Anybody can look like an ace deer hunter when there are plenty of deer around. Thanks to an abundance of cervids, I looked pretty good to my apprentice hunters this fall. Each of the beginning hunters I took out shot deer. Maybe not trophy bucks, but after all, that wasn’t the goal.
Then my longtime friend Chris asked me to take him goose hunting. Chris is an accomplished big-game hunter, but he’s just never been in the right place at the time the geese were there, and because he’s seen my occasional success with honkers, he asked me to show him the ropes.
That sounds easier than it is. For starters, geese are maddeningly fickle creatures. For all their predictability, they can give you the cold shoulder with no warning, failing to show in the field they’ve grazed for the past week, or swinging wide and out of range of blinds. Or simply shoving out of the country on the leading edge of a cold front.
Then there’s the gear. Field hunting as we do for geese is pretty specialized. You can get by without all this, but we use layout blinds, several dozen decoys of various types (thanks, Final Approach!), and fast-shooting semi-auto shotguns. Chris doesn’t have any of these, so I loaned him mine. Thing is, Chris is a big, big man, and it was clear from the start that he was not going to fit in my layout blind.
I’m still not sure how we managed to pluck a pair of geese out of the first flock that flew into range. That was it for the day, but Chris was pumped, and we added to the body count the next day. It wasn’t red-hot, and for my partners who consider any hunt short of a limit a waste of time, it was a failure.
But don’t tell that to Big Smooth. He gushed. He crowed. He’s still talking about his hunt. There’s a picture of him here. It’s been a week, and that smile has not left his face. In fact, he’s ready to take the next step. He wants to buy decoys, invest in a layout blind, and he’s been asking about shotguns. I’ve been happy to give him my advice about brands and styles of gear. But that’s not enough.
Here’s the thing about mentoring. You can give a little of your knowledge to spark an interest. Give a little of your time and you’ll blow that spark into a flame. But if you want to ignite a fire that won’t go out – and may in fact lead your apprentice to become a mentor to other beginners – then you have to give more than that. You have to give your gear, your access, and your passion.
In this season of giving, consider giving something of value to someone you are leading on the hunter’s path. Give a backpack, or a good pair of boots. Give a duck call or a treestand. Chris, I’m giving you that Mossberg 935 you shot those geese with. Come over and pick it up, and if things work out, we’ll break it in on a few more honkers.
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