Our Family Tradition: The Christmas Hunt
One of the most revered traditions in my family has been the annual Christmas-time hunt. My grandfather started this tradition when my uncles were very young. I have carried on this tradition with my sons, and I hope to be fortunate enough to continue it with my grandchildren.
I can remember the anticipation that I felt as a young boy, waiting to be old enough to accompany the men of the family into the hunting blind. And I saw this same anticipation in each of my sons’ eyes until they were able to accompany me to the marshes and fields.
I remember cold clear days, weighted down with dozens of decoys, our guns and gear. We trudged through thick swamp mud to meticulously set out decoys in anticipation of flights of mallards, pintail and widgeon.
Many times, without ever seeing a bird, we drank coffee and hot chocolate as we talked, laughed and caught up on the events in each other’s lives. I can remember hunts with my grandfather and uncles that were so successful, my shoulder would hurt from shooting and I would need help bringing the harvested mallards, pintails and gadwalls out of the blind.
I learned so much about life while in the hunting blind with the men of my family. There were countless conversations that touched on the importance of keeping wildlife in the hands of the public and the great obligations that holds for us all. There were stories from my grandfather’s youth about the market hunters that contributed to waterfowl’s decline, and the later conservation efforts that helped restore their abundance.
My grandfather would have hours-long conversations about conservation efforts in places that to me—as a boy in Oklahoma—seemed a world away, places like the prairie pot holes of the Dakotas. These conversations continue to this day, although the faces in the blind have changed and many of the men in my family are no longer with us.
My greatest hope is that the coming generations of hunters will be grateful that we have done our part to stop the destruction of the Mississippi River Delta and thereby ensured our children and grandchildren the ability to enjoy the same bounty of waterfowl that those before us fought to ensure and protect for our generation.