Jason Hawkins Outdoors: The wonder of discovery

Sep. 30, 2013 @ 06:20 PM

I encourage discovery and independence in the outdoors for my two boys.

Both love to catch and chase fish and game. At home, the read about fishing, boating and hunting.

In the not too distant past, I had done all the preparations for getting us all into the woods and up a tree.

This year, that changed. It would be the boys who would not just hunt, but would choose where we hunt.

We began our adventure in search of a place to perch. I let them tour a field, asking that they note any particular sign or evidence of game.

For an hour or so, we walked and stood and watched and pondered where deer might enter or exit particular terrain.

The field was a lush grass meadow with a robust crop of corn in the middle and we had seen deer feeding there frequently in recent weeks. However, we didn’t know from which direction the deer were approaching the site.

I had already deduced where a deer might enter to feed. First, we talked about the sun. Since it was late in the day, I reminded the boys that the sun sets in the West and to remember that when picking a tree.

We began to walk.

The boys paid close attention and discovered scat where deer had fed, making it obvious the deer were fond of a particular place among the tender grass.

“We need to remember this place,” one said.

Our steps continued down the hill and along the way two deer burst from the standing corn and made quick time across the field just ahead of us.

“Watch where it goes into the woods,” one said.

A few moments later, we came upon a well-worn trail that led from a creek bottom to the field and on the trail we noticed old as well as fresh deer tracks.

“The tracks are pointed to the field and pointed to the woods,” one said. “That means they are using this trail to get here and to leave,” said the other.

Slowly but surely, they were piecing together an idea of how the deer were traveling.

Interestingly enough, as they discovered additional signs, it heightened the search and they actually became more interested.

Our travels took us around the field and back to where we entered it. We had found tracks and droppings and trails and evidence of broken branches and pawed dirt and we could see where the clover was picked close and the corn was down more in some places than others.

Each of the boys went ahead and selected a tree from which to hunt.

Over the course of our visit, the sun had given way to shadows. All was still when I positioned them, separately and some distance away, to watch the field and to observe if their predictions about the deer’s habits were true.

The deer did use the trail to arrive. The deer did feed among the tender clover. The deer did wander from where we thought and into the sea of corn. It was that moment when I realized that the boys were learning the art and craft of hunting and appreciating the outdoors.

Enjoy your time outdoors.

Contact Jason Hawkins by email at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.