I was riding into work with my boss the other day talking about how nice the bush looked with its many different fall colours. We had just driven through a fair-sized mud puddle in his four-wheel drive Dodge diesel work-mobile when we saw two partridge strolling down the road in front of us.
Well, Ron, my 60-year-old boss jumped out of the truck, grabbed his .410 shotgun from behind the seat and blasted both birds with one shot I jumped out of the truck and waltzed down the road to help Ron find one of the birds that was hiding in the brush near the side of the road.
I found the missing partridge playing possum under a pile of twigs and quickly dispatched the bird then put it in the truck. As we continued on or trip to work I couldn’t help reflect back on my bird hunting excursions.
For many of us hunters and trappers the roots of our hunting skills started with bringing home small wild game in the form of rabbits and partridge. Some of us didn’t have the luxury of owning shotguns or rifles on our first hunting expeditions. My young friends and I had to use homemade slingshots. These were constructed out of a good hardwood “Y” stick, rubber tubing from an old tire and the tongue out of my father’s retired work boots. We took our time constructing our sling shots and spent even more time looking for nice round stones to use as ammunition.
Hunting with slingshots took some practice but we got the hang of it pretty fest. We practiced shooting at small stumps or anything that was the size of our would be prey. We also had to watch the adults to see how the manoeuvered around in the bush. We learned how to walk quietly through the bush, but not right off the bat; this too came with practice. Sometimes we would be concentrating so hard on moving around quietly that we wouldn’t see our target until we were next to it. Needless to say, the small game would dart from its hiding spot and scare us out of our little brown hides.
It took much perseverance but we got the hang of walking quietly and scoping out the bush at the same time. We slowly started to bring home rabbits and partridge, which made our folks happy. Any wild game to end up on the table was a welcome site for the older folks, especially when they didn’t have to go and bring it home themselves. Besides, the older folks got a kick out of our field dressing because half the time we ended up coming home covered in rabbit fur or partridge feathers.
Our stump-tripping, bush-tumbling, twig-in-the-eye hunting trips did eventually pay off. All of us young hunters who made meals out of using stones graduated too rifles and shotguns. I know that I was proud to walk through the bush with my first rifle and was even prouder when I brought home a backpack full of small game.
If my grandparents were over for a visit when I returned from one of these hunting trips we would have quite the feast. My grandmother would cook up the partridge or rabbit stew in the way only a grandmother could. She would make dumplings and added anything else she could find in the cupboards to make the meal taste out of this world. She would also bake one of her specialties, oven-baked bannock (Indian Bread) to complete the feast.
Today, I still considered it a treat to bag enough small game to make a good meal. It is something that I will probably never outgrow. I was raised on what nature provided for us and I guess you can say that I have I still have a feeling of pride when I bring home our traditional meals. It makes me feel even prouder when I see my children enjoying the same food that I was raised on because I know that someday when I get too old to hunt they will bring home a treat for me as I did for my family.
Although my grandparents have long since passed into the spirit world, sitting here I can still see their faces light up with pride and joy at my hunting prowess, knowing that they had instilled in me at a very early age the age-old traditional skills of my family. I wish that now, more than a quarter-century later, they were here see that I still maintain our family traditions and that I am doing my best to pass them on to my children.
It is like things have come full circle because now I’m the adult hunter and my children play the same outdoor mock-hunting games that I did. As I sit here writing this I can’t help but let happy tears run down my cheeks as I remember times when life was simpler. Times when all I had to do with chase rabbits and partridge around in circles all day. Looking back now I realize what a special time the roots of my early hunting days were. As I dry the tears from my cheeks I can tell you I miss those days that I will always miss my grandparents.
I dedicate this story to the memories of Sam and Bessie (née Paul) Cote, my grandparents.