Are you ready to go dove hunting with me buddy?” I ask my son, Sway, as he runs to me from the entrance of his preschool. My four year old grins wide and lets out an excited, “Woop!” as he jumps into my arms. Dove hunting, just him and I, is a tradition we began last year when he showed interest in joining me and had the patience to sit still for at least a short period of time.
Growing up, my dad always took me bird hunting and I wanted to begin a similar tradition with Sway. He quickly became a great spotter, pointing out any incoming birds, as well as a retriever of any doves I dropped from the sky. He also watched with keen interest as I cleaned the birds once our day was through.
After changing into more suitable clothes and making sure we had all of the essentials (i.e. gun, ammo, hearing protection, juice box, etc.) we took to the field behind my house and sat, waiting, in quiet anticipation. I looked over and smiled, watching my son’s blue eyes searching the skyline. Soon he pointed at two black spots making their way in to us.
I shouldered my Renegauge and pulled the trigger as I lead the birds across the sky. The dove fell to the field, a puff of feathers lingering in the air. I nodded to Sway that he could go get the bird and he ran off, excited to be my big helper. Once he returned with the dove I took it from his little hands and, seeing that it was still alive, ended it quickly.
Tears streamed down my son’s face as he yelled at me for hurting the dove. I realized then that he was not the same kid he was last year. As I took him in my arms, we began a long conversation about life and death. He asked me if the dove was going to come back. Where did it go? Why did I kill it? We discussed how these doves and other animals I hunt provide food for us, what it means to respect the animals, and ultimately it lead to a conversation about God.
The discussion I had with my son reiterated why I insist on taking him into the field with me and continue to nurture his interest in the outdoors. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about how taking Sway hunting might affect him. I worried taking him so early in life would make him immune to it; that he wouldn’t think twice before pulling the trigger on an animal.
However, bringing him with me has done the very opposite. It has opened up conversations about why we hunt and how we can love and respect the animals we’re hunting, while understanding they also serve a purpose for us. How we only take what we need to utilize for ourselves and our family.
After our discussion I wiped his tears and asked him if he’d like to keep hunting with me, or if he would rather head back to the house. He took a shaky little breath and told me he was ready to help me find some doves. Within an hour I nearly hit my limit and I could tell by his fidgeting it was time to call it quits.
I sure am proud of the boy he’s growing in to. I love that he shares my same passion and love for the outdoors – and I hope one day, years from now, he’ll be taking a little boy or girl out into the field to help scout and retrieve his birds.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the Savage Arms In Sight blog.