I went duck hunting locally over the weekend by myself … well, just me and the dog. The weather was unseasonably warm so it was pretty slow. I bagged a couple mallards on a public hunting area by slogging back to a spot that’s seldom hunted.
At the parking area a fan of “North American Hunter-TV” recognized me and brought his son over to introduce themselves. They’d enjoyed some success, too. In fact, it was hard to tell who was more excited: the boy who’d bagged his first duck, or Dad! I was excited for the youngster, too, and shook his hand and congratulated him.
The boy was reserved, but Dad filled me in on details. He told me where they were hunting and what they’d seen. I smiled and nodded, enjoying their enthusiasm until Dad told me about his son actually shooting the duck. He said it came in and landed splash in the middle of the decoys and he told his son to shoot it.
That started to turn me off. I know a lot of young hunters get their start that way and work into shooting birds in the air, but it didn’t happen that way when I cut my hunting teeth. We shot birds, waterfowl or upland, in the air or we didn’t shoot at all.
I didn’t say anything, but started to work on my getaway. Dad kept on, then asked me to take a picture of him and his boy with the duck. “Aw, sure.” Why not?
He handed me his phone and grabbed the limp bird from the back of their truck. They rested against the rail fence around the parking area and held it up for a classic “grip and grin” shot. I composed the picture best I could and snapped a couple.
I handed him back the phone and Dad said, “Thanks for taking a picture of my boy and his first teal.”
It was all I could do from whipping my head around and correcting him: I’d just taken a picture of the two of them holding a hen bufflehead stretched beneath their grins nearly as wide as its wingspan. Did Dad know the difference or was he just trying to make it an even bigger deal for his son by labeling it as a more “desirable” duck? I don’t know and never will. I just bit my lip, climbed in my truck and drove out.
Did I do the right thing? Every fiber of my duck hunting being tells me I should have set the record straight with Dad about encouraging his son to shoot a duck on the water and then not even giving him the right information about what it was. How is the kid ever going to know right from wrong and learn the fine points of duck hunting, such as waterfowl identification, that make it so interesting and addicting?
On the other hand, this is coming from a guy (me) who, when his best high school friend and hunting partner’s first child was born, gifted to the day-old baby a handmade set of waterfowl I.D. flashcards! No BS!
Did I do the right thing by just minding my own business and allowing father and son to have their fun and moment together? Or should I have stood up for the heritage of American waterfowl hunting and corrected them both with the hope of setting them on a better course? What would you have done?