I was 10 when I started tagging along with my 17 year old brother as he hunted. At 12 he took me to the NRA class and we began hunting together. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolved around those early morning squirrel hunts and the pheasant hunts with Doug that would begin a couple years later. I wanted my son Jamie to experience those things and carry similar memories with him throughout his life. So when Jamie turned 12, the two of us took the NRA hunter safety class together. More about that later.
It had been many years since I owned a rifle or hunted, and I hadn't shot a rifle since I was in the service. I had owned a Colt AR-15 in the early 1970's back before it was cool to own one. In fact, I didn't know of a single person back then who owned one. I had shot 'Expert Navy Rifleman' the first time at the military range and soon after I decided to buy an AR. I hit the range with it from time to time, but when I left the service and signed up for college, sold that rifle and just about everything else I owned to get my girlfriend and I through the 4 years. Life changes and so do our interests. I married that girl that I met the first semester of college, and she wasn't the 'outdoorsy type'. Her family did not hunt, shoot or fish, so the shooting sports were never anything we thought about. Kids soon occupied our lives. I worked a lot of hours and money was always tight. But as time went on, the routine of going to work and returning home to eat and watch TV got old. One day on my way home from work I reflected on those early days with my brother and how much fun we had. My wife doesn't like guns, but I figured that after 20 plus years of marriage, chances are slim that she would leave me for buying a .22. I decided to look into what was required to purchase a rifle and get a hunting license. I needed to take the NRA Hunter Safety class.
It took some some convincing, but soon my son Jamie and I were signed up to take the NRA class at a nearby High School. Three nights a week for 3 hrs, for two weeks. It was a lot of time and effort to get there after working a long day, but the classes proved to be interesting and informative. We learned everything from calibers to habitat and it was something Jamie and I could do together. By the time it was over both of us just about aced the 100 question test and received out certificates. Now I was like a kid before Christmas waiting to open his presents. I was dying to get to the gunshop and buy a .22.
Since my wife still wasn't hot on the idea of me buying "a gun", I decided to buy something non-threatening and reasonably priced. Instead of going to the local gunshop, I went to WalMart and spotted a Henry H001 lever action rifle. The price was right, it was made in America and it had the look and feel that I was looking for. It was also small enough so Jamie could handle it. The plan was to take him out a few times, then buy him his own rifle if he showed real interest. We don't all come out of the same mold, so what was good for me might not be right for him. Jamie might not like hunting but might love the range. Unlike me, he grew up with video games so hunting might prove to be a bore. Only time would tell.
Soon after buying the rifle I began woodchuck hunting on farmland near work, but for some strange reason squirrels were few and far between in that area. I thought about those places I hunted as a kid, but I didn't even know if they still existed or if they were now covered with condos. For now I decided to take Jamie to the farm I had been hunting on and I told him not to get his hopes up.
It was a dark, dreary and wet morning, and I'm sorry to say that as usual, nothing was moving. We did a lot of walking, but the area was a dead as a doornail. We ended up doing a some plinking because I wasn't going to take Jamie home without ever firing the rifle. I set up pine cones and Jamie had a blast knocking them down with the Henry. I wish he could have gotten some action, but a big part of hunting is coming home empty while still making memories. We'll nail some next time. The next stop is to take Jamie and the Henry to the range.