Kevin Tate | V.P. of Media Productions
The Boy fidgeted and squirmed, put clothes on and took them off, was hungry and bored and anxious in turn. He moved too much and “whispered” too loud and sought new and clever ways to try my patience, but when the does walked into the field he froze and, in a moment, it was all once again worthwhile.
I’ve never been one to make The Boy hunt if he didn’t want to go. The opportunities arise as they will and almost always include an invitation for him. I let him pass or take advantage as he chooses and have never argued if he preferred to play with his cousins or do something else instead. He may hunt for as long as he lives, but someday he’ll put down his toys and put away his ball and glove and, effectively, never take them up again.
Someday he’ll say his last admiring thing about a pro athlete, imagine his last interstellar battle with a Lego ship, and move on forever from the things enjoyed only by a child.
Hunting and the outdoors are lifelong pursuits, chased as passionately or not as we choose. Creating the association by force is about the only thing a mentor can do wrong. Preventing him from quitting when he’s 95 percent of the way to the goal, though, that’s another matter, and carries a lesson worth learning as well.
If big bucks ever take over his dreams in a way they’ve never really threatened mine, he may someday get himself to Saskatchewan where the most massive of whitetails roam. If he goes, he’ll have committed himself to a week or more of sitting from before dawn until after dusk in a blind overlooking ice and snow, cedars and sky and very little else, keeping his lunch and his rifle’s action thawed in turn over a portable heater and banking patience in search of one shot at wrapping his hands around his dreams.
Scaling that back to the present and a hunter still wading through the rookie stage, we find an 8-year-old with a youth-sized crossbow and a tripod rest on a 60-degree afternoon beside a Mississippi greenfield. With him sits all the support staff he can stand and considerably more than he seems to want.
“How much longer ’til dark?” he asked just as prime time arrived, and I put him off with the lowest of whispers, reminding him this is the hour we’d come to meet, begging for 10 more minutes, and 10 more minutes, and then only 10 minutes more.
Presently, three big does walked into the field and time’s trickle gave way to adrenaline’s flood. No lonesome geese called from far away, and the Northern Lights didn’t dance across the sky, but it was magic all the same.
A move here, a repositioning there and all was set.
“Are you ready?” I said in his ear.
“Yes sir yes sir yes sir,” he hissed back even quieter.
Permission to shoot was granted, a good shot was made and he soon had his first archery deer in his hands. It wasn’t even necessary to remind him afterward why we’d sat still so long. The answer shone clearly in his eyes.