Kevin Tate | October 25, 2012
Outdoor communicators like to throw around the notion of four stages of a hunter. Thankfully, for me, the final stage was an easy one to find.
The “stages of a hunter” philosophy goes something like this: in Stage One, you just want to get one. In Stage Two, you want to get the limit. Stage Three finds you looking for the biggest and the best, and Stage Four is graduation day – the point at which a hunter moves into a different realm and discovers the rewards of sharing their passion with others. There’s no particular time limit or length to any phase and, I can say without hesitation, Stage Four is by far the most rewarding.
I got a good start in the outdoors at the feet of my paternal grandfather and his cadre of fellow fishermen. We hunted some, but mostly we fished and, while that may not be a prototypical introduction, I believe the same lessons were learned.
Grandaddy and his friends, principally William “Buddy” Edwards, his brother-in-law, served as my role models, a plural version of Robert Ruark’s legendary Old Man. Between the two of them, I saw what it takes to have success in the field, and I also picked up the notion that this was quite a way to spend one’s time.
On the flat, open water of Grenada Lake I learned patience, perseverance and a dedication to hard work in the outdoor world. We fished a lot, and we fished hard. I think the work ethic that had carried Grandaddy through life had something to do with how hard we went at it, but I have also come to appreciate how he must have viewed himself as a fisherman. He was a first rate master with any sort of hook and line and, somewhere between the ethic and the ideal, there lived a dedicated practitioner. If his skills, in which he was confident, weren’t putting fish in the boat, it only meant we needed to work harder. Not that we usually spent much time slacking beforehand.
Uncle Buddy played Augustus McCrae to Grandaddy’s Woodrow Call. He liked to laugh and talk and tell our favorite stories, and he went along with our fishing out of interest, but largely just to have a good time. If there was humor in any situation, Uncle Buddy was quick to find it. In retrospect he might not have wanted to fish as hard as we did, but I can’t recall him uttering a single complaint. Hopefully I learned a lot from them both.
As a result of years of tutelage, my hunting has always reflected the attitudes I developed while fishing. I enjoy a good chase and the meals it provides, but I do my sincere best to appreciate the sunrise and the birds and a clear view of the horizon at the same time.
Whether it’s a makeshift duck blind or a lock-on stand over a well-used trail or simply an afternoon spent snatching perch off a pool bank, when I’m sharing the outdoors with one of my children, I’m doing my best to enjoy my time and share all I can with them.
Ultimately, I hope their memories of the outdoors include me in the way mine include my Old Men. If immortality is man’s true unstated goal, I think I may have found the best avenue to reach it.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.