shooting hoops in the barn. I had relatives who hunted, but I never really understood the allure.
That came later, after I was an adult, and some good friends served as mentors and showed me what I had been missing.
In the ensuing years, I have loved those times afield and shared plenty of great adventures with that small group of friends. Rarely, however, have I had the chance to introduce others to hunting.
My own stepchildren, I figured, would let me know if they ever wanted to go. Careful not to push, I was always willing to explain how hunting works and why many of us love to spend days in the woods, looking for critters that rarely show up.
But year after year, when hunting season rolled around, I would head out the door alone to meet up with pals my own age.
This year, that all changed.
Unexpectedly, back in October my 15-year-old stepdaughter, Georgia, began a conversation with a phrase I never thought I would hear.
“What if I decided I wanted to go hunting?” she said.
I told her I would be happy to take her along and told her that the safety piece of the puzzle was the most important. Learning how to handle a firearm would come, eventually, but in the beginning, I might just ask her to walk with me, without a gun, to see if she really wanted to take the next steps toward becoming a hunter.
Georgia is a busy girl, and while she mentioned hunting a few more times as deer season kicked off, her schedule and mine never really matched up. On Monday, Nov. 12, a holiday, that changed.
“Wanna go hunting?” I said, thinking I was joking.
“Yup,” she said. “Let’s go. I’ll be your good luck charm. You’ll finally get your deer.”
With that, I gathered up some stray hunter orange clothing, told her to bundle up and found a second chair for my ground blind.
A hunting we would go.
Over the course of a few hours, I learned that the naturally talkative Georgia can actually keep quiet for a prolonged period. She was an attentive pupil, walking quietly, observing things I pointed out to her and keeping on the lookout for deer.
I would love to be able to tell you that Georgia changed my luck that day and that I finally shot a buck. Alas, I cannot.
I can tell you that she seemed to enjoy the experience, especially when she had the chance to try out various calls and spent a bit of time “clinking the antlers” together to simulate a buck battle. She even saw a glimpse of a red squirrel that has been annoying me all season.
And I can tell you that it was fantastic to have some company in the woods for a change.
No, the deer didn’t show up on Monday.
But neither of us complained. And I am sure we will get back out there again as soon as we can.
Fly-tying symposium set
If you are an avid fly tier or have always wanted to learn more about the activity, the Penobscot Fly Fishers are planning an event you will not want to miss.
The group’s annual Fly Tying Symposium will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s clubhouse on North Main Street in Brewer. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free.
What will you find at the symposium?
How about a roomful of some of the state’s top tiers, all of whom will be showing you techniques and materials with which you may not be familiar.
I have stopped by at several of the PFF’s symposiums and always am impressed by the tiers they assemble. An added benefit: If you stop by, I bet you can learn more about the club’s popular introduction to fly-tying classes, which typically start in January and always sell out.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.