My seven year-old nephew, Nicholas St.Pierre, has already won two fishing tournaments. He can identify the species of fish tugging at the end of his line in mere moments after a strike. This spring, he landed a 36-inch musky on six pound test line. Though I'm his biased uncle, I think it's pretty obvious he's something of a fishing prodigy. His dad, my brother Matt, always loved fishing. While I enjoy fishing, hunting has always been my passion of the two.
Consequently, when Nicholas requested his first pheasant hunting experience, I was thrilled to be able to escort them on the adventure. My wife Meredith also came along as chief camera operator.
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to take a seven year-old into the thick grasses of a Minnesota pheasant hunt. Turns out, I learned a lot from one day afield with a seven year-old.
1) An excited seven year-old can walk all day through tough, tall grass if he's having fun.
2) Let me repeat, a seven year-old has more endurance than you or I, and can weave his way through cattails with the ease of a cottontail rabbit.
3) Any child under 10 looks adorable in a Stormy Kromer.
4) Excited youngsters make excellent pheasant Sherpas.
5) Dogs may be the key to new hunter recruitment. Nicholas was absolutely captivated by my shorthair's efforts to find, point, and retrieve pheasants. In fact, Nick's top item on this year's Christmas list is a living, breathing dog of his own.
6) Even a seven year-old feels okay about ripping his uncle after a missed a shot.
This season, I've hunted the islands of the Missouri River in Montana, crested the canyons of the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, flushed grouse on the shores of Lake Michigan, and watched the North Dakota skies fill with waterfowl at sunrise. However, the most memorable day afield for 2009 will likely be the Saturday after Thanksgiving spent with my nephew Nick, my brother Matt, and my wife Meredith as we bagged one trophy rooster and shared the stories of a successful hunt over a Padua Pub cheeseburger and tater tots.