How many times have you been sitting around talking about a waterfowl hunt and had a friend or family member say that they would like to try that “some day?” Introducing a new person to your sport should be done with patience, effort, and a good dose of humility. You never know if he or she will enjoy it, but you want them to have a good experience and maybe join you again. This is especially true if you’re planning to bring your significant other along waterfowling.
Many years ago, I asked a buddy of mine to go play golf. What possessed me to teach him the intricacies of golf is beyond me. He lacked the coordination and for lack of a better term, grace to play the game. Off we went to the golf course, armed with the knowledge that this may be an exercise in futility and, for me, totally entertaining.
I don’t claim to be good at golf. In fact, my play hardly passes as golf, but I know the basic concepts of the game. I did my best to explain the basics. In other words, I wanted him to understand the game and why I was beating him. I hoped he didn’t get too frustrated too. A key to helping someone new experience a sport you enjoy is to make it fun, even when the work is hard. Besides, he is bigger than me and I didn’t want to get hit with a seven iron.
He beat me, and I don’t mean with the aforementioned seven iron. He’d never before picked up a club in his life, and he beat me; not just by a stroke or two either. I couldn’t even have cheated to get close to his score. Believe me, I tried. He just had a good game and I…did not. So he got a round of congratulations, and I got a serious dose of humility. Being good friends, he made sure to rub it into my face at every opportunity and still does.
Making a waterfowler
I decided the time was right to introduce my then-girlfriend/now wife to goose hunting, the sport that occupies the majority of my fall. I initially went on the premise that it would give us more quality time together. I really wanted to see if she had as much fun as I did, and therefore understand why I spent so much time and money chasing birds.
The first step was convincing her that she could go and my friends wouldn’t mind if she were there. This was no big deal and was the easiest step. Granted I did take a certain amount of ribbing from the guys. Okay, I took a lot of abuse from them, but it was all in good fun.
I then began to tell her what to expect, based on how the past seasons had gone. This is a little tricky seeing as how seasons can vary. I didn’t talk up any “hot spots” or “sure bets.” This is a kiss of death. I recall one time when I went hunting with a friend who kept talking about this field that was “sure” to have multitudes of geese. Well, as you would expect, I ended up seeing more geese in my bathtub than I did in that field. My friend blurted out, “I just don’t understand,” a few times, and so on. Nothing can turn off a new hunter faster than unfulfilled promises. The best bet is not to make them in the first place.
One of the next things we started doing is going over her gear list. A quick bit of begging and pleading with her father got her the use of a nice shotgun. I then went through the steps on how to decide which camo patterns would work best for the type of hunting we were going to do, and why it was necessary to wear camo in the first place. I took her to Cabela’s and helped her pick out her camo, and she ended up being quite proud of her purchase.
We worked on her shooting skills so she could effectively and safely take game. We started shooting with a stationary target so she could understand the shot pattern. Her dad got a kick out of slipping in a 3 1/2-inch turkey load with the 2 3/4-inch field loads we were using. While I admit the result was kind of funny (okay, it was really funny), she didn’t agree.
When it came time to shoot clays, I told her that she may miss some. I added that geese were much bigger than clays, and they were slower. I didn’t want her to get upset when she didn’t hit any. That turned out to be a pretty good idea, because she didn’t hit any that first time out. In fact, it wasn’t until our third trip to the range that she actually hit one, even with my expert teaching. I, on the other hand, was showing her how it was done. I couldn’t miss. I imagine if I had taken my golf buddy to a driving range, the result would have been similar.
The day of the first hunt came. We saw very few geese and they wanted nothing to do with our field. A hunter in the group, who was invited by another, lamented that it was a waste of his time, and he left. My new hunter, though, just said, “That’s why they call it hunting,” and took the whole thing in stride.
The first few days of the season went the same way with geese avoiding our field like there was a neon sign over it that read “hunters.” Finally a lone goose came in low over the decoys. My new hunter carefully aimed and bagged her first goose. I was very proud.
Shortly thereafter, a small flock came in and I decided it was my turn to fill my limit and “show her how it’s done.” My three shots caressed birds with steel shot but did little to re-arrange any migration plans. She, on the other hand, fired twice and sent two geese crashing to the ground. Beginner’s luck, I guess. It didn’t help that she said I could tell my buddies that I shot the geese.
That whole season was pretty rough on me. Each time I took her, the result was the same, she took geese, and I did not. My ego took some abuse. But her passion for waterfowl hunting is now there, and she can’t wait for the season to come around every fall. Now I have a hunting buddy as well as a wife and partner.
Since that first season, I’ve tried to convince myself that I let her shoot more geese than I did. The reality is she’s turned out to be a pretty good hunter. Our son is now showing signs of the desire to hunt. He gets as excited as I do when a flock of geese flies over, and he goes out with us in the field some days to hunt. The bad news, my son has also expressed an interest in learning golf. I have learned to be patient when bringing a new person into a sport and to be humble as well. One thing is for sure; it’s not easy.
Images by Derrek Sigler