Parent-Kid Hunts and Our Outdoor Legacy

I spent last weekend in the rain and weather on a straight up and down hillside not far out of Colville.  With the permission of the couple who own the ground, I was looking for a whitetail buck.  The buck and I have crossed paths a time or two over the last couple years, but this year we were unable to see eye to eye on anything.  Even without the deer cooperating, I hunted the half-section exactly as I intended and had a great hunt.  This is a property Edward Last-of-the-Hucklings and I hunted.  We made a fair amount of deer meat on that mile-long hillside, and many memories of crisp air, snow, rain, sunshine and quiet pursuit.  It grew into an annual parent-kid hunt adventure.  Late Sunday I came off the hill and climbed into my rig.

The drive south into Spokane, and on west to Paradise, was filled mostly with the savoring of a few dozen parent-kid hunts over the past few decades.  Each hunt, and the family effort of putting up the meat from it, is an indelible memory in one or another brain cell.

Most immediate, of course, was the year-ago week Edward and I spent together in that country north of Spokane a year ago in pursuit of his bull moose.

Older son Tim started deer hunting at 14, the legal age to do so in Colorado.  That first year, we watched deer after deer slip out in front of him, while he was examining “a lot of fresh tracks.”  The second year, he insisted he would get a really big buck, in spite of our host’s insistence that there weren’t any around.  Opening day found us a few hundred yards apart in patches of pinion-juniper woods.  Following a set of shots that sounded like his, I found Tim standing over the biggest buck I’d seen in a couple decades.  I helped him get it dressed, erasing the six-foot-high question mark over his head as I walked up.

Daughter Michelle always loved our family’s annual antelope hunt to Wyoming.  By age seven, she made a point of taking eyes or brains or some other piece of antelope to her science teachers, that they might waive her absence.  Her first hunt was for antelope, and we made several long stalks to no avail.  At the “shining” time, as the sun was setting and the white parts of the antelope were brilliant in the last rays, we found several over a hill.  To this day, I’ve seen no one so focused on a stalk or a quarry as she was at that moment.  In Zen it is said that, when Spirit and Physical are in balance, the arrow will release itself; I believe the same is true of a bullet.  After an interminable silence, her rifle spoke.  I hugged her, and said, “Great shot!”  She looked back and forth between the antelope and me a couple times, and asked, “Did the rifle fire?”

Tim, Michelle and I put together several annual “Father and Son and Daughter Doe Deer Hunts” on the historic Forbes-Trinchera Ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.  Those hunts are fresh in my mind, and we still warmly recount them.

Some years hold a variety of memories.  On 9/11, 2001, I was on Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, leading a water resources class with a group of Native Alaskans.  I will never forget the time we spent in prayer and discussion, and the ways we supported each other over the days the base was locked down.  We finally got off the base, several days late for a long-planned antelope hunt in Wyoming with Edward.

Edward’s mom and I agreed that three days of rearranged weekday antelope hunting would benefit him more than school, and we were on our way.  Thirteen-year-old Edward was carrying his first big-game license and his mom’s .270, with ammo we hand-crafted in July.  Late on our last day, after several busted stalks, we crawled onto a terrace.  Half a mile away was a group of antelope drifting ever farther out.  We moved as far as we could, and I turned to Edward.  “If you have a good prayer, now’s the time… They are about to disappear.”  “Okay,” he said.  Within thirty seconds the antelope had turned and were walking straight at us.  At eighty yards, they stopped broadside.  Edward’s shot was perfect.

Somewhere in that drive home last Sunday, I was lost in memories of times when I was the kid.  Interestingly, I was the kid as long as The Old Man and my dad, Ray, were alive.  I still feel like a kid as I watch The Old Man enjoy his first antelope hunt, or Dad Ray crawl a half mile through cactus for his first antelope buck.

Two evenings ago, I talked with one of my favorite guys on campus—Homey Engineer—and his wife and daughter.  We got into family hunts, and the daughter had as many stories of family hunting moments as her parents.

Our kids grow up and move on, as we hope they will…  They leave behind—and take with—a family bond of food, laughter, joy and responsibility which is never lost.  At a very personal level (is there really any other?), this is our outdoor legacy.

Happy Thanksgiving…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized