We have a hunter in the family. These are not words I ever expected to say. And then come these. I am thrilled we have a hunter in the family. Take that Ellen, you knee jerk, fancy meat eating, anti gun liberal.
Now I have always understood the right to bear arms. I get the rights of hunters. After all I moved to a rural state where there is a huge dichotomy between the monied class and the working class. Here plenty of folks hunt for the meat they eat. They put up deer and it sustains their families over the long winters when work is scarce. I buy my meat from hippie organic farmers. We are essentially the same those hunters and I. Our methods may be different but our result is similar.
But still I never really expected to have a gun owner in the family much less one who killed things with it.
And then my oldest son discovered fly fishing. He spends hours every day standing in the rivers just behind his house taking a few quick casts. Lunch break and a quick side trip to the river. Like that. He didn’t catch anything for twenty or so times and then one day he got it. Now he catches them all the time. It is apparently about learning how to watch the river. It is a time for being still and watchful. It is a time to experience the natural world close up. It is a time of beauty and skill and ever watchfulness.
So it was a short hop when someone suggested grouse hunting. Now this kid loves animals. He cannot imagine killing a deer or a bear even though he too is a carnivore. But birds? Birds seem a lot like fish. And the idea of traipsing through the mountains, forging streams, going into deep brush and mastering a new skill appealed. We have a friend who is sort of a gentleman hunter. By that I mean that he has a weekend place up here and every year hires some guides and puts on all his fancy Orvis gear and becomes a woodsman for a day or two. He invited our son.
So Benjamin too spent weeks haunting Orvis for all the right gear. He was warned that shooting grouse who dart and soar and dip and curve is not like shooting skeet which he tried for practice.
“Now son you probably won’t get a bird on your first time out, so try and take in the whole experience” There were warnings too. “Look it gets pretty exciting out there. The birds may fly up practically in your face, or right behind you. It really gets your adrenaline going. I have seen experienced skeet hunters fire wildly when the birds are scattering. They do not fly in a line like skeet. And you cannot shoot unless you know where everyone else and the dogs are. Always be ready to stand down. Because look, in ten years you might not remember whether or not you got a bird, but you will remember, every day for the rest of your life, if you accidentally shot one of the dogs or a person. So be vigilant. Pay constant and thoughtful attention”
Attention. My wildly ADHD adult kid with a gun. Supposedly paying constant attention. I don’t really get to have an opinion. He’s twenty-five. But I’m a mom. I do get to worry. And so I did.
And they were off deep into the woods, high up in the mountains where the snow was already about eight inches on the ground. They left practically at dawn. They’d hired two guides and took two dogs. And four rifles. They trekked into the woods and fanned out in a parallel line. It wasn’t long before the dogs startled a tiny hidden flock and the call went out.
He startled, scanned, and then shouldered the rifle and fired.
He got the grouse with the first hunting shot he ever took.
The guides went nuts. This almost never happens. “You can’t really compare because you have nothing to compare with, but really this is amazing kid” Our friend added, “This is a story son to tell your grand kids.”
It was the only grouse anybody got all day. He felt good. Proud. He knew it hadn’t been a fluke. He got it. Pretty soon he added a woodcock to his sack. He is apparently made for this. The hunter gatherer instinct is alive and well. Darwin probably would have predicted it. ADHD, always scanning, always moving. He is hard wired for this.
Now he is planning a Vermont surf and turf dinner with Mettowee Rainbow Trout and Killington Mountain Grouse on the menu.
And you can just guess what’s on his Christmas list…..