Adult Hunter Essay Winner
New York Hunting
By Brian Engel
Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of tagging along with my dad and grandfather through the woods chasing after deer and rabbits. Even as a young boy, long before I had any interest in girls, I looked forward to one day being a dad and taking a son into the wild outdoors. Ironically, I’ve been blessed with four daughters. At times, each has asked the painful question, “Daddy, do you ever wish you had a son?” My answer has always been, “No. We have what we have. I love you the way you are and wouldn’t trade you for anyone.”
Thankfully, each of my girls has taken to the outdoors and enjoys going with me into the field, even if it’s simply to spend time together. Many times though, we’ve come in early because of the cold. I was taught never to be a fair-weather hunter, but what am I to do with my kids? Force the matter until they don’t want to go? I made the argument, if they come to love hunting now, they’ll be willing to suffer the elements later. That said, after years of missed opportunities and missed shots with my first two daughters – Madelyn, daughter #3, brought home something for dinner.
Under a starlit sky on the opening day of duck season, we settled into the tall grass along the edge of the swamp and patiently waited for birds to drop in. The day started slowly, but we shared a beautiful sunrise and the sound of turkeys scratching and calling in the cedars on the hill behind us. Without warning or hardly a sound, a flock of mallards flew at us from the north. I didn’t have to tell Madelyn what to do. She shot and a duck went down. Consequently, she did too!
The recoil from her shotgun, being more than expected, made her tumble backwards, over and off the bucket she’d been sitting on. But through the arc of the fall she kept the muzzle pointed up and away in a safe direction. She came up a little damp in the backside and a bit discombobulated, but smiling from ear to ear, and with the safety back on. Once righted, she placed her bottom squarely on the bucket with eyes glued to the water as our friend’s lab, Bailey, retrieved the bird.
I don’t know if I was prouder of Madelyn’s shot, or her keeping her wits about her and controlling her firearm during her fall. It was a perfect morning of good laughs about the bucket tumble.
When we got home, she cleaned the bird, saved some feathers for posterity, and then helped make one of our favorite recipes for dinner, Duck Delights. These pastries of shredded duck with onion, garlic, and cream cheese melt in your mouth.
Our morning was one of the most fulfilling days I’ve ever had afield, or as a parent. I’ve not asked, but I’m hoping Madelyn is looking forward to someday being a mother – and taking a daughter or son into the wild outdoors. And just maybe, an aged grandfather will be lucky enough to tag along.
Duck Delights Recipe
- 2 boneless, skinless duck breasts (roughly 12 oz., can use leg meat, or substitute w/goose breast)
- ½ teaspoon of dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- “sprinkling” of onion and garlic powder
Cut fowl into bite-size pieces, combine with the above ingredients, and sauté over medium/low heat. Do not overcook. When cool, shred meat with a fork or your fingers.
In a large mixing bowl combine: 8oz. of softened cream cheese, 1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 oz), ¼ cup finely chopped carrots, 2 tablespoons of half-half, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 small onion finely chopped, salt and pepper to taste. Add meat and mix well, so that all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Use 2 tubes of refrigerated crescent rolls (8 oz. each). Separate crescent rolls and lay flat. Place a dollop (about an ice cream scoop) onto roll. Fold over and pinch rolls together making a “pocket/hand pie” and seal. Place rolls on a baking sheet. Brush rolls with melted butter and cover with bread crumbs or crushed croutons to taste. Pre-heat oven and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.