Perpetuating Our Hunting Heritage
Personally, I’ve had a rather tumultuous year in all aspects of life. My father unexpectedly passing away, change of employment, insane weather, the list goes on and on. This hunting season has not been anything outside of reasonable either. After all the pre-season scouting and preparation I have done, the weather has basically ruined all of it for me. The moment I think I have it all figured out and have a game plan, the weather takes a tail-spin and throws that all out into the marsh. I have had some close “encounters” but nothing has successfully made it my way to harvest. That being said, I was given a request I couldn’t deny.
My ex-wife and I share custody of my gorgeous daughter. With the way logistics work out, I don’t get her as much as I would like. With full-time parenting and parenting responsibilities and part-time hours of her actually with me, the best times we have happen to be over the Christmas holiday. This year she asked to “go hunting with daddy”. Well not only did this peak my interest because it’s my obsession, but the fact she wanted to go was a very proud moment for me. She has been there with me when I left early in the morning, and when I come home late in the evening. She has stood there and “helped” me process game, and has been very intrigued as long as she has been alive. Even as an inquisitive toddler and first learning to speak, asking “daddy, what’s that?” as she points to an organ in the gut bucket.
So this year for Christmas she wanted to go hunting. She didn’t ask for some specific toy, or some silly doo-dad, but to be in the woods like daddy. I gladly obliged. I did everything I possibly could to show her how daddy does it. We went to a friend’s house, who has a few acres of woods surrounded by fields. He was actually out running dogs with his hunt club, which is something I would have liked to have been doing however, this was more important. We walked trails the deer had created and I showed her how to track sign and where they were moving. She saw the importance of location, shooting lanes, and how to find the best possible spot for late season food. All in all, she had a blast. Her only upsetting moment was she didn’t “get any deer”.
This struck me as odd, but understandable. That’s when the conversation took place about what hunting really is. Trying to vocalize into understanding for a 6 year old can be challenging. Thankfully, not only winning the “adorable” contest, she’s pretty quick on the uptake. As the light bulb went off over her head about why we “hunt” and it’s not “killing” it was another proud moment for me.
The reason why I share this is simple. I wasn’t blessed with the dad who took me hunting. I didn’t have people show me this. I just had to figure it out. My dad definitely helped me more than words could ever explain. He taught me to fix things and to make things work with what I have. That made me the mechanic I am today. He didn’t hunt. He did shoot, and he taught me how to shoot significantly better than anyone else could have, to include the rigorous training I attended in 2 branches of the military.
If we don’t teach our youth (our kids, someone else’s kids) not only will safety be an issue, but hunting will fall by the wayside. I have taught others to hunt, with what I know and learned. I remember telling my dad about the first big mule buck I shot in Kansas. This was back in the day way before cell phones with cameras. I did eventually send him a picture (back when you had to wait an hour to get them developed) in the “regular mail”. He didn’t get why I was so excited, until I told him what I had shot it with. Then he was excited, and the conversation ensued from there.
As a hunter’s safety instructor, and hopefully this upcoming summer an archery instructor, I frequently worry about safety. I read these reports from all over the US about someone getting hurt and sometimes even worse. This disheartens me. This is why I wanted to take my daughter in the woods. Showing her first-hand what she’s up against, and how to prevent it. Also, if she ever adventures out without me, I know she’ll be okay.
There was never a more proud moment as a dad to hear the phrase “daddy, when can we go again? Tomorrow?” Especially since her mother is a city girl who never understood why I spent so much time in the woods. She was grateful for the deer hanging, but that was about it. I felt like a little kid again myself, just having her pointing out all the tracks and scrapes. When she saw her first tree rub she got all excited and scared out anything left in the woods as she screamed “daddy look! A boy deer rubbed his antlers right there! Let’s go get him and take him home!” After I quieted her down and I explained AGAIN the importance of quietness, she was still trying to find that “boy deer and his antlers”. That was a crowning achievement for me.
I implore all of you to do that. Teach someone. The old proverb says about fishing, “give a man a fish they’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish they’ll eat for a lifetime”. Well, teach someone! And preserve our heritage. That’s the only way to keep the spirit of the wild alive and well!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Be safe out there, and shoot straight!
-Bill Vahle, Fall Obsession Field Staff