Local view: When in the Northland, it’s never too early to huntIf you live under a rock you may not have noticed we are waist-deep in the throes of autumn: leaves are changing colors and falling from trees, there’s a not-so-subtle change in air temperatures and, in Northeastern Minnesota, there are now gunshots.
If you live under a rock you may not have noticed we are waist-deep in the throes of autumn: leaves are changing colors and falling from trees, there’s a not-so-subtle change in air temperatures and, in Northeastern Minnesota, there are now gunshots.
Before I moved to Minnesota, I didn’t own a gun. Shotguns were for hillbillies, and pistols were for thugs. Now I have several of each. I’m still a little frightened every time I fire a gun; something about the raw mechanical power and its life-
taking potential still makes me flinch. But an afternoon spent in the woods is worth those few seconds of fear: The feeling is also one of adrenaline dumping into my veins, the way I look at it.
My 4-year-old sees this very differently. He would chew through a limb to get out and shoot, whether at cans set up on a fencepost or at something alive. Last fall was no different, and I thought fostering his passion rather than squashing it would be wise. But taking a 3-year-old bird hunting presents its own set of challenges.
First, what kind of gun could he use that actually would kill something if we were able to get close enough? And was I premature in doing this? He was, after all, only 3. But logic told me that perhaps if he fired a gun himself he might get a little scared, too. Maybe his lust for this blood-sport would taper.
I was totally kidding myself.
We headed out early, before the sun crested the horizon, and aimed the truck up Rice Lake Road toward Island Lake and beyond, where my husband’s family has hunting land. Zane’s excitement level was at an all-time high, his cheeks rosy with the morning chill. His short-stock .410 and my 16 gauge rode safely behind the seats in our Suburban, and my coffee cup was loaded. We stopped at Chalstrom’s to make the whole deal legal; I bought myself a small-game license and got an addendum for Zane.
The old-timers who hover around in there, drinking coffee and telling fish stories, got a real kick out of the little kid who spoke as eloquently as they did. I bought Zane a coffee and snickered behind my hand as he stood there and sipped it with his blaze orange bird vest on while I gave the clerk the information for our licenses. One old man asked him what he was doing, and Zane proceeded to tell him that we were going bird hunting. Taken aback, the man looked at me in disbelief. I nodded my head yes, and he guffawed a little, probably thinking we wouldn’t get close enough to anything to have a shot, and even if we did, what 3-year-old had aim good enough to take down a partridge?
Later that day, after the noon sun crested, after we’d eaten the lunches I packed for us, and with my young son exhausted, we headed home. My hopes of deterring my boy from his lust for firearms were dashed. The first time Zane shot his .410, the kick nearly set him on his rump, but he staggered, and, after shaking his earmuffs off, let out a war-whoop of, “Again!” And again we did. All day long.
Exhausted as we were, we made absolutely certain to stop back at Chalstrom’s so Zane could get his picture taken with his partridge, and maybe tell a fish story or two of his very own.
Moriah Erickson is a writer, a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page and a respiratory therapist who lives in Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood with her husband, a self-employed flooring contractor; their voiceless hound dog, Huckleberry; and their seven children.