From an early age I wanted to share hunting . Hunting pictures. Hunting stories. Hunting adventures. Anything hunting really.
Perhaps more than anything, I wanted to share hunting adventures. I vividly recall my first attempt at “guiding” someone to taking their first game animal. Granted, the client was a 14 year old relative, and the animal was a rabbit. I was not much older than him but had already shot a fair bit of small game. We worked for that rabbit though throughout the last few hours of daylight one afternoon after school.
Snow was gently falling. Those big fluffy flakes that take forever to hit the ground. We tracked that rabbit as if it were a 6 x 6 elk. We spied it numerous times as we crisscrossed and zig-zagged the alder patch. Having only a single shot .22 , seeing the nervous rabbit and finding a clear path for the .22 short cartridge proved to be 2 different things however. Throughout the afternoon we doggedly followed those big tracks. We became intimately familiar with the 10 acre alder patch.
There’s not much more representive of classic determination than a couple young lads wanting to get that first hunting success under their collective belts. I wanted him to experience that unbelievable rush and sense of accomplishment that comes from taking a game animal. In short, I wanted to share this emotion with him. I wanted him to feel it. I hoped it would excite him as it did muself.
As postcard perfect as those big marshmallow sized snowflakes may have been, they soon had us soaked to the bone. If we halted for a moment while trying to sort out the rabbit’s track, steam poured from our clothing and into the still air. Back then, at least for us, hunting gear merely consisted of your old after school clothes. Perhaps, if lucky enough, an old plaid proper hunting coat that was passed down to you for whatever reason was proudly worn.
I was in the lead in the rapidly darkening alder patch and for maybe the 5th time that afternoon since classes were dismissed, once again, the rabbit was sitting under a large spruce tree. Although this was around 1973, I recall it as if it was yesterday. As if yesterday, just retelling the story I can still feel my heart beat pick up a bit. I still have that surge of not knowing what's about to happen, although of course I do know the outcome. Will the rabbit sit still long enough for my nephew to get a shot off? Would the shot be true? To remember that single event all these years later serves to quantify it's impact.
My nephew eventually grew into a fine shot, and this, his first ever shot at a game animal, was no exception. The diminutive .22 short barked and the head shot rabbit never knew what hit it.
Talk about a couple of excited youngsters. If I had lived a more exciting day in all of my 15 years, I would have been hard pressed to recall it. At the moment, the rabbit that laid before us may as well have been a whitetail buck. It ticked off a few boxes. My nephew had his first rabbit under his belt and I had shared it with him. Even at my young age, I sensed I had been a a part of something far greater than the single meal the rabbit would provide.
Luckily for us, upon our return to my parents place the event was elevated with excitement and congratulations. In any event, in my journey as a hunter it was noteworthy. It may have lit the proverbial fire in me to share stories of adventure. Whether the stories are from a far away hunt or quite literally one I might experience my backyard, something in me tells me veryone is worthy of sharing.
While there may be loops and detours along the way, there is no doubt a direct connection from that day in the alder pacth to this attempt at a book. Undoubtedly, there will be entries along the way wich will include hunting with family, guiding, to planning my own hunts to far away places. To a young rabbit hunter from Nova Scotia, hunting what I would consider exotic critters that I grew up reading about was and is part of the excitement of going on a hunting trip. In no small part, the thought of leaving footprints on some far away mountain or near a dusty water hole is exhilerating.
I possess no special hunting or writing talents. I do not have a trophy room bursting with Boone and Crocket or Pope and Young mounts. I have been told I can spin a good yarn ( most of them true) now and then. The odd instance someone may take a minute out of their busy schedule to shoot me a message, the compliment usually comes along the lines of “ I can relate to that” or “I felt as if I was right there with you”. I’ll take those kind words and run with them.
Keeping it real as they say, perhaps those individuals were just being polite. The true test will be if anyone who reads this book and feels like they took something from it. I’m simply looking forward to having a hunter or two put their feet up by a roaring wood stove at a deer camp and pass an hour or two. If I get an email where someone says they can relate to the stories contained within… I’ll be ecstatic.
