November 04, 2010
By Steve Sukut
When kids are too proud to be carried, offer them a piggyback ride.
By Steve Sukut
My nephew Randall Lasar and I celebrate the taking of this doe. In order to protect bowhunting for future generations, we need to involve our youth
in outdoor activities.
"Uncle Steve!" the boy shouted, jabbing a trembling finger at the deer 12 feet away. The little guy was breathing hard and was about to bellow again, so I reached down, tapped his shoulder, and winked when he looked up at me.
I was very proud of him. A dedicated and enthusiastic chatterbox, Randall had managed to keep quiet for almost 45 minutes, long enough for him to get an eyeball full of the results of a deer push. That was pretty good for a 3 1/2-year-old.
The morning had started on a frustrating note for me. Wind direction was exactly opposite of what had been forecast, and when I climbed into my treestand before dawn, I could tell I was wasting my time. A heavily used trail ran 15 yards out in front of me, and my scent stream was aimed directly at it. I've gambled on these situations before and invariably have lost.
It was too late to go anywhere else, so I bailed out and went home, getting there in plenty of time for morning coffee with my wife, Kae. We were watching my nephew Randall while his mom and dad were vacationing. So when he wandered down from the guest bedroom, I was ready for him.
"Hey, buddy!" I said. "Do you want to go hunting with me and Aunt Kae?"
"Okay," he said tentatively.
Wanting to make this as easy as possible, we went to a patch of woods where I had pushed whitetails successfully in the past. After we'd checked the wind, Kae headed toward the upwind end to push the deer while Randall and I hiked off to a bottleneck on the downwind end.
This took a while. Randall had a stride of about 10 inches, and he was not keen on the idea of being carried. So I let him walk beside me for the first 200 yards. When he started to play out, I asked him if he wanted a piggyback ride. That was different from being carried, so he gave me the nod.
When it comes to outdoors sports, we seem to be losing our youth these days. As older hunters die or become physically unable to hunt, young people are not filling their empty shoes. Many diversions like Xbox's, Wii's, and other video and computer games keep them inside, and they develop no interest in the joys of outdoor living.
In addition, life for parents in the early 21st Century has become so demanding that the most precious of assets -- time -- has become so scarce that busy parents have no spare time to expose children to the outdoor lifestyle.
I believe that all human beings carry a live, burning ember inside, a sometimes forgotten instinct to hunt. If we are to turn declining hunter numbers around and develop leaders who understand the natural world, we must fan this ember into a flame. In short, when we get a chance to take a kid hunting, we had better jump on it.
Normally, when I'm on the receiving end of a one-on-one whitetail push, I quickly set up a treestand that enables me to see the deer coming and to draw my bow without being noticed. With Randall along, I figured we'd better stay on Mother Earth. He was too little to understand gravity yet, and his well-being was more important than my success. As an alternative, I backed us up against a gnarly old ash tree, placed a good-sized fallen branch in front of us, and hoped for the best.
Before long, the first deer started our way. Two small bucks trotted down a path 35 yards away, a long shot in the riverbottom woods, and several fast-moving does followed the bucks. Then a mature doe appeared, following the trail as the other deer. But then she paused and accommodatingly turned and bounced toward us, stopping broadside at 15 yards when she noticed the two oddly-shaped lumps backed up against an old ash tree.
My arrow struck home, and she crashed off.
I looked down at Randall to gauge his reaction. His eyes were wide as he stared in the direction the doe had run, moving his lips as he silently talked to himself. He was doing great at staying quiet.
But when some more deer showed up and stopped practically in our laps, Randall lost his cool and started yelling. Sensory overload had got the best of him. But how could I fault him? He had stayed quiet for 45 minutes!
When Kae showed up, we took up the short-and-easy blood trail. Randall wasn't too sure what to think for a while, but soon his natural curiosity took over, and for the next half-hour he peppered us with questions. "Why is that deer lying there? What's that red stuff?
Did you shoot any more? Does your mom let you watch cartoons? Do you like SpongeBob SquarePants?"
And finally, "That was a good shot, Uncle Steve! Can we do this again?"
You bet we can, buddy. Any and every time you want.
The author and his young nephew hail from Glasgow, Montana.