Austin Cook's first pheasant...
Take a kid Hunting. It's said all the time and it's beautiful to see happen and or in this case, in word and picture form.
My youth afield with OMR was foundational in the way I view the world, my family and my father. My guess is that if more sons and daughters got the experience of young Mr Cook recently had, we wouldnt have the volume of problem our society has
Enjoy this guest blog post from friend Gerald Cook as 4 generations of Cooks converge an epic moment in a father and son's lives.
If I’ve read it once I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Take a youth hunting… Share our tradition… Introduce a child to the outdoors.” Thanks, Field & Stream. I appreciate it, DU. That’s a good idea. It’s a great idea – admirable, even.
If my dad hadn’t taken me into an alfalfa field when I was 12 years old I wouldn’t be a Hunter today. I also wouldn’t have stood awe-struck with a 20-guage at my hip and my mouth gaped open as a Northern Illinois cock pheasant flushed at my feet and my dad laughed, either, but that’s a story for another time. With 27 years of hindsight and almost as many hunting seasons under my belt, I now think the sage advice “take a youth hunting” might rank up there with “just say no.” Outdoor companies may need to partner with Nike so they can legally follow “Take a youth hunting” with “Just Do It.” Now we’re getting the picture.
In 2011 I finally heeded the advice and took a youth hunting: my son. At 12 years old it was “time” to introduce The Boy to the fields. He had already shouldered a shotgun and fired on clays dozens of times. He was responsible, smart, excited, and above all, safe. He was also stepping into a priceless new tradition. His first hunt would take place in Kansas with me and my dad. For the first time, three generations of Cooks would be astride in the field chasing roosters and hoping for another first: The Boy’s first pheasant.
Did I say three generations? I’m sorry, I meant four. You see, my late grandfather’s Belgium-made Browning A5 20-guage shotgun was also in the field that day. Purchased through the mail in the 1950s, Grandpa finally got his dream gun. He carried it for years and was the only hunter in his family hunting group to consistently shoot doubles. Handed down to my father and now to me, that old A5 had dropped birds for three generations and I couldn’t help but think we were carrying a piece of Grandpa with us that day. We later learned that the gun was actually manufactured in 1930, so its unknown and untold stories of familial hunting may even predate our experiences.
Regardless of the gun’s age, one thing is sure: Grandpa’s gun rarely missed. Dad is money with the old humpback. I’m dangerous with the heirloom and have to pause writing this to remember if I’ve ever missed with it on my shoulder… maybe. You’ll never know. Like Grandpa, the gun is easy to carry with you, dependable, and willing to provide a memory. Anyway, back to The Boy’s introduction.
We walked the first field and I almost doubled over with laughter when The Boy stood in half-panic as his first rooster exploded before him. I caught myself though and remembered my own experience as I caught Dad’s glance and suddenly understood: Yes, it’s funny, but it’s more than that. It’s why you take a youth hunting – instant addiction. The Boy didn’t even shoot during that first walk, but he was all in.
We walked the second field where Dad and I shot a few birds before magic struck. Late in the walk I heard the rooster flush. I watched The Boy fire. I saw the ringneck fall. Suddenly I was that 12-year-old boy in the alfalfa field again. I stood awestruck with a gun at my hip and my mouth gaped open. As I watched The Boy collect his first pheasant I saw my dad on the other side of him and the pride started to swell. He had done it. We had done it. In one beautiful frame on the Kansas prairie I saw my dad, my son with his first bird… and Grandpa’s A5 in his hand. Count it four generations who have bagged birds with Grandpa’s dream gun.
I’ll spare you my flush of emotion and the thousands of times I’ve replayed that scene in my mind. I’ll simply leave you with this, and I mean it: Take your youth hunting.