by Phil Bourjaily

That’s Dan, a high school senior, in the picture with me. I helped Dan’s father Mike take him (or “carry” him, as they say in the south. I love that term.) on youth waterfowl hunts starting from when he was 11 or 12 years old. Mike was the guide and caller, I served as head scout, decoy hauler, and hot-chocolate maker. We watched over Dan, my sons, and a few other kids while they shot ducks and geese in the annual two-day youth waterfowl season.

We had great hunts with the kids. I made it a point never to be out of town during youth season for all the years both of my boys were of age to hunt in it. It was way more fun helping the kids than it was to go hunting for myself, but I used to joke that the only reason I took kids hunting was so they could carry decoys for me some day.

That day arrived this season.

Dan found this field, watched it, tracked down the absentee landowner and got permission to hunt, then called me and asked if I wanted to go.

The “X” was least a quarter of a mile in, and because the field was too soft to drive in the day of the hunt, Dan piled a mountain of decoys and blinds on a sled, hitched himself to it and took off across the field. He let me pull on a second rope,but I think that was only so I would feel like I was helping. Dan has grown up to become an all-state offensive lineman, so I know he was pulling way more than half the weight.

All I did was shoot my Christmas goose – the only bird of the day — when Dan told me to.

Why do we really take kids hunting? We take them so someday they can take us.