“If you’re going deer hunting this weekend, have a good time,” I told the students as they were exiting the classroom. “Most of all, be safe.”

Serving as a high school substitute teacher, I was referring to the start of the 2019 Missouri regular firearms deer season.

“I’m going deer hunting with my dad tomorrow,” a young lady said with her eyes aglow.

“That’s wonderful,” I replied. “If you get the opportunity, are you going to shoot a doe, a buck or both?”

“My dad won’t let me shoot a doe,” she said.

I was taken by surprise.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I can only shoot a buck,” she explained. “If my dad shoots a doe, he’s going to use my tag.”

Our conversation ended prematurely when she walked into the hallway to go to her next class. To my chagrin, there was no time for follow-up questions.

My heart bounced off the floor. If what she said was true about her father using one of her tags to kill a doe — and he followed through with the plan — he not only broke the law but modeled unethical behavior as well. Worse yet, he taught his daughter that it’s acceptable to break game regulations.

Sadly, I hear these kinds of stories often from students. This type of blatant, illegal behavior in the presence of a child is deeply disturbing. Any parent or adult mentor (brother, sister, friend — whoever it may be) conducting themselves in this manner should be ashamed of their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

And that poses a major problem. Unfortunately, many of these game thieves are not apprehended and ticketed. Although conservation agents work long hours in the field to enforce the law, especially during the firearms deer season, they can’t be everywhere at the same time.

I also have heard of adults using their children's tags during youth seasons.

The primary goal of youth seasons for turkey and deer is to introduce children to hunting and provide them a better-than-average opportunity to harvest game before the regular seasons begin. It also provides mentors an excellent opportunity to bond and be positive role models. The youth seasons are not designed for mentors to break the law by shooting a deer or turkey and using the child’s tag.

CLEANING FISH

My wife, Cheryl; her mother, Virginia; father, Bill; brother Mark and I traveled in June to Ontario, Canada, for a memorable four-day fishing trip.

Angling primarily for northern pike, the conservation license daily creel limit was two. For a group of five, that provided more than enough white, flakey meat for evening fish fries.

After fishing a windy first day on Caliper Lake, we returned to our camp along Lake of the Woods. Although windy, our first day on the water was productive. All five limits of pike were filled — enough fillets for two or three meals.

Cleaning pike is a little tricky. Forgetting how to remove the “Y” bone in a fillet, Robert — the camp’s host — gave Bill, Mark and I a lesson on how to accomplish the tedious task.

“If you want to clean all our fish, that certainly won’t hurt our feelings,” I said with a hearty laugh when Robert finished cleaning the first fish.

“Ask not, receive not,” is my motto, particularly if you’re wanting to get out of performing an unpleasant task.

“I’ll be happy to do it,” Robert replied.

I didn’t see that response coming. Who was I to argue? Bill and Mark remained mum.

And so he did — one by one — until every slimy pike was filleted.

I felt pretty good about getting Robert to clean the fish. Bill and Mark didn’t complain. They don’t like to clean fish any more than do. I don’t know of any angler who enjoys the sticky, smelly chore.

To our delight, Robert cleaned our limits for the rest of our stay. My father-in-law and I have stayed at several Canadian fish camps through the years, and nary a host — not one, mind you — offered to clean our fish.

My bubble burst afterward when I found out that Robert cleans fish for other clients when time permits. Unlike other hosts, he considers it to be a part of his job.

Nonetheless, he made us feel pretty special.

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