A Year of Gifts
I went an entire hunting season without my familiar tools. The ones that I use most often, that carry the most stories.
I have developed the troublesome habit of setting aside valuable items in my life in out-of-the-way places. During this latest family move, as most of our possessions were relegated to storage, I had gathered my seasonal hunting tools and clothing and stashed them in such a secure location that even I couldn’t find them. Or more accurately, remember where I put them.
No rangefinder, knife sharpeners, GPS, or back-up knives found their way into the field. The silk scarf that blocked the wind, the wool balaclava that my mom made to protect me from the cold. I missed my favorite hunting coat and gloves and for a while I even misplaced my favorite pair of binoculars. They were all in boxes that I had clearly marked in the spring; hunting gear! But they got buried somehow in storage and I never found time to dig them out.
I took to the woods anyway, managing to scrape together a few shells from season’s past. Trophies were taken despite my failing memory. All the toys had been window dressing for decades, providing services and information that I rediscovered were not essential for enjoying the experience.
Simplicity is a gift. Appreciating that the things involved with a hunt are never as essential as the people you share them with.
I have a picture of my son and daughter waiting for shooting light. They sit against a fence corner with the clouds aflame behind them. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen and yet for some sad reason, I no longer save room in my memories for beautiful sunrises. But the image of the two of them there, taking time to share a morning together with me was such a gift. As they grow older and start lives of their own, each of these moments seem to get further apart.
I found a pair of deer worthy of the chase. One came after only a few days of pursuit, the other after three week of waiting. To have hunted for nearly forty years and still have a beautiful buck spark my imagination is a gift. Both deer, prairie and hills, set my pulse to hammering and hands to shaking in a fashion I’m never quite certain will return at the end of another season.
An old friend, Tingles, took a day to come along on my son-in-law’s first mule deer hunt. We scoped several possibilities and when the time came, I sat back on the ridge to guide them in to a likely buck while the two of them stalked off down the valley. Our hunting trips together span more years than the lives of our children. We have both married off our eldest daughters and admire the families they each have started. It seems impossible that we have hunted together for so long, but I know Tim well enough to trust him guiding my newest son.
The buck bedded down in the morning light and there was no need for me to keep watch. Instead I observed the long conversation between old hunter and young as they took turns measuring the animal’s worth. Was he too young? Was the shot too far? I was surprised when after a half hour, they declined the shot, left the buck to his band of does, and began their long hike back. As they walked, I recalled several of those eager, whispered conversations in the field and hoped that my son comes to appreciate the gift of a hunting mentor.
Over the Holidays, hunt down your family and friends and let them know how much they mean to you. We are allotted only so many seasons. Thanksgiving should be a part of all of them.