Most of the advice we, and others, give concerning hunting with kids has the common refrain of “set the kid up for success.” I tell folks to lower their expectations when introducing hunting to a kid and make it an easy experience. But, there comes a time when the conditions may not be perfect for a comfortable hunt. If your kid is wanting to hunt, but conditions are harsh, it is time to take the gamble.
I was a gambling man Saturday morning. My son told me he wanted to come duck hunting at dinner Friday night. Looking at the weather, I knew the rain would let off around sunrise. The issue was that we needed to be set up an hour before sunrise. I figured this would be a good opportunity to add some discomfort in his plush Christmas break he relished the past two weeks.
With temperatures in the mid forties and a steady drizzle dimpling the swamp‘s surface, we paddled to our spot in the silent darkness. Honestly, those conditions are quite comfortable for duck hunting standards. One hunt this season, my friends glove fell in the water and froze solid and my Golden Retriever, Sage, had ice dreadlocks form while waiting for retrieves.
After a short paddle, we arrived at the spot and I began setting out the decoys while Paul curled up in the kayak. He was covered in waterproof clothing and was drier than me with a newly discovered hole in my waders.
Finishing up the decoy spread, I walked over and checked on Paul.
”Dad, can we go home?”, he asked.
I thought I lost the gamble. “Why?” I asked. “Are you wet?”
”No”, he said.
”I know you’re not hungry because I saw what you got at the gas station on the way out. What’s the matter?”, I queried to see if the discomfort was valid.
“I‘m all squished in this kayak.” He replied.
That was an easy fix. He was using about ten percent of the space available to him in the kayak. After I showed him all the room he had to move around, he was surprised and happy.
As the sun peaked through the clouds, the showers stopped and the ducks flew. We shot well for a couple ducks and poorly for the rest of the birds that flew in range. Sage was happy to get a couple of retrieves and Paul was happy to brag about “his” dog to the other hunters.
On the paddle back to the truck, Paul announced that duck hunting was fun and he was glad he went. That warmed my heart because the only thing worse than cold and wet, is cold, wet, and dark. He had waited in the chilly rain for an hour without complaining before sunrise, and still wanted to hunt ducks another time.
Every hunter can think of a memorable hunt that was worth the poor weather conditions. Hopefully, Paul will remember that it’s not the weather that makes a hunt good or bad, it’s the company. And as every duck hunter knows, “misery loves company.”