Where do you go when you are awaiting your COVID-19 test results after you worked an assignment that involved 3,000 people listening to a contagious President Trump speak in Duluth?
Well, you actually should stay home but if you have a hunting shack in the middle of nowhere (and within an hour of your home so no need for any stops) then that seems like a safe option to keep your mind off your pending diagnosis.
It’s October and there’s much to do at the shack. Last-minute trail maintenance. Check trail cameras for buck sightings. Fix up the rotting wall on the deer stand. And when there is time, grouse hunting.
This fall, grouse hunting has also meant exposing a toddler to hunting and discussions about death.
Shortly after the season opened, we took her with us on some trails behind our house. Donning a bright orange hat and purple hearing protection earmuffs, her and I stayed a safe distance back as her dad walked up the trail.
He flushed a grouse and let off a shot. I looked down and saw her eyes as wide as can be. I asked her if that was loud.
I asked if she was scared.
Slight pause. “No.”
OK, she passed the first test. Then her dad came walking down the trail with the grouse in his hands.
“I want to hold him,” she exclaimed.
We gave each other a look suggesting “why not?” before he handed the grouse over. Holding her hands straight out, she smiled as she studied the grouse. Pointing out the beak, eyes, sharp feet and feathers.
When we got home we set the bird, now affectionately called “goose”, near the garage while we washed up for dinner. That’s when her dad cleaned the grouse and put the meat in the fridge.
But she kept asking about her goose.
I tried to explain what hunting was. We shoot the bird. We clean it and then we eat it. Blank stare.
Hunting is when we sit or walk around in the woods for a long time looking for birds or other animals to harvest … Blank stare. A toddler doesn’t know what harvest means.
You know how we had a garden this summer and we had food growing outside and then we brought it inside when it was ready? Hunting is kind of like that. Blank stare, probably not getting the connection between tomatoes and a grouse.
“The goose flew away,” I eventually say after a few attempts.
“Oh, the goose flew away?” This she understands and this is how it will have to be for now.
We’ve been grouse hunting with her a few times since that initial hunt and it seems like something is starting to click, but if we get a deer this November I’m not sure what her reaction will be. Wish me luck in explaining that one.
And as for the COVID-19 test, the first one came back negative. And so did the second one.
Samantha Erkkila is the multimedia producer at the News Tribune. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was updated at 9 a.m., Oct. 12, 2020, with the results of Samantha Erkkila's second COVID-19 test.