Some kids are lucky. They come from families with long-standing hunting traditions and are raised on 8th generation family hunting lands that stretch as far as the eye can see. Their strong, rugged fathers are skilled in all aspects of outdoor life and their mothers are expert cooks with a host of delicious wild game recipes memorized. They grow up with the companionship of seasoned hunting dogs and explore the woods from the time they first learn to walk.
Then there are my kids. They come from a family with no hunting experience and are being raised on a recently purchased suburb estate that stretches as far as the arm can throw a whiffle ball. Their father is a novice hunter and Boy Scout drop-out; their mother is an expert cinnamon roll baker with no experience in preparing wild game table fare. They are still waiting for us to get our first family dog and their exploring has involved primarily city parks and playgrounds. My kids had no choice in the matter – they were born into these awful circumstances. They inherited my stroke of bad luck right from the start.
Last year my oldest child, Nate, began to take an interest in hunting. I found this terribly odd given that I had returned from every hunting trip of the season empty handed. He was seven years old at the time, and I used that as an excuse to postpone his first hunting trip until he reached the far more mature age of eight. This bought me some time.
After months of considering the best way to introduce Nate to a sport I love but am just beginning to understand, I settled on a West Texas quail hunt at the small but quail-packed Thunderhole Ranch in Coke County — an odd choice since I had never hunted quail myself. Earlier I had contacted Thunderhole's owner about the possibility of leasing his property, and as soon as arrangements were made I decided that on my first trip to the ranch Nate would be my hunting partner. I scheduled the trip for Friday, February 3rd. Excited by the prospect of missing school as much as going hunting with dad, Nate jumped at the chance to join me.
On a Wednesday evening, we packed for the trip. Nate stuffed a bag with Mossy Oak apparel and I tried hard not to forget anything important, like water, hunting licenses, and beef jerky. I assembled my newly acquired Remington 870 Express Super Mag 12 gauge pump and installed a fiber optic front sight. I placed my newest treasure carefully into a gun case and put it alongside Nate's weapon of choice, a Grizzly .177 caliber air rifle by trusted manufacturer Daisy. His gun, courtesy of Santa Claus, has a Mossy Oak finish and a fiber optic front sight as well. I took along a .410 shotgun, too, knowing that it would most likely not see action — a few weeks earlier Nate fired two shells through it before deciding that he would stick to the air rifle for his first season afield.
Thursday afternoon, my supportive wife picked Nate up from school and drove him to my office. I took off a little early and we headed west through Fort Worth with a "Thunderhole-Ranch-Or-Bust" attitude. Knowing that I was taking my son on his first hunting trip ever to a place I had never been with a shotgun I had never fired to hunt a game bird I had never hunted, I came prepared to learn as much as teach.
Moral of the story - don't be discouraged and put off of the outdoors just because you don't have "experience". Take a chance, do some research and get out there and explore Texas – you won't regret it!