For those of you who have been around here a while, you might know that I have been working on getting my nephew on his first big game animal for some time now. The story really starts some years ago - maybe four or five years now? - when I got him his first .22 for a birthday present. To say that he was excited to learn to shoot would be an understatement.
I won't rehash all of our experiences here, but I've written about many of them over the past four years. We started by chasing hares, and eventually got onto some birds as well.
With all of that being wonderful, our quest to put him on a big game animal has not met with much success. It started two springs ago with a black bear hunt in Homer. While we had a great time, that spring was an early one following a low snowfall year and the bears were mostly up in the hills by the time we hit the beach. Being our first big game hunt, I was concerned that my nephew would get discouraged at our lack of any real opportunities, but he had a far better attitude than I imagined.
Later that fall we tried again, but weather kept us from our destination across Kachemak Bay and we struck out on our backup plan in the Kenai Mountains. Last fall we signed him up for the late season Nelchina caribou tag and kept trying, but again, luck was not on our side. Actually...that's not entirely accurate. In two trips up to Paxson we did manage to chase a lot of caribou, but it was never just right. It was on those trips that I realized what a wonderful hunting companion I had in the makings. On every trip we had taken, from the first hare hunt through chasing caribou, we always would spend time talking about the regulations and the responsibilities of the hunter to the law and to the animals that we pursue. More than once last winter caribou were within a range where I would have been OK with him taking a shot, but each time he told me afterwards that things weren't just right and that he didn't want to take a bad shot. He showed a maturity far beyond his years, and though we didn't come home with anything, I couldn't have been more proud.
When the season ended and the winter application period started, we talked at length about what the next year would hold. He's been itching to get one of the Delta youth moose hunt tags, but after some consideration he decided that the Tier I tag would be an awesome opportunity that just couldn't be passed up.