“It’s really cool that we can all sit here and have something in common.”
We smiled, agreeing with the sentiment.
Heritage is a big word. It can refer to anything passed on to us, or it can encompass what we choose to weave into our daily lives. For Hispanics and Latin Americans, the outdoors are becoming a common addition to an already family-focused culture.
The day began at 4:30 a.m. for the Diaz family. Eric, his wife, Erika, and his father, Luis, all piled into the vehicle and began their trip from metropolitan Edmond to the far reaches of western Oklahoma. Smokey Solis accompanied them to assist in what would be their first duck hunt.
Erika, in the dim dark blue light before the sun began to rise, struggled to put on waders for the first time, but she was confident about taking on the water that cold morning.
Eric and Luis stayed at the blind and militantly began to cover it with tall grass and whatever else laid bare near the pond’s muddy shoreline. You would have never guessed that this was the enthusiasm of beginners but rather the habits of seasoned veterans. The cold was hardly noticed by this group of new waterfowlers that moved with a purpose. That day was the day they all tried something new.
The sun rose hot pink, and that was the moment the calling began. Smokey whispered instructions like, “Don’t look straight up at the sky. Try to look from the side.”
More duck calls rang out.
Half past the hour, the ducks began to fly overhead. For Smokey, this was his first experience as a mentor, and he was eager to show the Diaz family his love for hunting.
"This has really been the first chance I have had to teach someone about what I love to do. The more I thought about the opportunity, the more I was hoping that they would fall in love with the experience as much as I did on my first hunt.
“From watching the sunrise to watching a group of ducks commit to the decoy spread, the whole experience is what I really wanted them to be a part of. Duck hunting is so much more than just harvesting some ducks. It's frigid mornings and hot coffee. Sometimes breakfast in the blind, or the comfort of opening up your favorite snack cake.
“The conversations and camaraderie that happen in a duck blind are truly what makes duck hunting so special."
It wasn’t long before Luis got his first duck. The whole group cheered and scrambled out of the blind. Erika quickly re-entered the pond to get the Wigeon. The whole group gathered around buzzing with excitement. They were now officially duck hunters. Smokey explained the biology of the bird now in Erika’s soaking wet hands. We all discussed the architecture of its feathers, the species, the colors, migration patterns, and where it fits in the ecosystem. Luis was extra proud to share his accomplishment.
“To me, hunting as a family gives me the feeling of unity,” he said.
“To be able to learn and teach my sons and daughter the respect and responsibility that comes with hunting an animal and caring for nature is a great feeling.”
When the hunt concluded, the group hung around talking and laughing. Everyone shared their family history and personal stories of how they started pursuing the outdoors. Smokey told about growing up in snowy Colorado. Eric told about his time as a soldier. Erika is a filmmaker, former Los Angeles kid, and soon to be mother. Luis came to the United States and quickly took to the outdoors and has encouraged his family to do the same. Obviously, his prompting has paid off for the Diaz family.
Each person there was both proudly Hispanic and now proudly a part of a long Oklahoma outdoor heritage. Loving the Oklahoma outdoors is what brought all of us there that day, and we look forward to doing it all over again.