Idaho’s Young Spuds

No Couch potatoes here …
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Hunting

Here’s Ridge, his Dad, and a whopper of a mule buck.

When I went up to Idaho for my yearly handgun mule deer hunt with my good buddy Dick Thompson, it was more show and tell than anything. Mother Nature showed us plenty of does and fawns, elk and moose, but no bucks. Still, we enjoyed the grand show offered us, making us grateful for what we did experience.

Rough Road Ahead?

called roads to Dick’s hidden spots. The rugged drive gave us time to catch up. Dick opined as to how some kids today have never experienced bouncing down such a ditch … er road as my head hit the roof for the 10th time. I couldn’t have agreed more as I adjusted my glasses again. This was fun, wasn’t it?

We talked of the shrinking numbers of hunters in general, especially among the young ranks. Growing up when we did, we weren’t seduced by the electronic gadgetry which so successfully sabotages today’s youngsters. Did anyone still go play outside in the mountains or woods anymore? Turns out, as the week progressed, I was about to find out …

Potatos

Chance Encounter

While having dinner, I spy a tired but happy-looking lad sitting at his table, camouflaged stem to stern with the telltale sign of blood on his boots. His name is Caleb and he is all of 18. He tells of his morning’s hunt, involving over 11 miles of walking and a successful shot at a lasered 567 yards using his Remington Model 700 .30-06.

Complaining about millennials and their obsession with cell phones is in vogue, but the phones are undeniably useful as a portable camera and photo album. With some prodding, Caleb shows me his dandy deer, last year’s elk and a host of other critters he’s tagged.

I was impressed, envious and happy to see there were still some kids who enjoyed the outdoors as we did. Caleb went on to tell me he rides in the rodeo too and is going to be a lineman for the power company.

A Different Hunt

Whenever I wasn’t hunting myself, I started hunting for youngsters who were hunters themselves. The next hunter I meet is Ridge. Tall and lean, Ridge looks like he could out-walk a horse. When I see him, he’s fueling his big Chevy pickup at The Maverick, a gas station/mini-mart.

Exchanging nods, I engage the camo-clad kid and start talking about hunting. Within seconds, Ridge whips his phone out to show me the buck he took a few days ago. Holy cow!

He shot it at 652 yards with a custom 6.5-06 his Dad put together for him. The two regularly shoot at even longer distances, with the trajectory written on a card taped on the stock. These young spuds from Idaho can shoot! They take advantage of the wide-open spaces they’re blessed with.

Hunting

Tank’s old buddy Bill shows no matter your age, never give up doing what you love. Two knee replacements haven’t slowed him up a bit!

Grouse Glory

Towards the end of the hunt, Dick and I are driving down a National Forest road and spot a pickup pulled along side the road. A father and his two sons — about 10 and 12 years old — all covered head-to-toe in blaze orange — are standing by it.

The youngest boy is methodically breasting out a grouse on the tailgate. His beaming grin tells the story as we give him a wave, nod of the head and a thumbs-up, welcoming him to the hunting fraternity.

It was one of the most sincere and contagious grins I’ve ever witnessed. The boy will remember the day for the rest of his life, far more than playing a video game, or getting a new smart phone!

After my trip, I feel better about our future. Maybe the geezer-millennial gap isn’t as big as we think, if we just take the time to talk, or simply observe these kids. Better yet, volunteer to take a youngster out!

No Tater Tot Here …

Writing this, I just received an email from my 76-year-old retired state trooper buddy, Bill. Hunting in Montana, he took a whopper of a whitetail. I’m happy for him, as his smile is identical to the kid with the grouse. Ain’t life grand …

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