Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Early Joys of Outdoors

It’s funny how something can happen so fast you never see it coming.  For instance, my son and I were bowfishing during the redhorse sucker spawn last year.  My son fired a shot into the water from the shoreline, and began backing up while retrieving his line.  In what seemed like slow motion, I watched as he took a step back too many, and plummeted down an embankment landing flat on his back in about 18 inches of water.  He wasn’t hurt, and we got a good chuckle out of it.
Sometimes though, things happen so slow you never see it come either.
As a child, I cannot remember a single weekend when a bb gun was not involved.  My friends and I cherished the first snow for two reasons.  First, we loved to play football in the snow.  I guess when you were tackled it didn’t hurt as bad; you know, the snow would either cushion the fall or you were so numb from the cold you just didn’t feel it.  Second, we somehow thought we could track rabbits and actually take one with the ole Daisy Red Rider air rifle.  It was a great beginner gun, and you could actually see the bb as it left the barrel.  We could track the rabbits, but there was NO way that gun was going to harm one.
During the summer, we would head out to one of several ponds within a bike ride distance, with rod and reel in hand.  We had either cork, hook and worms, or a beetle spin, and would catch more bream and crappie than you could count.
As we got a little older, and our parents trusted us more, we carried firearms that could do more damage.  We could hunt dove on our own after opening day came in.  Then when winter came, we would head out to the edge of the woods and kick around the brush looking for coveys of quail.  We didn’t have trained dogs, but we knew where the birds were, as we were in the woods year round.  Occasionally we would get a shot without being startled to death when several birds would flush.
Over the years, we either stopped hunting and fishing all together, or we only pursued whitetail deer.  We forgot about small game.  Occasionally, squirrel or rabbit hunting excursions may pop up, and we would have a blast while doing it.  Then it was over.
It wasn’t until recently; I discovered how hard it is to find the small game anymore.  With the expansion of the deer population over the last twenty years, and the encroachment of humans, small game habitat is dwindling away at a slow but steady pace.  We always hear of how people are responsible for the habitat loss, but we do not recognize the deer impact.  Quail and rabbit, for instance, thrive on edge cover.   That same edge cover is what deer graze on, and it doesn’t take long for the deer to completely deplete it.  North Carolina knows of the deer problem, which is why we now can take unlimited doe, and even has urban archery seasons in many places.  Without some control over deer, we may never gain quail and rabbit populations to what they were except in limited managed areas or preserves.
Small game is where we learn and earn our passion for hunting and fishing. Squirrel and rabbit hunting allow many shot opportunities and help a child with confidence in the use of their firearm.  The old bream ponds, if you can find one, offer fast and sure action for a youngster.  It’s guaranteed to keep their interest.  And, when you take a child, you may actually relive some of those fond memories of years past.


Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to billhowardoutdoors@gmail.com.

1 comment:

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