A Father’s Day Story: Never Tell Mom


The relationship between a father and son can best be described as being a complex one. Sons don’t always listen, fathers don’t always “get it” and sometimes moments can be lost between the two. The beauty in all of this is that the young boy still has a chance to grow up, and hopefully, someday, he’ll be reminded of times long ago and finally learn to understand and appreciate all that was done for him. Perhaps all is not lost with today’s youth; maybe they just need a chance to grow.

Moving at a young age from Minnesota to the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest, I was upset about leaving my friends. My father was scared about losing his identity.  Leaving behind hardwoods, prairies and potholes for saltwater and espresso wasn’t his decision to make, but he put up with it and made due until we were able to return to the place we once again call home.  One of the ways he “made due” was not giving up on teaching his sons and daughter the craft and beauty of hunting, even if that meant hemorrhaging money and free time in a terrain we weren’t accustomed to.

I didn’t appreciate this at the time. But after reading a duck hunting story he recently shared with me, it brought back memories of events that didn’t matter as much when they took place as they do now. As they say, better late than never.

Remember the white knuckle boat trip to one of those duck blinds in the dark? Tiny 10 foot flat bottom brought from MN with old heavy 5.5 hp on back… 1 adult, 2 children, 1 dog, 2 bags of decoys and all the crap a duck hunter can lug around. In first week of January breaking ice (yes season went to 2nd week of January in WA) and water literally 1-2 inches below the outside of the gunwales. I was freaked out that if either of you kids moved we would take on water.  It was all I could do to remain brave and not yell or overreact if one of you kids twitched a finger. Yes we all wore life jackets and always do.  Never tell mom.

We put in some river that flowed from the Cascades towards Puget Sound. Now remember, I’m a flatlander and haven’t quite figured out this state and always wondered why they give you a book of tide tables when you buy your license. We were cruising around looking for a place to come back to hunt when your brother spotted some black lab swimming in the water. Thought that was odd because there were no boats, decoys or obvious blinds in the nearby weeds. We got closer and it started looking weird. Got really close and it dove under. It was a flippin seal and we were in the freakin ocean in a 10 foot boat with 5.5 hp.  I was dumbfounded… I literally stopped the boat and asked myself what the heck I was doing. We had boated right down the river over the flooded tidal flats right into the Pacific Ocean albeit Puget Sound. Had no clue…That’s what scouting is all about.  At least it wasn’t a Killer Whale…

After that we found a place off the main river channel and set up the boat. The tidal book was correct and we got there as the tide was going out… but the tide kept going out…and out… and eventually we were literally sitting on an 8×8 mini island of grass and dirt. We were surrounded by air. The water was gone and the decoys were sitting in the mud 8 feet BELOW the bottom of the boat.  Ok, now I was worried. Flatlander Dad had never experienced anything like that.  No way could we go anywhere. We were literally stranded.  Looked at the tidal book and saw when the high tide would be… 12 hours later (duh!). That was an adventure. Now you know why I bring everything but the kitchen sink with me…It’s an ingrained survival mentality after that prolonged excursion. By the way, we didn’t shoot anything either. Although I do remember a seal swimming around the decoys…. Never tell mom.

Don’t worry pops, your secret’s safe with me.

- Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist