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No ducking the early-wakeup call for 9-year-old Mary Rigoni

Robert Rigoni had a question about his daughter.

A lot of us dads do about our daughters.

Rigoni’s was different. He wondered about his daughter Mary getting up at 3 a.m. to go duck hunting on Nov. 15.

“How many 9-year-olds get up this early to do anything, especially go hunting and be in the great outdoors?’’ he asked.

For those who started young in the outdoors, Mary’s response on being awakened for a hunting trip rings nostalgic.

“I was up prancing around and anxious,’’ she said.

I care about this for a couple reasons. On a personal level, I have a daughter who wants to hunt; on a a broader level, Rigoni has Mary on a path that fits a larger pattern.

In the Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012, based on a survey conducted by Responsive Management, the National Shooting Sports Foundation noted that 37 percent of the new shooters were female, compared to 22 percent among established target shooters; 47 percent of new target shooters live in urban/suburban areas, compared to 34 percent among established target shooters.

“I am training her on a Red Ryder BB gun,’’ Rigoni said. “If we go duck hunting, she will watch and say, `Poppa, there are some ducks.’ When we go pheasant hunting, she will walk along. We do not have a dog. She is sort of like my retriever.’’

That last part was said with a laugh.

“She is practicing on the duck call,’’ Rigoni said. “She did pull the ducks in one time. We are going to go from a BB gun to a .410, the old hammer .410.’’

The .410 is the small-bore shotgun many learned shooting on.

There is history here, beyond a .410. One reason Rigoni is glad his daughter wants to come along is that his dad, also Robert, no longer hunts at 82.

“My dad used to hunt O’Hare Field,’’ said Rigoni, who grew up on the Northwest Side. “He knew the game warden and would hunt doves and wild pheasant. There was wild pheasants back then [in Cook County]. Then he hunted a farm in Marengo. That is where I started.’’

The Rigoni family lives in Niles. Rigoni hunts at a club by Nippersink Creek in McHenry County. He works retail and values the days he can hunt. Mary has come on pheasant, dove and duck hunts.

Rigoni valued the day of duck hunting with his daughter in mid-November, happy with the black duck and drake mallard they brought home.

Asked what is her favorite form of hunting, Mary said, “Maybe shooting the ducks, the mallards. It is just that they are really nice and have a nice color.’’

Her father values mallards in the pan because they taste “like steak.’’

His daughter is active in the outdoors beyond hunting and shooting. She has several fishing trophies. And the fourth-grader is happy with school too, favoring math.

“All her friends in school are on computers and phones,’’ Rigoni said. “She is like a throwback to when we were kids.’’