As I sit here this morning, I think about hunting; and life. My life. As far back as I can remember, I’ve either been, or wanted to be, a hunter.
A lot of people don’t think of themselves as hunters, and by the very nature of their actions and their expressed beliefs, it’s hard for those of us who openly identify ourselves as hunters to think of those ‘others’ as hunters. But they are. Humans, by their very nature, are all hunters. Here’s how:
In one way or another, we all hunt to survive. There’s nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering about that statement. We all hunt. I love to hunt for critters, because I love to eat good meat. Food is necessary for survival, and good, lean meat is one of the best forms of food available. The exercise you get during the pursuit of your prey also helps your body keep fit, and in shape. All around, hunting is just plain good for you.
While some hunters hunt for critters, (for myself, primarily as a food source); those ‘others’ hunt for other things.
A businessman hunts for more business – customers – market share – money.
A homeless person hunts for their next meal – a warm, safe place to spend the night – companionship – hope.
The examples could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.
None of us start out as the hunter we end up as. We all start out life as babies, and as we grow and mature, we change into the form of hunter that we become.
I’ll use myself as an example, since I probably know more about myself than I know of any other individual, including my wife of 38 years.
As a young child, I knew of my favorite uncles as hunters, both primarily hunted deer and duck. At the age of 7, my family moved to the small town of Gooding, Idaho, briefly, and I learned, to my delight, that my father was a hunter, too. He hunted deer, geese, and perhaps most wonderfully, pheasant and quail. Those photographic memories have not dimmed in over 50 years, and they never will. Or at least, I hope they don’t!
A decade passed before I was able to re-kindle the hunter in me. We only lived in Gooding for a little over a year. My father was a Christian church minister who specialized in church building programs, so we moved often, and I was never at an age where I could strike out for myself, and become the hunter that I dreamed of.
Gooding, Idaho to Salem, Oregon; Salem, to San Jose, California; San Jose to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Albuquerque to Newberg, Oregon.
Finally, I was a senior in High School. I had a driver’s license and my own car. 18 years old, and able to get a job, earn some money, and purchase firearms. My life as a hunter had begun! Almost like a person who becomes a Christian, and becomes born again, I felt as if I had been born again, but this time, as a Hunter!
Initially, I hunted every opportunity I could. We lived on the edge of town in Newberg, and if I saw what we called a blue jay, robbing our filbert orchard, I grabbed my Ruger 10/22 rifle or Ithaca 16 gauge double barrel shotgun, and put down the threat. During pheasant season, I’de head over to a nearby, overgrown field and orchard, and shoot a pheasant, if I was fortunate enough to find one, minus any semblance of a hunting dog to accompany me.
Leaving the Nest
When I headed off to college in Eugene, Oregon, my .22 rifle and 16 gauge shotgun accompanied me, whether they were technically allowed in the dorm, or not. Although my hunting was temporarily put ‘on hold’, my trips out to the Emerald Empire Rifle Range near Marcola, were not. I became a regular there, and the next year, when I moved back to Newberg to work for a year earning money for college, I immediately joined the Chehalem Valley Rod & Gun Club, and regularly made my way out to their range, outside of Dundee, Oregon. To this day, I regard one of the first men I met at that Club, Harlan Wooldridge, as a good friend. Sadly, many of the men that I got to know early on, and who became mentors to me, such as Stu Ritchey, have gone on to be with the Lord. I still use the bench rest set up that Stu gave me, as he was getting older and wanted to pass down some of his prized shooting gear to the next generation of avid shooters and hunters.
Soon, I was in love, done with college, and married to my high school sweetheart. Did marriage and starting a family slow down my hunting or my desire to hunt? By no means! It only stirred in my heart the desire to hunt all the more, to both provide meat for my young but growing family, and to become a role model hunter for my young children.
By the time we were in our first home, I was hunting ducks virtually every other day with my neighbor Jeremy, over in Cornelius. Weekends, I was either drifting the Pudding River in an old camo drift boat that I resurrected for duck hunting, deer and elk hunting with my friend Rick, or upland bird hunting with my friend and neighbor, Steve. I was working with my Dad, by now, in a small, 2 man print shop, Impressions By Stram, but that was only to support my wife and family. Every spare dollar and minute went towards hunting, and hunting gear. Just as surely as any steelhead I’ve ever caught, I was hooked!
The decades slipped by – the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s – almost before I knew what had happened. I was hunting, virtually non-stop, if not in the field, but always in my mind. Hunting was not enough, though. I was now searching for quality hunting; the best gear, the best hunting buddies, the best locations, the best hunting in general. My search finally took me to Alaska. The best of the best, and I was once again hooked.
By now, I was outfitting in S.E. Alaska, hunting in the fall, going to gun shows in the winter, and then heading back to Alaska for my outfitting business again each spring. I was ‘living the dream’ – or so I thought.
It’s interesting how life happens. I had taken one of the primary joys in my life, and made it my business. Great, for a while, but over time, I found my actual hunting and fishing time dwindling, just when it should have been growing. Every spare dime was going towards supporting my businesses, or my family, and I was faced with the fact that my actual hunting, and hunting time, was starting to disappear, just when I wanted, with all my heart, for it to grow.
Something Had to Change
My love for hunting has never dimmed. After over 40 years in the hunting fields, my desire for the hunt, my love of God’s great outdoors, my daily need to be the hunter that god made me to be, is still there.
A quarter century ago, I was led to my own little section of what I like to call my happy hunting ground. A place where I can either hunt, target shoot, go fishing, crabbing, clamming, on a daily basis, without having to burn through a tank of gas, and get out of bed hours before dawn. Not that I won’t burn the occasional tank of gas, and get up at 2:30 am in pursuit of a far away trophy deer, duck blind, or salmon hole. But I’ll be able to pursue my love of hunting and fishing with as little as a 10 minute walk, a half hour drive, or a quick hop in the boat.
I’m no longer at that point in my life, where I feel as if I have to prove myself to anyone, or justify my hunting or fishing time or pursuits. If I get a deer, GREAT! If I limit on salmon, crab, or halibut, we’re going to be doing some fine eating. If not, there’s always tomorrow; at least, as long as God gives me life, health, and the energy and desire for the hunt.
I’ll be writing more, and keeping you filled in on the excitement and the thrill of life on the last frontier, as Alaska is still known. Perhaps I’ll stir in you the desire I’ve still got – to hunt as much as is humanly possible, to live off the land, be self sufficient, as Glenn & Kathleen Simmons taught my wife and I when we were first married back in 1977. Seems like so long ago, and yet, still, so fresh in my mind.
Lot of memories: the best years of life still ahead. I’m not through, yet.
I’m just getting started.