BAM! The can in the tree falls to the ground. BAM! The can on the ground pops into the air and skips across the ground. “Good job, Robert,” says my Uncle. “First time shooting and you hit your targets. Always remember to never point the barrel at anyone or in any direction where people are or could potentially be…. Let’s go shoot some more targets before we get that pheasant.” So, the morning continues with me shooting cans and learning how to handle a weapon the correct way. A couple of hours pass and then it was time for live targets. The morning dew was still on the ground, in the trees, bushes, and I could see the little droplets of water falling from the branches, and the tips of the leaves. The mist is starting to settle down towards the ground and the sun is starting to peak its eye out to shed some light over the fields. The anticipation of what will happen or what we will find is overwhelming my senses, but steady is the shotgun in my hand.
Through the field we walk as we trail behind the dogs leading the hunt; the sense of camaraderie from our fellow hunters welcoming me into the circle was a great feeling, and only intensified as I received encouragement from my peers. After all, I was a rookie learning from veterans who did not normally allow outsiders into their circle. However, I was accepted and given advice about numerous topics, although I was too young to completely understand what it was I was learning at the time.
Then I hear my name. “Make ready Robert; the dogs have something, get ready.” The dogs stop, and are focused hard on something, their focus as sharp as the tip of a needle about to be threaded. The dogs are still and anticipation fills the air. The hunters are looking towards the dogs, and are ready for whatever is coming. Everyone is lined up and then the dogs rush in fast and hard towards some brush 30 feet in front of us; the birds scatter every which way and are flying fast. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop and then silence. The silence was as still at the ground beneath our feet. One could almost hear the droplets of water falling off of the branches and the as the smoke settles I hear it from my fellow hunters and Uncle. “Great shot Robert. First trip out and you got one on your first shot.” My Uncle, God bless his soul, taught me a valuable lesson that day, one which has and still guides me to this day. Furthermore, the pheasant tasted pretty good, even with the few pellets from the buckshot.
With every situation that involves weapons of any sort, one must always remember the safety and responsibility that comes with the privilege of being able to handle weaponry, including taking part in an age-old tradition such as hunting. Even if that tradition is not hunting, the usage of any weapon is the sole responsibility of the user behind the trigger. I have stated it before and I will reiterate this once again. Once that bullet leaves the chamber, there are no pause buttons and handling any weapon comes with responsibility regardless if it is one’s first time or one’s thousandth time. Weapons, especially hand guns, rifles, shotguns, arrows, and even slingshots, will kill and you are the one who will have to live with the repercussions of your actions even if those actions may be within your right – out of self-defense or something as old as hunting. I was fortunate enough to learn properly and under the proper guidance from my uncle to understand what it was I was holding in my hands and just what the repercussions would be.
The majority of my stories have been touching many levels of tones, but this is one of those memories that resonates with me – even after more than 30 years, and reminds me of a positive experience with my uncle each and every time I remember it.
See you in the next post.