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The New Kid

Bill Adelman, author photo, myoutdoorbuddy.com

By Bill Adelman
02/16/15 -- My son Steve had been introduced to many types of hunting during his formative years. The one that stuck was waterfowling. His unrelenting dedication to being the best he can be is outstanding, covering every base with minute detail and his addiction to chasing birds is legendary. After years of fighting the refuges, his core group decided to join a club and set up their own blind. The amount of work is staggering, however, my favorite is the “golden carpet”. Bales of hay were scattered on the levee from the quad parking area directly to the holes, a distance of about 300 yards. No matter the weather, sloshing in the mud while walking out in the dark is a thing of the past.

The hunters have an agreement that if spots are available or no one is hunting on a particular day, guests are welcome, as long as all is kept in prime condition. Steve and his wife invested in a family pet, Stella, who doubles as a duck retriever. One of Steve’s guests this season was Stella’s breeder and his teenage son. Another was a friend and his young son. The pattern here is the desire to introduce newbies to waterfowling.

Man and his dog, with a teenage hunter, photo by Jack
Steve, Stella and Brandon, photo by Jack

My hunting buddy, Jack, who had never hunted ducks, has a 15 year old son, Brandon, who just passed his safety training and got his hunting license, however had yet to go hunting. Even though Jack and Steve had yet to meet, a favor was offered to my son. To reciprocate, Steve offered to take them on the junior hunt after the regular season had closed. Plans were set in motion.

Brandon hidden by the golden carpet, photo by Jack
Brandon hidden by the golden carpet, photo by Jack

They met at Rocco’s in Colusa on Friday evening, then headed to Princeton for what surely would be an almost sleepless night for the kid. In the yard, in the dark, Steve gave Brandon some “shooting” lessons, mounting the borrowed Benelli, discussing hand/eye coordination, leading the passing target and taking the faux shot. Head down, cradle the stock with your cheek, lead and then lead some more. When the guys reached the parking lot at oh-dark-thirty the sound of ducks on the water was unmistakable. Load the quad and git to gittin. The golden carpet walk, the adjusting of dekes along with activating the motion floaters was followed by more instruction in the blind. As shooting time was finally realized, the ducks had returned.

Brandon displaying ducks, Stever working in background, photo by Jack
Brandon displaying, Steve working, photo by Jack

The communication between mentor and student was non stop and after filling the air with steel, a widgeon bit the dust, or more accurately, hit the water. Both newbs were totally impressed with Stella. More shooting resulted in a few flying tail feathers, thus more discussion re: lead them a bit more. As the morning advanced towards snack and coffee time, a hen pintail took the plunge, followed by a spoonie and a bull sprig. After every shot, Steve reminded, reload and safety on. Other than lead, the most discussed factor was gun safety.

Jack, Stella & Brandon, photo by Steve
Jack, Stella & Brandon, photo by Steve

A lunch break was in order. Back to the house, a bit of faux practice and rest followed and the guys quaded out for the evening hunt. Brandon seemed a bit more relaxed and confident, however many attempts still only scared a duck from behind, until finally one was on the strap. All in all the day ended on a positive note with the lesson, the success and the experience lighting up Brandon and he now wants to be a duck hunter, the somewhat painful black and blue right shoulder notwithstanding.

Dawn sun while hunting, photo by Jack
The best part of duck hunting, dawn, photo by Jack

On Sunday morning the birds had all but disappeared, with the success being but one more duck. Steve was filled with a quiet satisfaction, Brandon was overjoyed with the experience and Jack was a very proud and grateful Dad. The guys assisted in the final blind cleanup of the season and the drive home was a remembrance of the hunt. Steve told me later that it was a real pleasure mentoring the new kid on the block. Not a bad result for his first hunting adventure.

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer, seminar speaker and hunting mentor.

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