It was warm for opening day of the season but I was not going to complain. My dad, Spike, and I sat in the only patch of grass tall enough to hide in. The sun was on our backs and our German Shepherd lay between us. The Hudson Bay’s tide was far out and it would be hours before the geese by the water’s edge would be pushed in.
For an 8-year-old boy, waiting was not really my favourite thing. We talked about what would happen when the wind changed and the tide pushed the birds inland.
“They will fly straight over us then circle back to the tidal edge” my dad said. “When they do we will get one chance to get a few shots, hopefully we will get one or two geese.”
They never did fly over.
The warm south breeze and clear skies didn’t change as hoped. The fall colours were starting to show themselves in small patches, but this was no fall day. A drake mallard landed in a pond left by the receding tide about 200 metres away — green head glistening. I was weary to try to try get him so we decided to leave the gun and get as close as we could to have a better look.
It was my third year living with the man who took me in as his own, right from the day he came to Red Deer, Alberta to move us back to my mother’s home town of Churchill, Manitoba. He was teaching me the love of the outdoors, and this was a lesson.
As we approached the mallard, the sandy beach didn’t have many places to get cover and our green camouflage was not going to help with the light brown sand.
I ducked low behind a small sandy ridge and started to crawl over to my next view point. Catching the odd glimpse as the wind blew the grass from side to side, I could see him swimming in circles. I looked for a closer spot to get a look at the drake; there was no cover and the pool was slightly downhill from me.
“Get on your belly and move slow, don’t crawl directly toward him,” my dad whispered to me.
After about a minute of this I was 50 metres away and could see him swimming gracefully, but when he noticed me he was gone as fast as his little wings could take him.
I spent the rest of the day stalking birds up and down the beach from pool to pool. This was more fun than sitting still and getting a tan.
I heard my dad say, “Hunt with your kids, not for them.”
I do not remember who he was talking to or why, but the phrase stuck in my head. Every hunt he ever went on, I was by his side, and still today we take our girls on as many adventures as we can as a family.