I don’t remember how old I was. I know I was very young. I distinctly remember the crunch of the fallen brown leaves underfoot as we crept slowly to the top of the hard wood covered ridge to sit
beside a big hickory. There in the tree tops of North Carolina, probably only 20 yards away, was the first gray squirrel of the day, scampering to save his life. The shot seemed a long one to me,
but my dad and grandfather (Papaw) were confident that the Stevens bolt action .410 could do the job. The next memory I have is the feel of his lifeless body in my hands while I admired his colors
and fur. I know we killed more than the one that day because we had squirrel dumplings the next morning. I recall the smell of those squirrels boiling in papaw’s outbuilding on his potbellied stove.
The aroma filled the yard around the house and will always be with me.
We lived in the suburbs of Atlanta and my dad didn’t really hunt as I grew up. Family life and work and church and location tore him away from his hunting roots and it fell from his list of “must do’s”.
Had it not been for a lucky move to “the country” when I was 14, I may have been the same. Yet, that first trip into the woods had deeply imprinted into me, a world of chasing wild game that consumes
a large portion of my time, thoughts, efforts, and money now. For nostalgic reasons, I still, if only once a year, take some time out to go squirrel hunting. I usually take His gun with me and I usually spend
more time remembering him than I do anything else. I always go with a youngster.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to take all of my children hunting and it has been a blessing to spend many mornings with them in the woods. I have seen a renewed passion for hunting
in my father as well. Words hardly express the joy I have to have shared the hours in a duck blind with both ends of my lineage. I know now, as well, that my son will continue to share the
passion of the outdoors with his son and that warms me.
In today’s world of digital distraction, when families can sit together at a table and hardly hold a conversation without the interruption of some electronic device, we should be more desperate than
ever to get a young person out of the house and impart unto them the exquisite world of hunting.
The hours I have spent with my son and daughters in the duck blind alone, have given them a deep appreciation for wild game, conservation, the need for being equipped, a desire
for quality time, a love for animals, and a deeper understanding of life and death. It has given me the opportunity to share ideals and passions through open conversation that are
difficult to discuss anywhere else. It has given us all a bond that simply cannot be made in other environs. It has shaped my children into who they are today and who they will be
tomorrow and how they will help shape their own children.
Do not miss, the chance to take your children hunting. If you don’t have your own children, take a nephew, a niece, or a neighbor’s kid and show them what the outside world looks like.
We all win in the end when we share our love for the outdoors.
Dedicated to the loving Memory of John Turner Rupard, who shared with me my first squirrel hunt. Here’s to the hours to come with my father and kids in the blind.