Ah, Youth Waterfowl weekend… Can mean any number of things from year to year. For one, it’s a free day to spend a bit of “quiet” time with one or the both of my kids. Preferably one at a time. And, for the record, I use the phrase “quiet time” very, very loosely.
It also gives me a chance to work with them individually on safety, skills, conservation, and any number of a million other things I want them to know but are too busy to teach once the season is “on” – at which point all critical and necessary learning is expected to be done strictly via osmosis and casual observation.
Yeah, I know, not the best “dad” sometimes…
I can, admittedly, get a little intense when it comes to those uber-passionate things that I hold dearest. Clearly, my children are at the top of that list, but so is my time out of doors. Sometimes the reckless mixing of these things causes mental malfunction, intensity overload, etc., and must be carefully calculated and finely tuned.
Thus it gives me time to focus on THEM during this one weekend, and not so much on decoys & blinds, water levels & migration patterns, whether or not we shoot limits, or what choke is required for the day’s wind and setup.
The “critical” questions, even as my kids both enter teen years, still evolve around “remembering the hot chocolate and cookies”, what songs can daddy effectively emulate on the duck call, and will Oompa Loompas REALLY appear from over the damn if I play the Willy Wonka song on my duck call. Shooting ducks is such a tertiary component of taking the kids out on this one weekend; THEIR weekend.
You see, next weekend will be MINE, and they will be expected to be quiet, still, calm, etc… but this one… it gets to be about them, about driving the Jeep through the pasture, shooting at hedgeapples, and asking as many “what-ifs” as they want. Seriously, unlimited “what-ifs”. And they do.
So Saturday was the boy’s day. We saw a couple groups, but the excitement really was the Daddy Duck Call DJ session. And the fact that he got to use – no shots occured, but just the thought of USING, holding, MY Beretta… HIS gun for the day. This counted as a highlight, right there along with the Oompa Loompas. No, I did not make that up. And, fortunately, no amount of Willy Wonka on the duck call brought in any Oompa Loompas from behind the damn. And no man-eating cows came a-nibbling on us either. Temps were cool, the morning was pleasant, and we laughed until our stomachs hurt before picking up and letting him drive the Jeep through the pasture. A very good time that involved very little “hunting” – yet a very positive experience in the right environment.
Sunday was daughter time. This one is always a bit more intense – hate to admit, but she’s a bit too much like her dad, which makes her feel like she has to perform, has to do well, has to accomplish something to make me happy. We spent our time that morning having this very discussion, with me trying to convince her that this philosophy of hers could not be further from the truth, and in the end, this is all about getting away from stress and concern and weight of the world. She is going to have plenty of that ahead of her in the “real world”; let’s keep these moments for ourselves, to share with each other.
In the mean time, we did have a pair of Blue Wings pay a visit, and circled several times, even after being shot at twice by her, and eventually still settled in the middle of the pond, untouched and unharmed, minds made up that they wanted to be here despite the raucous…
I struggle sometimes between my role as a parent and an intense outdoors enthusiast. Part of me wants to understand why they aren’t borderline psychotic duck-a-holics like I was at their age and younger; the other part of me knows that creating a safe environment – free of stress, homework or grades or chores or peer pressure at school, something that lives separately and apart from everything else they deal with every day – is the way to help them find the same kind of peace and tranquility in the outdoors that I do.
I can’t control to what degree they “take” to the art of, the technicalities, the mechanics, the biology, the analysis, and on and on of waterfowling, or any other outdoor pursuit, for that manner. No matter how much I want to, or wish I could, I just can’t force that. They may one day embrace it all with vigor, and ooze the same feathery passion for wildfowling that I do. And they may not. But what I can control is this. I can continue to create opportunities. I can make sure that if all they want to do is spend time with their Dad, sitting next to a lake drinking hot chocolate and laughing too loud for a duck to come in, and that is what they remember years from now… I’ll be the first to find a “time and a place” for that. In fact, I’ll even take requests on the duck call.
Youth waterfowl weekend was just that.