My good friend Marc Warnke and I each have kids of similar ages. He has two sons (4 and 1) and I have two sons (7 and 4) and a little girl (2). We are both pretty committed dads, but there is always room for improvement, so we decided to make an obligation to get our kids outside on some sort of adventure at least once a month. It doesn’t matter if we go hunting, fishing, hiking, rafting, rock climbing… whatever. As long as we get them out.
We started our project last weekend with a little quail hunt. I have an “old reliable” spot that is fairly close for both of us and an easy hike for the boys. The last few years there have been TONS of California Quail there. It wasn’t uncommon to see 10 coveys with 10 to 50 birds in each covey on a short morning hunt. I had heard that bird numbers are down quite a bit this year in Idaho, but we had high hopes that we would get into a few. The weather was great and we planned to meet at 1:00 in the afternoon so that we were in the peak heat period of the day doing our best to ensure a good time for our sons.
I arrived a little before Marc did, so Webb, Cree and I checked out the railroad tracks and threw rocks off the tressle into the creek below. Unfortunately, while we were walking back to the Jeep, we noticed some fresh tracks from hunters earlier in the morning, but oh well, we were there for the boys, not so much for the bird hunting.
Marc showed up with his oldest son Jaken and we drove out to the “honey-hole” portion to up our odds of getting into birds. We unloaded the kids and the dog, put in ear plugs and started our hunt. The boys were lagging behind a bit, looking at bones, picking up sticks, throwing rocks, asking questions, hopping on rocks, climbing “cliffs” and examining tracks. You get the picture. Meanwhile, Marc and I were trying to go as slow as we could while still keeping up with the dog. I had brought along my new pointing lab, Rudy. I’ve only had him for a few weeks and he’s been showing some promise while pheasant hunting in South Dakota. He’s been great at finding wounded birds, especially for a young dog (2 yrs old). On this day though, he didn’t shine. Not even kind of. I don’t know what was up with him, but he was more or less just along for the hike… maybe because we were walking so slow??? Oh well, some days they’re good, some days… not so much. Just part of hunting with dogs.
About 20 minutes into the hunt, I could tell the boys were starting to get bored, so we stopped for a snack break. I threw a stick in the river and shot it. It made a big splash and they thought that was pretty cool. Right after I shot a single quail flew out of the brush and out across the river. I couldn’t shoot because it went towards my boys. Cree really liked it and kept wanting me to “shoot the water again, Daddy”. Marc set up an old metal bucket that we found and shot it. We showed the boys how the shotguns put a bunch of holes in it, and then he threw some cans in the air for me to shoot. They got a kick out of that, but what they really wanted to do was eat. Growing boys. All they want to do is eat. Luckily, we had brought some crackers and gummie candy. Whew… disaster averted.
After snacks, we took off again and made it about 50 yards before they wanted more snacks, so we stopped again, had more snacks and had a little rock climbing session. Cree (who is my little wild man) took his second header of the day off of a “cliff”. Didn’t bother him a bit. Webb and Jaken are a little more sensible, but they pushed the limits a bit themselves too. We let them climb around for about 30 minutes or so, then decided that we had better start back to the rigs.
We swung out away from the river up against the railroad tracks for the walk back to the trucks, thinking that maybe we had pushed the birds that way. Rudy finally started acting “birdy” and a single quail made a fatal mistake and got up in front of Marc. The boys all gathered around the bird and we examined it for a while. Success! Marc gave them a little talk about how when the hunting is hard you just have to keep trying and usually it pays off.
We made it back to the vehicles without much happening (except for Cree jumping in a mud puddle) and loaded up to go get a milkshake in town. It was a great day out with the kids. Mission accomplished. I think we’ll go sturgeon fishing next month. That’d be cool to watch those little boys hauling on a big ole’ fish. I’m excited already.