Not a Good Idea!

I know readers will probably get sick of hearing about my first and only grandchild, Jordan Steel Sanderson, 2, of central Vermont, but I must share with you his first hunting story.

On his visits to Greenfield, Jordie has become quite fond of my neighbors’ flock of chickens, which he chases and feeds with absolute joy, enthralled. He seems to have no fear of the hens but has grown to respect the long-spurred rooster he calls “Cockadoodle” in an adorable tongue. But that’s just the preface to this tale, which began during my pre-hunt, morning ritual: digging out the side-by-side and boxing it, strapping on the left-knee brace for support, dressing in my bibs and vest, securing my shooting glasses around the backs of my ears, filling the vest’s shell-sleeves inside the pockets . Little Jordie was all eyes and questions, “What’s that?” and “Why?” the staples.

With that behind us, we retrieved the dogs, all three of them, and boxed them up in the portable kennels on my truck bed for a quick pre-hunt run in East Colrain. On the trip up the hill, we talked about the details of the hunt, how the dog smells the bird and pursues it until it flushes, then Grampy shoots it and the dog retrieves it. All ears, he pointed to warblers and cardinals flying through the multi-flora roses when we poked through overgrown pasture on both sides of the road and said, “There’s a bird, Grampy.” I explained that I hunted for larger birds called game birds, that I could better explain it by showing him a painting on the wall at home of a spaniel retrieving a cock pheasant. Then he’d understand.

When we arrived at our destination, one he’s grown familiar with, and let the dogs out, he asked where my gun was. I told him it was cased in the truck bed. He wanted it. I told him it wasn’t the place. We weren’t hunting, just running the dogs.

“Oh,” he said, acceptingly.

On the return trip home, Jordie pointed out a couple more birds he wanted to hunt, then told me he wanted to go hunting with me. I explained he was too young, that I can’t wait until he’s old enough to go with me.

“Why?”

Because the brush is too thick for a little boy, I told him, then stopped at a power line to show him. He seemed to understand.

Once home, I put one dog in the box stall and rode off with the other two in the truck, Jordie waving bye. “I’ll be back,” I told him, “and if we get any birds, I’ll show them to you.”

He smiled, waving, right fingers bending forward at mid-knuckle.

An hour or two later, my friend and I pulled into the driveway with two pheasants in back, a cock and a hen. Jordie was entertaining my parents, feeding bread to the cockadoodle and his harem in front of the carriage sheds as I pulled into my parking spot, sun shining brightly, pleasant noontime air.

When we got out of the truck, Jordie was distracted by the chickens and paid little attention to us before I told him we had a couple of birds. Did he want to see them?

That got his attention, and he trotted toward the truck. I reached into the bed, grabbed the two pheasant by the feet and hoisted them waist-high in front of him. He looked them over briefly and I noticed his expression change.

“Grampy, why the birds dead?”

“Because I shot them.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

Hey, what can I say? The kid’s got a conscience. Not a bad thing. Over time, I’m confident he’ll understand. I’ll bring him out in the field, introduce him to the joy of the hunt, the game hunters play. We’ll dress out the birds we kill for the table, then roast and eat them. Maybe then he’ll be able to justify an act he’s having trouble with before his third birthday.

If he can’t morally justify it, well, I can live with that, too. Some can’t. It’s OK. I have no problem with it; at least not until they tell me it’s wrong for me to hunt.

That, I do have a problem with.

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