"Those of us privileged to take to the field are entrusted by fate and circumstance to hold and nurture the hunter's legacy." -Theodore Roosevelt
As the air turns crisp and the leaves fall, it brings back memories of trips into the timber pursuing squirrels. I have so many fond memories of squirrel hunting with my father. They revolve around my great-grandfather's timber. Dad started taking my brother and I along on our first trips before we could carry a gun. Then I remember the thrill when we got to carry BB guns. By the time I received my first rifle, I had been schooled in safe gun handling and hunter skills. My memories of that timber start many times in the early Saturday morning darkness quietly finding our position at the base of a tree as the sun began to rise behind us. I remember the rush of excitement when I would spot the flicking of a tail in an adjacent tree, or the shadow out in front of us meaning a bushy-tail had made its way up behind you! And who could forget being startled by the scolding chatter of a squirrel that spotted us first.
Equally enjoyable was an afternoon hunt. Those always seemed to be the longest days I thought the school day would never end. Instead of riding the school bus home, Dad would pick me up right after school at the corner with guns he had already packed in the truck before he left for work that morning, and a snack packed specially by my mom for the trip. We would head out to that timber. I remember finding acorns and hickory nuts. I also remember on more than one occasion when they found me or rather the top of my head as they dropped from the branches above.
If we were lucky, we would bring home two or three of our quarry. If we didn't shoot a thing we had been equally successful we had spent time together outdoors.
Dad took me pheasant hunting each opening day of that season. When I was old enough, he traded guns with me, letting me carry his 12 gauge and he my little .410. I remember that lesson so very well. My success would multiply at least ten-fold with a larger, more powerful shotgun my youthful mind reasoned. With the next rooster we flushed, he proved to me that it was not the firepower, but the aim that was most important.
It was on one of those pheasant hunting trips that he showed me a muskrat run from the cornfield down into the creek. His stories of trapping muskrats and mink as a boy on that same creek were all it took to make me want to try my hand at it. I wanted to be like my dad.
In recent years, I have often thought how fortunate I was to have a dad that took me on my first squirrel hunts. I still remember those days vividly. He pointed out many things on those trips. Those trips went far beyond squirrel hunting.
Thinking back on those experiences, I have come to realize how fortunate I was to have had an adult in my life that opened the wide wonders of the outdoors to me. I believe that exposure to the outdoors led me to my chosen vocation, which I've now enjoyed for over 30 years. That, in itself, was a great gift. I hope that my children feel the same way when recalling our trips into the woods and fields.
As we become a more urban society, it is important for us "older" folks to replace ourselves with young people who love the outdoors and who will be future stewards of our natural treasures.