He may still be in high school, but Backus resident Dale Ford treats hunting with all the seriousness of an adult.
“I would have to say that comes from overall hunting experience with lots of different people. He hunts with different people and I think he picked up good habits from every person,” said Dale’s mother, Lisa Ford.
Dale began hunting when he was 12. That year he shot a doe with his father’s help. But thanks to his family, that wasn’t the first year he went with his dad on a hunt, though for his first years he was too young to shoot.
“I went along a lot. I’ve wanted to deer hunt since I was 6. Since I was old enough to know what it was, it was there, and it was a big thing,” Dale said.
“Tim (Dale’s father) used to take him hunting all the time. Since about 4 he’s always wanted to go. He would go, and he was a trooper. He loved it and he still does,” Lisa said.
Dale, 17, is a junior at Pine River-Backus High School. Since being able to legally hunt, he has bagged 10 deer and many, many game birds. His biggest deer was a 150-160 class eight-pointer he shot with his rifle, but his favorite type of hunting is still bow hunting.
“For bow hunting there are not as many people. It’s warmer out, for one. You have bugs to deal with but I’d rather deal with the bugs than the cold. I see a lot more deer during bow season. It’s kind of a peaceful time,” Dale said.
No matter what type of hunting he does, Dale values responsibility and safety. That’s part of the reason his shotgun of choice is not a pump or a semi automatic, but an over/under 20-gauge.
“If you don’t shoot a bird in two shots you probably shouldn’t be shooting at it,” Dale said.
Clean shots are foremost in Dale’s mind because they can prevent making an animal suffer.
“I am a firm believer that if the animal is too far away, you shouldn’t be shooting at it. Clean shots are very important. Quick, clean kills. Inhumane stuff isn’t good,” Dale said.
It is no surprise, then, that Dale regularly practices with his guns and bow. During the summer he practices trap shooting regularly and he shoots his bow almost every day. He practices shooting at least four times a week.
Dale was a member of the 2013 summer trap team. He said he isn’t the best at shooting trap, but he did shoot 23 out of 25 targets on multiple occasions, and 24 out of 25 once.
Safety is also a primary concern for Dale. He thought his own gun safety training could have been more detailed; but overall, the biggest rules are simple commonsense.
“I could talk for days about hunting, but be sure of what you are shooting at and what is behind it. I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t know what they’re doing and just shoot at everything,” Dale said. “That’s not right. If you can’t see what you’re shooting at, you shouldn’t be shooting.”
To Dale, hunting is a source of food and an activity for family and friends to spend quality time together. Other hunting partners include his uncles and friends.
“My dad and I don’t spend too much time together because he’s always working. When we get to go hunting in the field and do stuff like that, it’s kind of special,” Dale said. “My biggest motivation is that I spend time with my family. It’s something I love to do, and spending time with family makes it even better.”
Dale and his mother participate in a competitive grouse hunt in Akeley every year. They don’t always get too many grouse, but they have a lot of fun.
“I like to spend time with my son. Most of the time he’s too busy hunting with other people to hunt with me,” Lisa said. “The only thing I dislike is if you are hunting with Dale you might as well not even be carrying a gun because you never get a chance to shoot. By the time you see it, he’s already shot.”