Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hunter Education

My favorite and best test to this date is still my Hunter’s Safety Test, that was back in 1968. It is now known as Hunter's Education and encompasses a great deal more. I can still remember my excitement and enthusiasm when I learned that I had passed with a 98% grade, only missing one question. Over the next several years I hunted numerous species of birds, and learned to drive on the dikes with my dad. All the evenings and days I spent studying were about to pay off in ways beyond my imagination and thus become a lifelong passion.

I was given a beautiful double 410 shotgun that Fall as an early Christmas present. My dad bought it at Abercrombie and Fitch in New York City back when that was, the outdoor store of hunting and fishing. Before they became the generation" X and Y” store of modern day. The 410 is the smallest bore in the shotgun class of firearms and I had a lot of firsts with it. It could except 3” shells, had auto eject, double triggers and soon I became proficient at reloading. It had fine point checkering, straight grip, beautiful scroll engraving and a Pachmayr recoil pad. I was so excited to start hunting with my dad.

Hunting season began September 1st. with Morning Doves. The weather was hot in the late afternoons and evenings in S.W. Oregon. The pungent smell of Star Thistle wafted through the air as summer began yielding to fall. We hunted a rolling pasture with a small creek cutting through the lower end. Tall Poplars and Willows lined the creek, giving us a place to ambush our prey. As we walked to our posts, our ankles showed the price of admission as the Star Thistles drew blood on our ankles and lower legs. A half hour before sunset is when we saw the most activity as the doves came fora drink just prior to roosting for the night. Doves came in fast with their typical darting and erratic flight. I followed them intensely with my little s/s 410 shotgun. Blazing away with 3" # 7 shot I was thrilled as I began hitting a few. My dad was an excellent shot and garnered a limit of 10 birds. I was just as pleased with my first 2 Doves and building confidence with each subsequent hunt. The thought of attaining a whole limit in one evening was exciting to me and a challenge I had now undertaken.

Come October we walked the cornfields with stalks towering over my head. We were in search of the Ring Necked Pheasant in all their magnificent plumage. Though I recall great frustration in the fact I was dwarfed by the cornstalks. Making it almost impossible for me to see the bird. Not to mention the difficulty with walking, as the Southern Oregon clay was building up on the soles of my boots with each step. October also meant the opening of waterfowl season. This opener, more than the others was something very special. It didn’t take me long to understand just what that was. We were up well before daylight and in the field before dawn broke. My dad set out the decoys in the shallow flooded field and we hunkered in on the face of the dike. We covered up in camo tarps and brush as we heard the first whistling wings take a pass over our decoys. The magic had begun and my eyes were the size of saucers.

The light was faint and my eyes strained looking for what my ears were hearing. A few minutes passed and there they were, Mallards, Pintails, Widgeon and Gadwalls. Not just a few, but hundreds all flying in sync and jabbering amongst themselves. I was amazed and speechless. I don’t remember how many ducks we got that morning, only that my world just got a lot more exciting. I was becoming a player in the annual change of seasons. Interacting with nature and wildlife in ways that were yet to be discovered as my young life unfolded.

My dad taught me about ethics in the field and making the right choices. Not so much in a dialogue but more so through his actions. He was a man of few words and was respected amongst his peers for his honesty and integrity. As a young girl I loved to be with my dad doing anything and felt immense pride to be his daughter. He was able to reassure me more than once that, whatever I was inclined to pursue he was in support of regardless of social gender views. No doubt being the only girl in the field and toting a Belgium side-by-side 410 there was plenty of interest and camaraderie that followed. Nowadays I shoot a Beretta 20 ga. O/U and have, since the mid 80’s. So far we seem to be doing just fine, knocking down our share of big Honkers and fast flying Pheasants. I had no idea that passing the hunters safety test would lead me to a lifelong passion of hunting.

Women's Hunting Journal
Integrity For The Hunt


Wandering Owl said...

Nice story, Terry! I think I'm inheriting a double barrel 410 from my dad. It is a work of beauty, but I've never taken it out to shoot. I was wanting to do a post this squirrel season with it, but never got around to it.

I hope my kids feel about me the way you do about your dad taking you hunting. I've taken mine, but they hardly go anymore. Sometimes they show an interest. At least I try!

Blessed said...

You tell a good story Terry. Passing the Hunter's Safety test really did open all kinds of doors for me - but I think I've learned more from my husband about ethical and safe hunting than I did in that class. I'm thankful that I had someone who was willing to take me under their wing and teach me a few things about hunting rather than just having to go out and discover it all on my own.

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