“That’s why they call it hunting, not killing son.” My father imparts this everlasting knowledge upon me after almost every unsuccessful hunting trip. He usually slips it in on the walk back to camp or after a couple of beers by the evening fire.
The old man has always been about the journey, not the destination. Enjoying his time in the woods is as much a part of success to him as the kill. It might be the autumn foliage or a coyote sighting that provides my father gratification, a feeling that even if he doesn’t bag a trophy his time was well spent.
I remember the first time I donned camouflage and bright orange, following my father around the woods as if we were attached at the hip. I could barely hold the Ruger .243 that he had chosen for me and hadn’t the slightest idea where to aim it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the gist of what was going on. Saks, a nickname my dad has I still can’t explain, made sure my first priority was to respect nature and the animal I was hunting. It was easy to see even then how much pride he took in teaching me properly.
Another one of those teachings I heard that day was “one shot, one kill,” which I guess is the most humane way to look killing any creature. My dad taught me how to properly use a firearm and how to appreciate the power it holds. His voice was always stern, “watch that muzzle boy,” in his mind there was no more dangerous an act then to be careless with where you pointed your rifle.
It was only after I fired my first round out of that trusted .243 that I learned the most important thing about hunting. The moment when I saw that deer fall was only a fraction of my experience. Yes, it was my ultimate goal but it wasn’t the only reason I was there. Every other minute detail was as important to my experience as the kill. My father’s teachings, the sounds of nature, the way the morning air felt on my face as I sat in the blind, and most of all the new found appreciation for the sport.
I think my dad has found hunting’s holy grail. His appreciation for the outdoors and respect for nature ensures that each time out is the experience of a lifetime. Not only do I admire this notion, in a way it has become a part of who I am. I aspire to find that true appreciation of my surroundings and of the opportunity to truly enjoy my favorite pastime.
I am sure as I get older and begin to teach my children about the outdoors that my father’s words will continue to ring true. It is the hunt we should enjoy, time together, time with nature, and the opportunity to experience all we have been provided.