“Winning is an all time thing, but it doesn’t have anything to do with hunting.”..Uncle John……..
He was 16 now with his driver’s license, hunting license, shotgun and the keys to the truck. He had been successful many times with the adults in close supervision, but still he’d made the normal mistakes. I would think by now a platoon of guardian angles circled this young man popping up regularly on his shoulder as the voice of his conscious. He heard all the advice, learned all the lessons, and now had the experience to go with it. It had been a long hard road on the way to the elusive goal of responsibility. The question was could he go out by himself?
Evidently Mom had given him a reprieve from restriction from one of his latest hard headed escapades, at least he would make the first day of turkey season. The first guardian angle whispered in his ear as he checked his gear, and made sure he had everything. The second one appeared as he backed out of the driveway in the morning darkness, “Drive carefully.”
I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal and I will not tolerate those who do. This is the honor code at West Point, for those of you who didn’t know? Young outdoorsmen, Kade Jones, of Leesville would not have a problem with this….no, with him its other little things.
For instance, a couple of years ago we were headed for Kistachi from Leesville on a perfect morning for Turkey hunting, long before daylight. Kade, in one of his more inquisitive moments was engrossed in reverse engineering the flash light. Oblivious, I was under the impression he was changing the batteries. But I had just done that!....Too late.
Kade had rolled down the electric window of the truck and was chunking the batteries at the passing road signs. Although for a moment I envisioned him as the guest of honor at the closed casket funeral I planned to arrange, I couldn’t help think to myself, nor chuckle to myself, “Never get mad at a kid for something like that,”….. get even.
“Oh Kade.” “Yes Sir.” “Have I told you about hemotoxic and neurotoxic snake poison and the lasting effects to the human body?” No sir. The lecture continued as I drove toward the designated hunting spot, being very convincing if I do say so myself. A very graphic lesson in herpetology ensued, including some little known facts about trauma on the body years after a snake bite, which deals with male virility, not readily available on Animal Planet for the consumption of young minds. I concluded with the point that Kistachie was abundantly populated with all poisonous snakes common to the Southern United States, as well as pointing out the other fact that his infamous target practice has cost us our only flashlight. As you know our reptilian friends are most venomous in the springtime and the subsequent turkey season, which we are about to partake. Therefore you will take the point to the turkey roost, in the dark. Yes sir.
Kade only can call me sir when, in true respect to a greater lesson reflecting on brilliance, or when, such as this case, I’m contemplating making his birth control retroactive, otherwise I told him, “Don’t call me sir, I work for a living.” “This punctuating every sentence with sir makes me uneasy and makes you reminiscent of a sycophant.” Use it if you must in school, to your elders, your parents and judges, which undoubtedly you will face very soon. Above all call the person sir, who is attempting to dress you down and intimidate you when you know your right. This gives you time to flank them as they gloat on there own dilutions of grandeur, and piety. Do you understand the jest of this conversation young sir? “Err, well, I think so.” That will do for now, looks like you have been reprieved from the fangs of the serpent, it’s daylight enough to see the ground. Let’s go getem.
Kade comes from a good family who has given him all the right stuff to make it in life, provided he survives his own adolescence, and kid logic. I suspect his parents saw in him early the kindred spirit of Davy Crockett, the yearning of the naturalist and the explorer, to see what’s over the next hill, in other words Kade is wilder than a mink. Although, hopelessly intrigued in academics, athletics and of course teen age girls, the Hawk Eye of the American Sharpshooter and the Mystical Flight of the Arrow calls to him like the inner voice of a vision quest. Subsequently Mom and Dad dropped him off at Fort Polk’s Recreational Shooting Complex for higher learning, where he became my official Rent a Kid.
You can compare this to the ancient Shaolin Temple in China where children were left on the door step, later to be transformed into the martial art warrior monks of legend. Enter Kade “Pinwheel” Jones; I just can’t bring myself to call him Grasshopper.
In outdoor sports there is competition and non competition situations, both of which take on a similarity, but must be differentiated at an early age or you wind up with a less than desirable outdoorsmen with a flawed character, that would be what Robert Ruark called a “Willie off the pickle boat.” You must come to realize since we are not bound to hunt for food, although I make a pretty good stab at it, we may as well have a good time and not take ourselves so seriously.
