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Our youngest hunter still learning

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outdoors Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Our grandson, Zane, though only six years old, understands he is from a family of hunters. He puts his heart into hunting and takes it very seriously.

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For two or three years, he has been determined to catch one of the birds that hang around my wife's bird feeders. If he has some spare time, he will place some bird seed on the ground and wait patiently with butterfly net in hand, for an unsuspecting bird to land. I have found there is no point in trying to convince the kid this will not work. He will wait motionless for 15 or 20 minutes, knowing it will eventually work.

The experts say young children to not have long attention spans. They are wrong. Zane can outlast me on sitting still and concentrating on the quarry. I have asked him what he will do with a bird if he catches it. He is not quite sure about that, but then he has not yet had to face that decision. Perhaps he would eat it. I explained it is not legal to eat goldfinches nor is there enough meat on them to be worth the effort of cleaning one. He is still not deterred.

The opportunity arose the other evening when he could spend the night and help Nanna in the yard in the morning. Few things are better than spending quality time with Nanna. I am OK, but Nanna spoils him rotten.

In the morning, she and Zane were on the patio in their bathrobes and slippers having coffee and hot chocolate. The phone rang and my wife went in to answer it. The call was rather lengthy so Zane decided to go hunting while she was gone. He got a handful of bird seed, his trusty net, and assumed the hunting position under the bird feeders.

The phone call continued for quite some time. When my wife returned outside, Zane was standing by the patio table, large grin on his face, and the butterfly net held firmly down.

"Guess what I caught, Nanna," Zane said hardly able to control his excitement. My wife thought he had finally succeeded in catching a bird after years of trying.

The lump under the butterfly net appeared fairly large and somewhat gray for most birds. Her first thought was it might be a robin.

"Did you finally catch a bird?" she asked.

Zane could stand the suspense not longer. "I caught a squirrel!" he blurted out.

Somewhat concerned with what to do with a squirrel on the patio table under a butterfly net while hating to dampen his enthusiasm she asked, "What are we going to do with it now?"

It was obviously one of those things that had not been thought all the way through. "I don't know," Zane answered.

Nothing but the sounds of the birds could be heard as the next move was pondered. After much thought Zane suggested, "We could put him in a bucket."

My wife is a good sport about a lot of things. Over the years, we have had a cold baby colt in the bathtub, a calf in the living room, a raccoon in the boys' bedroom, and several mice, rabbits and assorted other domesticated and wild animals in places most women would not tolerate. With age comes wisdom and she was about to draw the line at having any more to do with the squirrel when Zane grabbed a birdseed bucket, scooped the squirrel off the table into it and slammed the lid. Nanna poked a few holes in the lid while they mulled over what to do with a squirrel in a bucket.

"When Mommy and Daddy get here, we could eat it," Zane suggested hopefully.

"It is not squirrel season," my wife answered, secretly relieved.

When the squirrel started to make chattering and unhappy noises from inside the bucket, Zane decided it would be best if they let the squirrel go free. When Nanna and Zane lifted the lid off the bucket, the squirrel jumped out, ran up the nearest tree, and never looked back.

Zane had the experience of a successful hunt and the pleasure of releasing his game to hunt another day. Nobody knows why the squirrel did not bite or scratch Zane or at least tear up the butterfly net to escape. I see the squirrel around occasionally, but it has not come near the house or a little boy with a butterfly net.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.

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