My son went dove hunting for years be- fore he was big enough to shoot. With the safety course under his belt at 12, he became a full fledged member of the opening day group that I had been out with for years. The 4:30 am breakfast, the drive to Snyder, steak the night before at Bucks- all of it took on a new flavor when he graduated from specta- tor. And, gratefully, in his first year there were a lot of birds and he limited out well before noon. The second morning at the café held just as much promise and excitement and everyone was talking about their failures and successes the day before. Mid breakfast one of the comments caught my ear. If I heard right, some of the guys at the next ta- ble had limited opening morning and had returned to a tank that afternoon for addi- tional shooting. I watched closely to see if my son picked it up. It seemed to be going over his head but by now I was hearing more comments about the double dip. This table of guys slowly realized that their discussion was being overheard and that my son was examining them. A friend sitting to my right leaned into my ear and asked me how much Nintendo a reward would buy if my son turned in the poachers. The talk turned and I dismissed the event and never really thought of it again.

I don’t hold myself up as the beacon of ethics in the outdoor world, but I do try to consider what is right and wrong, and cer- tainly what is legal. I learned my lesson when the game warden caught me without a plug over a pond in North Dakota. I ex- plained truthfully to him that I had been tur- key hunting the week before in Missouri where plugs were not required. With his ball point pen inserted as a plug and a warning, he sent me back to the pond. I don’t think of myself as particularly virtuous but when I had kids I noticed my behavior was being watched by people very important to me, and ones I seemed to have an impact on. I had no idea I was talking to other drivers until my (then) three year old son asked me “what a gashole was.” I blanched, and told him the best that I could come up with, that it was where you put the gas into the truck. My lesson about talking to other drivers was learned there as well.

Last year in Snyder, 8 years later, my son thanked me for not taking him back out to shoot more than his limit on his first opening dove day. “I would have hated to have had to work through that” he said. And I wasn’t even sure he was paying attention.

Rev. Daniel Gowan, LCDC, LPC-S