Years back I decided to introduce a friend to the crazy world of golf, a game that although I enjoy, frustrates me to no end. He lacked a certain amount of coordination and grace. What possessed me to teach him the intricacies of golf escapes me to this day. Regardless, to the golf course we went, armed with the knowledge that this may turn out to be an exercise in futility and if nothing else, totally entertaining.
Introducing a new person to your sport should be done with patience, effort and a good dose of humility. You never know how well he or she will take to it, but you want them to like it and come back. I don’t claim to be the next Tiger Woods or anything, in fact, my play is barely passable as golf, but I do know the basic concepts of the game. I did my best to extend my base of knowledge to my apprentice. I wanted him to understand the game and how and why I was beating him, but I didn’t want to frustrate him.
To make a long story short, he beat me. He’d never picked up a club in his life before that day, and he beat me — and not just by a stroke or two, either. I couldn’t even have cheated to get close to his score. Believe me, I tried. He was just really on and I was really off. So he got a round of congratulations, and I got a serious dose of humility. Being good friends, he made sure to rub it into my face at every opportunity and still does.
Cut to goose hunting season. I consider myself a decent waterfowl hunter. I decided the time was right to introduce my then-girlfriend to the sport that I spend the majority of my fall doing, initially going on the premise that it would give us more “quality time” together. Mostly I just wanted to see if she had as much fun as I did, and might therefore understand why I cancelled so many plans with her. The first step was convincing her that she could go and my friends wouldn’t mind if she was there. This was no big deal and was the easiest step. I did take a certain amount of ribbing from the guys.
I then began to tell her what to expect, based on how the past seasons had gone. This is always a little touchy seeing as how seasons can vary. I didn’t talk up any “hot spots” or “sure bets.” This is a kiss of death. I recall one time when I went hunting with a friend who kept talking about this field that was “sure” to have multitudes of geese. Well, as you would expect, I ended up seeing more geese in my bathtub than I did in that field. My friend blurted out, “I just don’t understand,” a few times, and so on. Nothing can turn off a new hunter faster than unfulfilled promises. Your best bet is not to make them in the first place.
One of the next things we started doing is going over her gear list. A quick bit of begging and pleading with her father got her the use of a nice shotgun. I’m not saying you should use the guilt routine when acquiring a firearm for a new hunter, but it did work for her. I then went through the steps on how to decide what camo patterns would work best for the type of hunting we were going to do, and I explained why it was necessary to wear camo in the first place. I took her to Cabela’s and helped her pick out her camo, and she ended up being quite proud of her purchase.
The next thing we did was work on shooting skills so she could effectively and safely take game. We started with just shooting into a cardboard target so she could understand the pattern of her shot from the scattergun. Her dad got a kick out of slipping in a 3 ½-inch turkey load with the 2 ¾-inch field loads we were using. While I admit the result was kind of funny, she doesn’t agree. When it came time to shoot clays from a thrower, I told her that even though she may miss some, geese were much bigger than clays, and they were slower. Mostly I didn’t want her to get upset if she didn’t hit any. That turned out to be a pretty good idea, because she didn’t hit any that first day. In fact, it wasn’t until the third day she shot that she actually hit one. I, on the other hand, was showing her how it was done. I couldn’t miss as I broke clay after clay, breaking 63 out of 75. I imagine if I had taken my golf buddy to a driving range, the result would have been similar.
The day of the first hunt came. We saw very few geese and they wanted nothing to do with our field. One hunter in the group, who was invited by another, lamented that it was a waste of his time, and he left. My new hunter, though, just said, “That’s why they call it hunting,” and took the whole thing in stride. The first few days of the season went the same way, with geese avoiding the field like it was cursed, until a lone goose came in and hovered low over the decoys. My new hunter carefully aimed and bagged her first goose. I was very proud. Soon, a small but decent flock came in and I decided it was my turn to fill my limit and “show her how it’s done.” My three shots caressed birds with steel shot but did little to re-arrange any migration plans. She, on the other hand, fired twice and sent two geese crashing to the ground. How could this be? Oh well, beginners luck, I guess. Of course, she didn’t need to tell me I could “claim” one to my buddies.
That whole season was pretty rough on me. Each time I took her, the result was the same — she took geese and I did not. My ego took some abuse. But her passion for waterfowl hunting is now there, and she can’t wait for the season to come around every fall. I’ve tried to convince myself that I “let” her shoot more geese than I did, but now I have a hunting buddy as well as a wife and partner. Our son, who is still a toddler, is also showing signs of the desire to hunt. He gets as excited as I do when a flock of geese flies over. I just hope he doesn’t want me to teach him golf too.