“Wining is an all time thing, but so is losing,” to quote Vince Lombardi, another Italian genius in history, other than Leonardo de Vinci and of course myself. But hunting is not a football game, and the competitive hunter need be listed with endangered species in my opinion. Kade took note of this lesson and has established that winning attitude in Football, Baseball and Golf that has earned him MVP and many other scholastic awards. His grade standings are high most of the time, fluctuating between As and Bs with an occasional lapse into the realm of all As when his mother, after preaching from her own book of the Bible, known as The Book of Threats, removes the batteries out of his cell phone and chunks them at passing road signs…..Now I know where he gets that!
Kade’s natural good looks and charm, the latter which I taught him myself, by the way, get him in a lot trouble. I can’t take him anywhere that members of the opposite sex do not stop us for some reason and make inquires about the weather. It seems that there are a lot of young ladies out there competing, tooth and fang, for the right to make Kade their trophy boy friend. This is indicative of his inherent lack of sleep and large cell phone bills. I think the only time he sleeps is on the deer stand. Once I discovered this proclivity, on hunts, he becomes incommunicado.
It seems Science and English are his best subjects, and, of course he is a super athlete. As a member of the Top Gun League of Sharpshooters, he has won the Top Gun Challenge twice, once as a junior and once as a high school shooter. Shooting at the “White Feather” level the highest division, has earned him respect, in a place where respect is mutual. In Archery 3-D competition it’s different. I really wish there was some decent competition in Louisiana in his age group, but even at Ft Polk’s famed super archery range with monthly tournaments, I have seen no other high schooler that can hold a leg to him. Consequently, he must compete with the adults for a decent run.
He has managed to collect his fair share of turkey, deer and most recently an elk, with a rifle, shotgun and bow, making him an all season hunter, certainly indicating a young master with nothing really to prove, just go and get some meat for the freezer and enjoy the hunt. Should a decent buck come out and the luck of the draw prevails, so be it.
You see it is here that the competitive game face is abandoned, replaced by the hunters benevolence of the way the Native Americans hunted, under the assurance that if you have been a good person the game will give themselves to you.
It is well known when he was 13, Kade made a called head shot on Louisiana’s first youth hunt, wild turkey, with a bow. Evidently no body ever tried it before. So I whipped out my trusty turkey calls and the rest was history, best bow shot I ever saw. At present Kade has mastered calling as well. Later, during regular gun season, Kade took a buck with his bow with a very difficult shot not normally recommended for the average bow hunter. Basically straight down, through the spine, the heart and six inches into the ground, but Kade is not your average archer, He’s more like a blond headed Elf from Lord of the Rings.
He gets to run with the big dogs like the Louisiana State Police, Army Green Berets, the finest Sharpshooters and Bowhunters and Famous Outdoor Writers. Personally, I’d say that was a pretty good crowd of mentors for a young man. If it takes a village to raise a kid, hanging out with those guys will insure he doesn’t get influenced by the village idiots. I guess from Kade’s viewpoint, he is just keeping the faith.
All well and good, but now he shut the gate behind him on the hunting lease, as the sun crept over the horizon. He knew where the birds were, but the first set up met with no results at all. Others would have given up right then but not Kade. As he packed up to move, a distant flock of crows sounded off and were answered by a gobbler.
Again there was the unseen voice from within, “Move in but not too close and set up the decoys where he can see them.” Then he started with the calls, he was so still, with the Mossberg shotgun trained on the spot he would most likely appear, the voices where silent now, as the duel began.
With the soft clucks and purrs on the turkey calls well practiced, came the big blue head around the corner as the fan spread out in all its glory to strut back and forth at 75 yards, and just out of range. Kade made another call and the long beard caught sight of the decoy.
Now a voice was apparent again, “He will be in range when you can see his eye.” That would be 40 yards, the perfect shot for the magnum. Kade held the sight on the waddles just below the head, as the gobbler arrogantly strutted toward the decoy.
One clean shot, from years of practice, patience and listening to the mentors, the results of studying with the masters. He had done this by him self as he paused for a moment remembering a story about the dogwood tree and it’s blossoms, a failed hunt in the past, good times and bad times, all part of life. He hefted the big bird across his shoulder, realizing this was not about winning or losing, but a right of passage, which deals with simple trust…..Pass it on.
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