This past year, my wife decided to give hunting a try. We picked her up a bow last summer and she practiced all year long. At times, my patience was tested, but it was all worth it in the end. She wasn't able to harvest her first archery whitetail, but the time we spent together in the woods will be in my memories the rest of my life. Bringing her into the "archery world" not only gave me the benefit and enjoyment of sharing experience in the woods, but also helped me step back and look at my hunting skills.
For a person who has shot a bow for 10 years, its difficult to explain the process of drawing, holding, and releasing. Something that seems second nature to me was completely foreign to her. By having to break everything down step by step, it helped me analyze my shot sequence and some parts that were lacking. I scoured the internet looking for articles on form and quickly located hours worth of information. This not only helped introduce her to the sport, but also opened my eyes to some new ideas as well.
We had originally planned on trading off the bow and camera every other hunt, but I quickly became obsessed with her shooting her first deer. I wanted to be there with her to share the experience and capture it on film. I had no problem with forfeiting my hunt in order for her to get the opportunity. Early season was unseasonably warm and key early season acorns were nearly non-exisitent. I had hoped to find a loaded oak that we could sit near and harvest something early in October, but that oak could not be found. As the month went on, and the temps finally started to cool, a new problem arose: staying warm. It's hard for a man to understand, but temperatures that are comfortable for us, aren't for someone younger or smaller. Mornings that seemed perfect to me, were freezing to her. As the temperatures started to drop and the hunting start to improve, she began to lose interest in fighting the cold. This allowed me to get my chance at hunting, but it just wasn't the same with out her in the tree with me.
Luckily, in the spring, the temps are warmer and gobblers are hammering. This past spring was her first season hunting turkeys. She was able to put the hammer down on her first gobbler of her young hunting career and I was alongside with the camera to capture on film. This was the most memorable experience of my life. I seriously think that I was more excited than her! I would trade getting to shoot an animal for seeing her do it anytime. I always come home talking about how interactive, exciting, yet sometimes disappointing turkey hunting is and she was able to finally experience it first hand.
This past year was also my first attempt at chasing snow geese over the fields of central Illinois. My parents have a young man who lives a few miles down that road that is probably more obsessed with hunting that I am. He's only 11, but has a passion for the outdoors that rivals all the hardcore hunters out there. He has been out with his dad numerous times chasing deer and geese over the past few years, but is always wanting more. This past season, he harvested his first Canada goose and spike buck during Illinois' shotgun season in November. I asked him to come along with us this past spring on some snow goose hunts. Not only would it be great opporunity to get him out of his mom's hair, but also chance to get him in the outdoors more. He also lives near
the area we were planning to hunt. I live over an hour away and knowing where the geese are and when they are there is vital to snow goose success. With him there, we were able to get daily reports on where the geese were. He was so into it that he demanded his mom take him on a "scouting drive" in the evenings
after he would get home from school.
Goose hunting is totally new to me, but he had been quite a few times. I was amazed at how much knowledge an 11 year old could have. He taught me tons on behavior and what to expect. At first, it was hard to beleive what he was saying, but time after time, he would call out how they would react and where
would approach from. On a snowy, windy morning, shortly after finishing up setting decoys up and crawling in our blinds, he said they should come in real low and be in our face quick due to the low visibility. At first light, as the e-caller was blarring, we began to hear a flock of geese, but were unable to locate them due to the falling snow. He started screaming "front, front, front"! Just as he predicted, we had hundreds of snows right in our lap and locking up into the decoys. Not an hour ago, he knew exactly how they would be flying that day: low and fast. These birds didn't want to be in the air and were looking for a group to meet up with. Not only was it great to be able to take him out and hunt, but it was also a real eye opener for me. I never would have thought I could learn so much from someone so young.
If you are planning on introducing someone new to world of hunting I would suggest to start off in a high traffic area where the chances of seeing deer are good. Someone who is new to the sport will lost interest quickly if there is nothing going on. It's a lot like taking a youngster fishing. Start off on a small farm pond where you can lay into a bunch of panfish. When hunting, stay on a field edge where you can see a large area and chances are good you will see something.
Taking a child or spouse into the woods is not only a rewarding experience, but can also help a seasoned hunter learn something new. Having to break down aspects of the sport that seem second nature can help you realize something you've been missing. Many times, I put too much thought into what the deer are going to do and over analyze the situation. Most of the time, someone new to the sport is going to have simplistic ideas of what could happen that will often be right. Being in the woods or on the water in enjoyable at any time for hunters, but bringing someone along and sharing the experience adds a new of enjoyment. Plus, let's face it, your wife will be way more receptive to the idea of you going hunting next weekend if she gets to come along!