Bowhunting pheasants with my three year old son

During a long stormy night, a Danish hunter is worried his small child will never go to sleep - but then his son asks if they can go hunting. Suddenly the early morning holds a lot more promise ...

It was one of those nights, I was in bed, sleeping beside my wife, when in the distance I heard the rumbling of a thunderstorm and groggily became aware it was getting closer and closer. Suddenly, I was jolted awake by a massive shake that almost threw me out of bed – my oldest son, who is three, had joined us in bed.

“My son uttered the magic words: “Dad, can we go hunting today?”

I slowly turned – it was 5.15am and to say that I was at my absolute best at that moment would be a lie.

Maybe if I just kept perfectly still he might not notice I was awake and maybe, just maybe he would go to sleep? However, he and I definitely did not share the same idea about this.

So, I got out of bed, scooped up my son and we started playing in the living room for what must felt like an hour – yet it was only ten minutes. Mild panic spread through me: How would I ever make it through the day?

The pheasant was now just seven metres away, and when it looked to the side, I drew back my bow.

That sentence worked better than three energy drinks. We were going hunting – no matter the weather conditions!

The next hours flew by, I woke up my wife, packed my bow and got prepared for some pheasant hunting. My wife drove us to a spot near her dad’s where I’m able to hunt and we walked the final kilometre.

“The pheasant was now just seven metres away, and when it looked to the side, I drew back my bow.”

The wind was blowing hard. My son took my hand and looked up at me smiling and said: “Dad, we’re going hunting, right?” Yeah, son we’re going hunting.

I love hunting pheasant with a bow, it’s a short but intensive hunt. You can almost set your clock to the time it takes them to get from eating in the field, to when they start seeking the forest to sleep in.

Some of you may have seen pheasants running in front of cars, where for some odd reason they keep running straight ahead instead of to the side – so how hard can this suicidal bird be to hunt? But man, as soon as you you start hunting them they become hyper alert ninjas and see everything!

So there we were, walking down the dirt road hand-in-hand, rounding the corner approaching my in-laws and I was enjoying the moment fully.

Suddenly, three pheasants ran into the adjacent field and I was cursing inside, hoping that we were not too late to the party after all. We hurried down to a blind I knew and got ready.

I checked with my son to see if he could remember how we behave when we are hunting. He nodded and said: “We sit still and are very quiet.”

I smiled and hugged him, and it was not long before he announced that he could see 10 pheasants and started pointing. Not long after he said he could now see five deer and I told him he had good eyes.

However, while I don’t think there were any animals it was definitely an improvement on the previous year where he’d told me to shoot every time we heard a sound. And it was still amazing to see him being in the moment and wanting to hunt in his own way.

Still, I reminded him that we needed to be quiet and after about 15 minutes I saw movement, the three pheasants from before were back and moving slowly towards us. Time slowed to a crawl as they came closer and they finally stopped about 10 metres away.

Then, I’m not sure what happened; either they saw me draw the bow or they felt my son’s movement and two ran clean away. But, the third one stopped. It was just 17 metres away and picking at the ground.

“I asked my son if he wanted to go for a walk, say hi to his grandparents or keep hunting? He smiled and chose hunting.”

My son asked why I wasn’t shooting, but while I really wanted to take the shot, there was simply too much in the way.

Then the rain started but it wasn’t long before there was a sound behind us. I whispered to my son that the hunting rules were now in full effect. To my left I saw movement – another pheasant was coming into bow range and I could feel my son tense up beside me.

The pheasant was now just seven metres away, and when it looked to the side, I drew back my bow. It took one more step and I released the arrow. I heard the smack of the arrow hitting the bird and I let out a breath that I didn’t even realise I’d been holding.

As we went to pick up the dead bird, I asked my son if he wanted to go for a walk, say hi to his grandparents or keep hunting? He smiled and chose hunting.

However, we braved just another ten minutes and when nothing happened I called it quits so he wouldn’t get bored and in the hope he’d want to join me another time.

As we made our way back, he wanted to carry the pheasant and when we arrived he proudly showed it off then joined me gutting and preparing it to be eaten.

On reflection, I really did not expect that I would be able to shoot a pheasant with my three year old – sitting still and being quiet really is not his strong suit. This whole day was an amazing experience.

I am a firm believer in giving my kids small success experiences so they will want to keep at it, and for me this was a way to spend time together ‘hunting’ in a way that he would enjoy.

He’ll experience the hardship that hunting and life will provide soon enough so no need to make it harder than it needs to be.

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