Duck hunting is a tradition and for most hunters, the skills and ethics are passed down from one generation to another. Trent Spencer writes about his first hunt with his son Fred, part of hunting’s next generation.
The time had come to take my oldest son Fred, 10, on his first duck opening. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to shoot at the Connewarre Wetlands Centre, a managed wetland, through Geelong Field & Game.
My own duck and quail hunting started at the age of nine in the Wimmera. I was taken by my father dam and channel hopping for ducks (me being the retriever in the absence of an actual dog), and was occasionally given a shot with an old single-barrel shottie, which had a three-inch piece of foam as a recoil pad.
I believe this was only there to boost my confidence, as I am positive it didn’t help with any recoil. I ended up on my bum the first time I shot it!
Fred had attended a duck education program run by the Geelong Field & Game at the Connewarre Wetland Centre, where he learnt about safety, equipment required, decoy spreads, etiquette, respect and many other things that go with being a responsible duck hunter.
He also attended a duck calling session with Blair Findlay from Toxic Calls, at the wetland centre earlier this year.
When I told Fred of the plans two days before opening, his excitement was evident. Immediately he got his camouflage gear and calls out, and even put his pillow in his swag. On the eve of duck opening, I picked him up from school and he was ready to go!
We had a night of camping awaiting.
Once our swags were set up, we headed down to set up the hide. He made sure there were sticks, grass and camo netting for the hide, and wouldn’t leave until he was happy with the arrangement.
Sitting around chatting on what tomorrow could bring made his excitement grow but he put himself to bed early so tomorrow would come quicker.
First light appeared above the bushes and his excitement had grown to fever pitch. Fully dressed in camo gear, duck callers and binoculars around his neck, with his mate Frizzy the dog ready to go, the young bloke was keen to get amongst it.
Arriving at the hide, the young bloke set up the decoy pattern, which he had learnt on the education days, and in a way he believed would be good for the day. Jumping back in the hide it was time to wait until opening. Within minutes birds started to land around us. Fred was even able to tell what type of ducks were coming in (very proud Dad moment, he had done well). This also showed how well the managed facility was. The countdown began, so we waited until 10 minutes past nine to make sure. Within the next hour there were plenty of ducks to be had, and it didn’t take long to get a bag. The two retrievers (young bloke and the dog) were beginning to get all tuckered out. It was time for home.
Fred packed up all the decoys as the dog tried to rest/sleep in the shade. Walking back pulling the punt full of all the gear, there was a guarantee someone would sleep tonight.
It was wonderful to hear the first words out of his mouth when getting out of the car: “Can we go again tomorrow?”
That night duck schnitzels were on the menu and devoured by the entire family, included our one year old. I am happy to know my young bloke is on his way to being a respectful hunter, and will be part of the future of hunting in Australia.
I’d like to thank Field & Game Australia for allowing us this great experience, filled with memories with my young bloke on his first opening, and hope we get to share many more to come.