My lad turned 6 last week. He started coming out for a walk around or spot of decoying with me last Spring and then onto evening rabbits last summer. Having added the centre fire last September and taken a couple of deer, then five foxes under the lamp since Christmas, he's been pestering relentlessly to join me on my deer and fox outings.
Receiving my DSC1 pass last week, I can finally head out for deer on my own at my second (and only deer) permission a little distance away and planned to do so over Easter. Not feeling it right to leave him out any longer, thinking he is showing signs of being old enough to move cross country in the dark (which we will need to do to be in the best position for the deer at first light) and realising that if he can't do something, it's primarily only because I haven't taught him sufficiently, I took him out lamping tonight to see how he would get on. I confess I was extremely nervous as to whether he would be quiet enough, not mess around, not get scared, wander off or get left behind and most importantly, be safe. Indeed, I'd even resigned myself to not even making the rifle ready, rather just watching him like a hawk.
I clearly didn't give him half the credit he has proven to be due. I've drummed into him to "always be behind the gun" from the start and true to form, he stayed there just behind my shoulder for the ~2-miles we walked, cross fields, under fences and over gates. Every time I raised the rifle onto the sticks, he would even drop back a pace or two and lie down. He was absolutely as good as gold and having seen two foxes (plus two roe does and several rabbits and hares) and not been able to get close enough or have them respond to a call, I was much relieved when finally able to get close enough to a third.
He was absolutely beaming and most upset I wouldn't let him take the fox home to show mum. However, he's clearly brighter than I gave him credit for, as he said, "well at least let me take the tail Dad"
Absolutely priceless and so glad I trusted the training he's already had and him being mature enough to assume the added responsibility. I'm still nervous about going after the deer on my own, especially with him in tow, but at least I know he will be fine and we can learn and enjoy gaining the experience together.