The Boy brought his BB gun, sunglasses, camo gloves and cap. He carried his folding stool and his pocket knife. Along with my own gun and gear, I brought a bottle of water and a ThermaCELL for each of us.
I also brought lots of memories I hoped to share, but those require a little more preamble than a simple, “Here,” and a reach to pass on.
We situated ourselves amid the standing millet stalks and faced the setting sun, waited while the minutes ticked by, waited for the action to begin.
I explained how the birds use the food, the water and the trees in concert, moving from one to the next by instinctive pattern. I told him why I liked the spot we’d chosen, overlooking the field, hidden in the millet, lined up between certain trees to our east and west the birds like to use.
He pulled his cap down and said the sun was in his eyes.
We could have put our backs to the west on the other side of the field, I told him, but there the treeline was solid and much taller, the shooting less reliable. I told him we could sit there and be comfortable or sit here and shoot a limit, and that I’d do whichever he preferred.
“Let’s sit here,” he said, and I smiled.
I told him how the first birds would arrive, moving limb to limb down the treeline.
As the shadows lengthened, he saw that it was so. “When do they start flying?” he asked.
I told him they’d sit high in the trees and watch the field for a while, then gradually begin cruising over it in ones and twos, picking up frequency and numbers for a time before tapering off at some point before dusk. How long that peak lasted would determine the quality of the shoot, though the quality of our time itself was a different thing, impossible to measure without years of remove, at least for me.
“If one lights in the tree behind us, can I shoot it with my gun?” he asked, and I told him he could as long as he stuck to the safety rules, which he then quoted back to me to my satisfaction. We’d talked about muzzle direction and trigger discipline and treating every gun as though it were loaded. He had listened and learned.
“Here comes some,” he said. I looked over his head to the north and saw doves filtering into the oaks atop the next hill.
“They’ll move down this way pretty soon,” I told him.
“When I get my chance, I’ll be ready,” he said, and I knew, with quiet certainty, he would be.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.