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Lesson from a Teenager

By Steve Van Ert

I started waterfowl hunting when I was seventeen and have continued to hunt for years since. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity though to take my own son out to share the joys I have experienced. So when I had the chance to take one of my high school students along with me last January, I was excited to share my expertise and maybe give him a memorable experience.  As I planned for this outing I thought of what it was like to go hunting at his age.

When I was seventeen I thought nothing about what I needed to be practical, much less comfortable, when hunting ducks.  All that was required at that time was my Winchester 1100 and a box of shells. If I had to break some ice to retrieve a couple of greenheads I would just jump up and go after them, run to the truck, turn the heater on and wait 15 minutes until I stopped dripping and then return for the next round. But I am no longer 17 and I should be wiser.

It felt like a warm day. The sun was out and the temps were up in the high 30’s. Ice still covered a large portion of the pond but we could hear it cracking amongst the cackling of geese. After determining our prey’s location, we devised our strategy. We would crawl up the side of the bank on the southern slope, listen for a minute to confirm the location of what we just knew were to be big, beautiful, fat Canadians, and then expertly target our prizes.  Unfortunately that’s where our planning ended.

I can’t believe I had thought of everything about this hunt except for one detail; how we were going to retrieve any birds we shot on the ice.  How could I leave out that detail? I am supposed to be wiser. Well, you can guess where are all of our birds were that day when we jumped up and unloaded our guns. Yep, four Canadians and one Mallard all on the ice forty-five to sixty yards away. Now all we had to do was go get them.

   Sure, I knew it was colder than earlier this season when I went in after some birds, but I was going to show the kid what it meant to be tough. How bad could it be? I used to jump in without even thinking about it. Besides, I didn’t want to this kid to have the chance to jump right in, grab the birds and show up the old man. That was it; my ego was at stake. Freezing water would be no match for me! Yeah, right. I made it out about 40 yards when I felt my heart pounding, cramping in my legs and my breath getting shallow. Crap! I’m going to die out here! I came to my senses (wimped out), turned around and headed for shore as fast as I could.

Of course my partner, who never even considered going after them, was laughing hysterically as he videoed the whole thing. He then called one of his buddies. I sat dripping and shaking, humiliated while he recounted the story to his buddy. I came to learn later that he had his friend standing by with his dog the whole time. The boys continued to laugh as they watched the video over and over again while the Golden Lab effortlessly retrieved our birds. I entered our hunt results, some pictures and a very important note into My Duck Log app. The note? Just a few old familiar words: “Prepare or Die”. I guess it just goes to show that being older doesn’t make you any smarter.  At least I accomplished what I set out to do that day; I gave that kid an experience he’ll never forget.