Raising a Little Lady in the Field
By Susan Thornton
Over and over, we hear and see fathers and grandfathers taking their sons out to the field to teach them how to hunt. It’s a rite of passage for little boys and usually begins with them being the bird dogs and retrieving the downed birds that the hunters shoot. For those who are fortunate enough there’s just something about a little boy being handed his granddaddy’s shotgun and being told, “I think you’re ready for this.” There’s a whole lot of special in growing up in a hunting family and carrying on a family tradition. For some lucky little girls, they get to start out the same way.
TDHA Youth Activities Director Jeff McMillan is a single dad and takes his role very seriously. He works hard to be the daddy that his little Addi deserves. Jeff wants to raise a young lady, but coming from a long line of hunters, he also wants to pass on his love of the outdoors to his little girl. This daddy has gone to extremes to make sure that he allows Addi to be a girl while also passing down his hunting heritage.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands hunting heritage. When Jeff picked Addi up at pre-school one day, he was asked to step in and speak to the teacher. With a concerned look on her face and in her voice, the teacher said, “Mr. McMillan, Addi was shooting out on the playground.” Jeff his daughter over and asked, “Addi, what were you shooting?” She held her arms up like a shotgun and said, “I was shooting at birds daddy.” He then asked, what are you going to do with those birds baby girl?” Her response, “I’m gonna wrap ‘em in bacon and dip ‘em in ketchup.” As they left the school, his heart bursting with pride, he said “That’s my girl! Let’s go get some ice cream!”
One of the first times Jeff took her to the deer blind, Addi insisted that she take her tea set and Barbies. Not exactly what this daddy had in mind, but wanting to keep her occupied in the blind, he gave in. After settling in the blind, they began to look for deer, but Addi quickly got bored and decided to take out her Barbies. All was well until one of the dolls fell off the ledge and out the window of the blind. This was not a good time for this to happen as the deer were starting to move. Addi begged her daddy to go down and get the Barbie. He tried to convince her that it would be better to wait, but she wouldn’t have it. She wanted to retrieve her Barbie NOW! Much to his chagrin, he told her they could go get it, but they needed to be very, very quiet. He cringed as Addi, age 5, slung open the door of the blind and yelled, “I don’t see any deer out here daddy!” His response was a quiet, gentle, “not any more baby girl.”
Armed with his rifle in one hand and a teacup in the other on that same day as they sat in the blind waiting for some movement, Jeff found himself having a full- fledged tea party in the blind with Addi. Only the daddy of a little girl could relate to this. But memories were made in the deer blind that day, and Jeff has the photo to prove it!
Through the years Addi has had many opportunities not only to be a bird dog for dove hunts but also has gotten in lots of target shooting as well. She has attended Quail Forever events and TDHA Youth Days, where she has brought home targets that make her look like Annie Oakley herself. Since her first hunting experience, Addi has progressed quite a bit. She accompanies her daddy to the family ranch as they go dove, hog hunting and even coon hunting. She shot her first coon last year.
Recently, when they were on a camping trip, Jeff and Addi walked up on a bird banding demonstration. The bander was showing the kids how he banded the birds and he was about to let one go when he decided to hand it to Addi instead so she could let it go. She must’ve thought he wanted to clean it because she grabbed the body with one hand and the head with the other but was quickly interrupted when her daddy screamed, “Addi, NO!”
She’s still got plenty to learn, but Jeff has made sure that Addi has had plenty of exposure to gun safety, hunting, and the outdoors. In a few years she may be out shooting dove and chances are with a daddy like Jeff to teach her she’ll be getting her limit before anyone else.