For Young Island-Dweller, A Hunt to Remember
A few weeks back I was pleased and proud to have a unique opportunity to mentor a youth hunter.
Not so say I haven’t mentored before; in fact, pretty much every year I take a hunter out for the first time on some kind of hunt. What makes this particular mentored hunt unique was the hunter, Jaxson. He is not from around here. In fact, he lives on the island nation of St. Lucia in the Caribbean Islands. His dad Erik and I went to high school and college together, but after graduation he went to St. Lucia to teach and serve as principal in an elementary school there. Like me, he has three boys, but his are a few years older than mine. A few years ago I saw Erik when he was back in the states on furlough, and he mentioned bringing his oldest son to hunter safety class in Wisconsin so he could learn to hunt. I offered to help out, if they needed any help putting a hunt together.
To my surprise, he took me up on my offer. We figured out when the youth firearms deer season would take place, and he and Jonas planned a trip to Wisconsin for a week of hunting. He went deer and turkey hunting with relatives, and I took them out for a day of duck, grouse, and woodcock hunting. It rained all day, and we didn’t get anything, but we did see a few ducks and miss a couple of grouse. I was pleasantly surprised last winter when Erik contacted me to see if we could put another trip together for his middle son Jaxson.
I have had a couple more years of raising boys, mentoring hunters, and learning my way around Langlade County’s Ackley Wildlife Area, so Jaxson may have gotten a way better experience than his older brother. I pre-scouted the areas we would hunt, so I had access and hunting cover figured out for duck hunting. I decided to treat them to a lunch of grilled bear steak sandwiches, a kind of food you would never get in the Caribbean. We saw grouse, woodcock, and ducks, and Jaxson even got to take a shot at one. His dad shot two ducks in the afternoon, so we did come home with some game.
It is very interesting taking a twelve-year-old island dweller out hunting. Everything they know about living here they learn either from watching television or visiting family when they travel. Talking to him, you wouldn’t think he was any different from any boy his age from the Northwoods. However, he does live on a tropical island, which means there are some physiological adaptations we have that he does not. For example, when we sat in the cattails and it got down to 29 degrees, which was the coldest he had ever seen and the coldest he had ever been. He had never experienced frost on grass. Because I had taken his brother out, I knew this, so I brought plenty of pocket hand-warmers which he used throughout the day. He also got sore feet from his boots. Jaxson only wears shoes to school or church, otherwise he goes barefoot—so his feet are not accustomed to footwear. Once the ground warmed up, he decided to lose the boots and hunt barefoot the rest of the day.
It is rewarding for me to take a young hunter out, but the real reward for me is seeing a father who flies his son over 3,000 miles to Wisconsin to experience hunting with his grandpa, uncles, and friends. There is no substitute for teaching the next generation. I wonder what Jaxson’s classmates will think of the tales he tells about strange birds, frosty grass, and eating bear meat for lunch. Hopefully I made a positive impression and played a role in securing the future of hunting.