I suspect it will be a reflection of what I've learned and experienced after three quarters of a lifetime being around hunters, wildlife groups, and associations. The hunters run the gamut from those who quite literally hunted for food with an old 30-30 ( or in these parts often a Lee Enfield .303 British) inherited from a grandparent with silver worn bluing from use. Up to and including those hunters who spend on hunting in a couple years what might rival some of the yearly household incomes of the aforementioned group of hunters. Make no mistake, hunting is a great equalizer. Perhaps not in the number of species tagged but in legitimate hunting skill. Some of those who have never travelled more than 50 miles to hunt, I hold in the highest regard. Make no mistake though, those who have left foot prints in far away places are always interesting to chat to. They as well have left their mark on me. Actual experience is captivating from a person willing to share his or her adventure with someone like me who is eager to take every word in.
Many of the folks I will mention in my ramblings will go unnamed. A good many of them would shy away from any spotlight. Some of them have long since passed on, and I fear I would somehow disservice their name by sharing it without permission. Yet others still walk among us and the very woods we all love. They still offer me wisdom. My gut tells me if I asked permission to use their name it would be granted, more because of their generous nature than any love of being mentioned in a book. For that reason alone, I will not put them in an awkward spot for the sake of this book. They shall remain anonymous out of respect.
My hope is those unidentified people will know instantly who I refer to when their hunter’s eyes fall upon the words. If they do not already know, I wish to let them know here and now their words and actions have left a mark.
Others will delight in being a part of this endeavour. Not for vanity sake, but it will mean something to them that I took a minute to recall an episode we shared.
I hope I get each and everyone of them in the correct category.
So both of these opposite ends of the spectrum groups have impacted me. Perhaps what I'm trying to say is all are hunters. Whichever end of that spectrum those who have crossed my path fall into, the good ones are equal in my eyes. And I’m happy to call each and every one of them a hunter and friend.
My Dad once said to me “ There are people that hunt and then there are hunters” If I refer to someone as a hunter , from me, that’s the highest compliment I can bestow on anyone.
Unless otherwise noted, if you see your name or a tale you were apart of among the scattered chapters that lay ahead, please know, in my eyes you are a hunter and I have been enriched by our paths having crossed.
Why a book?
Too be honest I'm not sure. In defence of a book I can honestly say I've had a few people say I should write one. I'm not sure what that translates into in the literary world, other than the fact I have had those requests from folks I beleive were not just humoring me. I've spent much of my spare time hunting and or trying to generate an income from it. At this point in my life, I've given up on that notion for the most part. At least in any significant way.
So that brings me back to this book, or rather, this collection of memories and experiences. In truth, that's all it is. I have no idea if it will appeal to anyone. I hope it does.
If nothing else, I suspect the vast majority of us have a similar story. Our hunting journey likely started out tagging along behind a relitive or family friend. Most of us were not born into a hunting dynasty type of family . We just went hunting for enjoyment and a few healthy meals. Not for fame or certificates or with the notion of writing a book or selling a magazine article. We hunted for the love of it.
However, the hunting bug does take us down many paths. It's different for each of us. But often, the underlying common denominator remains the same....simply for the love of the hunt, the land, and often, the adventures.
We twist and turn through all the possible hunting paths and adventures; big and small, but many of us find ourselves full circle to where we started, often enjoying a back 40 hunt with dear friends as much as any far off destination we may have been fortunate enough to have experienced.
Unless my phone rings in the near future with a publisher offering a sweet deal, I'm contemplating putting the chapters of this book here in this space for free. For me, that's less daunting than asking someone to pay for something mediocre.
Sending an article into a hunting magazine editor seems less presumptive than a book to me for some reason. Partly because a single story for a magazine reflects one particular adventure and may be of interest to others . A book however, reflects a person's life, and to be a good read, the life better be interesting and compelling. Right out of the starting blocks that has me stumbling.
I've suffered that same internal dillema when guiding hunters. I struggled with why experienced hunters would pay me money when in many instances, they were far more experienced than I was. I over compensated by hard work and ran more baits than I needed, I would run on mere hours of sleep a day. I would track a wounded animal into the late hours if need be. Always trying to convince them they spent their money wisely without the use of words. Actions always speak louder than words. At least in that endeavour , at the end of the week I could calm my nagging doubts with punched tags and animals observed.
Those guiding results were tangible at least. Writing and sharing memories such as a book are much less easily defined. Much harder to quantify success. A number of first time hunters and repeat clients have told me straight up that they appreciated the no BS type of hunt I tried to run. In a nutshell, they enjoyed hearing the truth more than hype. If nothing else, I promise honesty in this look back at a lifetime of hunting. Where that lands is still open to speculation.
I've made very little money from this thing called hunting, so why start now? Make no mistake though, hunting and the love of wild places has made me a rich man in many ways.