Parental Bird Watching
by Rafe Hembree
My hunting career began when I was 4 years old under the leadershipof my father. To some, that might seem like a very early age to introduce a child to the sport but to others, like me, it seems instinctive. Now, when I say hunting, I mean "Hunting" in every literal aspect of the word. Basically my job was being a glorified spotter for my Dad who was the only one in the stand with a firearm. Truth is that I didn't take my first deer until age 7 but it was fun to go and I always looked forward to it.
It was frustrating too, but growing up, it slowly dawned on me what my Dad was doing. He was doing his job as a Father by taking me outdoors to personally pass on traditions and educate me on life outside. The same ideas and beliefs that I hope I can instill in my children as they grow up. These core values of nature and wildlife conservation will help protect our world as we hunters and fisherman know it. Hopefully, I'll do a good enough job that they'll in turn want to pass down their knowledge.
In today's world though, these outdoor excursions are going to be met with some challenges. For instance, one of my friends took his son out hunting last year for the first time and he had what he called a good experience. His boy, like most kids, enjoyed the first 15-20 minutes but quickly lost interest when "nothing was moving" for him to see. Once the dad's patience wore off, he reached into his hunting coat and magically pulled out his son's iTouch complete with a set of headphones. From that moment on, his son kept his head down and into whatever was channelling through the headphones. The dad surprisingly was ok with this. I guess I can't overlook the fact that they were having some Father-Son time, but how great was the quality of time there. There's a fine line between parenting definitions that I'll refrain from crossing here.
Back in the pre-iTouch ages when I was bored while hunting with my Dad, he obviously had to come up with a different strategy. By trade, my Dad was a Rancher/ Real Estate broker but he got a Masters in Biology from A&M which is why I think he deterred my boredom the tactic he used. After my 15-20 minutes of initial quiet time wore off, I'd start shifting around in my seat and endlessly uttering these sighs of disgust. That's when the tides turned and the Biologist in my Dad would come out. He'd get me quiet and then we'd listen for birds whistling and chatting near our hunting spot. We'd slowly look in the direction of the birds and then he'd have me identify them sometimes with the help of binoculars. He'd have a little note pad and a pencil that he sharpened with his pocketknife and we'd log down the ones we could identify. As I got a couple years older, we even took this elementary effort at "birding" a step further.
B. Dalton Bookstore opened a location not far from my hometown (2 Hrs was the nearest quality mall) and the first book my Dad bought there was a National Audubon Society Bird Book. Naturally, he got the edition that was specific to Texas and the southwest. I thought this book was the key to my happiness in the deer stand. The book had fantastic pictures, descriptions of habitats, migration periods, etc.. Now, I could not only identify the birds that I saw, I could tell you what they ate, how they sounded and when they were headed back North if they were going to do so. It made my already long list of identified species get even longer. As a caveat to my relief from the deer stand boredom, my "bird book" helped me as a hunter as well. It had all the migratory and non-migratory duck in it too so I'd know what was in season and what wasn't. Guess you could say it kept me legal to an extent.
2013 year will be my first year to take my son (for the record, age 5) hunting with me and I'm already preparing for his first experiences. We'll use the same Audubon book that I used as I still carry it in my backpack today. He'll learn by thumbing through it the same way that I did, along with some field glasses and pencil that I'll probably sharpen with my pocketknife. The pages are a little bent and the pictures are somewhat faded, but it still holds up to the exploratory nature of wanting to know what kind of bird is in that tree or making that sound. When he gets older, he can compare it to the birds that I saw when I was his age and then try to identify even more. Oh, and just in case, if you're like my friend who's son can't live without the iTouch, they have an APP for that. Yes, for $0.99, you can download an APP that'll help you begin your career in Bird Watching. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hunting!
Southlake's Rafe Hembree is a born and raised Texan, husband and father of two. Rafe, a Texas Tech alumn, has been hunting and fishing since he was knee high to a praire dog. A true outdoorsman and conservationist, he travels the world in search of the best hunting and fishing locales, especially for his favorite activity - Saltwater Fly Fishing. A volunteer guide with Reel Recovery Rafe looks forward to sharing his experiences with family, friends and readers of Southlake Style.