October 2005
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

I am raising the perfect wife. Someday some young man is going to be very grateful to me or he is going to be very mad – only time will tell.

Just what am I talking about you may ask? I am talking about my daughter and the things we do together. She is ten years old and is my A-number one hunting partner. She has learned to sit for several hours on a deer stand without complaining; she is able to forgo the finer things in life, such as a toilet, in order to go hunting. She loves eating "hunting food," which is anything that comes in a can and can be eaten without cooking. Before she graduates high school she will be able to kill, clean and cook a deer. She and I watch all of the popular hunting shows and she appreciates a well-made shot whether it’s on a trophy buck or a management doe.

This young man that is in her future, she has already informed me, will be a deer hunter or he will hit the road. As I said, he will either be eternally grateful or he will despise me. He will be grateful because he will be allowed to go hunting as much as he wants, as long as he takes her with him. Even when she is unable or unwilling to go, he will still be appreciative because she will understand why he wants to go and, yes, he still loves her even though he is at hunting camp and she is at work. She will be able to enjoy the outdoors with him and they will be able to spend more time together. With some young men this might also cause some grief, at least I hope so.

The whole point of this rambling is to try to encourage everyone to take a child hunting when you go. My brother and I went hunting with my dad almost from the time we could walk. Of course, dad had his motives as well. Dad was a bird hunter and living in Wyoming for ten years gave him the opportunity to go pheasant hunting. Sometimes I think the only reason dad took us was because he couldn’t afford a bird dog. When you are pheasant hunting you have to put your boots into every single clump of anything around. Out west they have tumbleweeds and these weeds roll along in the wind until they are stopped by something, usually a fence. They pile up and become perfect pheasant cover. Dad would say, "Go on in there, boy and kick out a rooster."

And in I would go. I would hear the cackle of a male ringneck pheasant as he took to the air, hear the shot and finally emerge from the pile of tumbleweeds only to have dad tell me he missed. I am sure the look I gave him was the same look my lab would give me when I missed a dove.

Among my memories is the time we saw a Gold Eagle eating something and dad just had to find out what it was. Once again the old bird dog, me, was sent in to investigate. The eagle was dining on pheasant and he/she gave me quite a battle for the remains. It was worth it though because although the only thing left was some gristle and the legs, one of its feet was wearing a wildlife band and we called it in to the Wyoming Fish and Game Department.

When you take a child hunting, you will create memories that will last a lifetime. To this very day the smell of a bologna sandwich takes me back to cutthroat trout, beaver ponds and drinking water straight from the stream with my dad. I hope that someday when my daughter eats chocolate pudding, the smell and taste takes her back to the Conecuh County deer woods where we had to make a spoon from a tree limb so she could eat her snack on a deer hunt.

Remember though, when you take a small child hunting there are a few things you will have to accept as inevitable. As a matter of fact, plan on the following:

• You will be late.

• You will probably not kill any deer.

• You certainly will not kill a trophy

• You will always overestimate bladder size.

• You will answer a million questions.

• You will not have a quiet hunt.

• If you do manage to take a deer, you will be the greatest hunter in the world.

• Be prepared for an anatomy lesson if you have to clean a deer.

• You will never find the best spot for a bathroom.

• When you hear the words, "I want my mama," give up and go home.

Be prepared with snacks, coloring books, drawing paper and anything else you can think of to keep a child occupied.

When I look at it now, knowing how much trouble it is to take a child hunting it makes me appreciate even more going hunting with my father. Remember, fellow hunters, when you take your child or someone else’s, you are making memories that will last them the rest of their lives and they will forever remember the good times and what an adventure they had. As they grow older they will come to appreciate the time you spent with them that you didn’t have to. Hopefully, they too will become a hunter; but if they don’t, they will remember how special it is to go hunting and will remember it when it comes time to vote, donate or support hunting in some other way, and that is some real quality deer management.

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.