Today was a good day in fatherhood. I took my oldest son on his first solo squirrel hunt and we bagged a monster grey squirrel! We have been hunting since Saturday, I have missed numerous shots and we finally bagged one! I must say, I am more than a bit abashed at how bad my shooting has been. I am clearly out of practice. My only defense is it is late winter, the squirrel’s coats are at their thickest and I am forced to use a shotgun due to restrictions in the post hunting areas. I have also been using either my new .410 Mossberg 500e or the 20 gauge side-by-side Baikal, which is what we took this one with.
My kids have been real troopers, it has been fairly cold and early in the morning and they haven’t complained very much at all! Nathan is 9 and really not strong enough to carry the shotgun through the woods, though he did bust a clay with it Friday at the range. I have been trying to get them to hunt with the gun, but so far they have preferred to let me take the shots. I wish we had had more time to take them to the range and bust skeet but there simply wasn’t enough time to do more than teach them the basic functioning of the gun and I don’t think their confidence level is very high yet. I won’t be here next year, but as soon as I get back while I am in ILE I plan to get them to the range often and really develop their wingshooting skills.
Nathan was enthusiastic to help me video cleaning the squirrel, so look for that later this week. I have felt really good about the bonding time with the kids, especially right before a deployment. Normally I would be busting my ass to get my unit ready to deploy, but with only myself to worry about I can really get in some family time. I trust these memories to carry us all through the dry spell ahead.
The last couple of days have reminded me of some important lessons. One, skills are perishable. You need to get out and practice. I was very clumsy skinning the squirrel and I would have put several more in the pot in previous years but it has been a long time since I got to really hunt. Two, fatherhood, like skills, is intentional. You have to make time to really bond with your kids. Hunting may never be as important to them as it is to me, but they got into it because I really included them in all aspects of the hunt and pushed them to the edge of their comfort level physically. I know from the look on Nathan’s face this morning that he feels he has earned some spurs!
So, get out there and be intentional about life!