YANTIS — Excuse my grandfatherly moment, but I am a grandfather and I took my grandson, Connor, quail hunting the other day at Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort. We also let his father, Tristan, and uncle Thomas tag along.
It was not Connor’s first hunt. Although only 3 (according to him, almost 4), he is a seasoned veteran of dove and deer hunts. He has seen a lot of wild Texas.
Recently he has been asking about going on a “real hunt” — so what is a grandfather to do?
This hunt was special because I came to a realization before we went that I never got to hunt with my grandfather. He died before I was born. My sons did not get to hunt with my dad because he had also died before they were born. For some reason, that mattered this year.
My boys started hunting with me at a young age, and continue to be active hunters and fishermen. I have enjoyed every minute with them.
I am not sure why it is important to hunters and fishermen to pass their sport down. Maybe it is for an appreciation and the understanding of the outdoors and nature that comes with it, the camaraderie or just the fun.
I also don’t know what the future of hunting and fishing holds. Youth participation, in hunting at least, has been on a rapid decline in Texas. Three years ago, there were 136,000 youth licenses sold in the state. Last year, there were only 121,000.
At this point, Connor is still a few years away from actually being a shooter, but that does not mean he cannot be an active participant. I have always believed more youngsters would like to hunt if it was not handed to them so easy. Start them out as an observer and let them move up to a bird boy before becoming a shooter. Start off on small game and work up as they mature to big game, and even then a roll to shoot does and cull bucks in the beginning to understand what it takes to raise a trophy. It was the same with fishing. That said, whatever works is great.
The fun on this hunt started at lunch. Chef Cruz Minjarez had prepared fried quail, something not on most 3-year-old’s dining list. Tristan broke the quail into pieces, added a little ketchup and suddenly Connor was enjoying chicken nuggets. The chef was kind enough not to kick us out over the ketchup.
I had an expectation for Connor’s first quail hunt. He has grown up around Labs and seen them retrieve dove. I hoped the pointers would grab his attention. Dog handler Cade Newson turned loose the dogs and immediately all good plans went astray. The empty hulls littering the ground and the grain stalks at his eye level were instantly more entertaining.
My inclination to admonish him quickly disappeared when I saw him holding his father’s hand and later mine and his uncle’s as we followed the dog. As instructed before we started, he was always by our side for safety’s sake when the dogs were on point and birds were flushed.
Before and during the hunt, I wondered what he might have been thinking. He has never been squeamish about dead animals and at one point asked if he could carry one of the birds.
Eventually Connor’s little legs wore out. I offered to take him back to the buggy to rest, but his father opted to carry him around the last third of the hunt, putting him down when the dogs went on point. More than the shots taken, that was special.
At the end of the day, the three adults had a good shoot. Connor slept from Lake Fork to the house. Maybe when he is older, we will learn what he processed from the day, and hopefully he will ask again. But for now, it is time to get the rods out and try some fishing.