Thursday, December 5, 2013

And this is quail hunting (spoiler alert: it's not what you think)

With a twitch of anger and long exhale of resignation I received the news last Saturday evening that my wife had to work on Sunday.  Nothing I could do about this but modify my plans. A week into quail season and I hadn't been yet and Sunday was going to be my day, only now I would be taking both kids along with me.

Waist-high kids don't move easily through waist-high weeds, nor do they shrug off briars as part of the deal, so my plan was to stick to the roads as much as possible. These are forestry service roads, crusher run base, maintained pretty well and scattered, smothered, covered and chunked in small rocks. Not 100 yards in I turn around to check on my companions and see four tiny hands full of stones.

Me: "What are you going to do with all of those rocks?"
Both kids: "I don't know."
"They're gonna get heavy.  You might want to set them down here and pick them up on the way back."
"No thanks." At least our efforts at manners are showing progress.

Another 50 yards I turn again. Coat pockets now full, cradled arms are filling up.  And then other places.

"Did you put rocks in your underwear?"
"Then what are all of those lumps in your pants?"
"Nothing." Later decrypted, I discovered that nothing is code for rocks.

At the end of the road lies a river, a welcome break from the monotony of walking and finding no birds. And a brainstorm...
"Why don't you throw those rocks into the water?"
Glance at each other followed by a fusillade of granite.

Deer sign is a wonderful diversion from boredom, if only for a while. As are trees that have been struck by lightning, areas that have been burned, flattened soda cans, and noises in the grass. On our way back to the truck my son heard rustling in the weeds next to the road.

"Dad, what's that?"
"I don't know, what do you think it is?"
"A bear."
"Can you handle him if he jumps out at us?"
Long silence.  "If he jumps out at us I'll hit him with this stick and poke it down his mouth and push him over backwards and then you can shoot him and then we can take him home and eat him for supper."
"Sounds like a plan, pal."

I don't know what it is about sticks and rocks but it's impossible for kids to walk in the woods without picking up one or both. I do know that I have a growing collection of both in the back of my truck. My son informed me that he was going to take the bear-killing stick home and paint it red, like blood. When we got home, and I'm guessing here, he discovered a rock in his pocket, forgot about the stick, and painted the rock red with a magic marker. In the process he painted his hands red and grew a red beard on slightly more than half of his face.

Yes, this was a quail hunting trip.

When life gives you lemons you realize there are some things you can control, some things you can't, and some things you just shouldn't.


  1. And years from now your kids can look back at all the fun they had quail hunting with Dad and the time they almost bagged a bear.

  2. And what is it with bears? My oldest remains convinced we're about to be overrun by the things, despite the fact we rarely see them in the yard.

    And there is no outdoor adventure so exciting (or boring) that it can't be enlivened by rock throwing.

    1. I wonder if Nordic kids have the same thing, but with polar bears?

  3. This was excellent. We just had our first child on Sunday and this was a great read. Helps me to moderate my expectations for future hunts while looking forward to days of picking up rocks and sticks with my little girl. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Congratulations Ben, it gets more fun every day. And savor these first few months when you can put her in one place and she'll stay there.

  4. Yours was the hunting version of fishing with kids. As my old friend Mack says, "There's fishing and there's fishing with kids. The two are not the same."