When did the hunting bug bite you?
My Father used to take an annual 9 day trip into the Sierra Nevada mountains to chase blacktail and mulies with all of my uncles. By the time I was 7-8 I would cry to go every year with them, at that time I mainly wanted to be with my Dad and the guys. I learned to shoot until I was 12 and I then had to take the hunter safety course before I could go off on the annual adventure. During the years between I read everything I could get my hands on about hunting and even spent time writing stories about imaginary hunts I had taken, North America, Africa and anywhere else my imagination would take me. I used to troll the book stores when we would visit the city and buy used hunting and fishing books and I still have every one of them.
I recall going to a museum in San Francisco with my family to see animals from the world on display, I explained to my family when we saw the Bongo display about how tribal people believed that the Bongo hung from trees at night and that the horn of the Bongo was of great medicinal value, I was about 10 or so. Until I was about 15 and was able to bird and squirrel hunt with my buddies without Dad I was active in all the traditional sports of our youth, but once I was able to hunt and explore unsupervised those sports interfered with my hunting and my desire too and still do to this day, Raiders vs Jets, so what.
Being among the trees, fields and wildlife with friends and family or alone seems to always put things into perspective and bring a calming peace that can't be bought or explained with modern words.
Although I still can't explain it well enough to satisfy the hard core non-hunter, I thank God for my Father's teachings and also sharing my desire with my 2 sons. Although not quite the passion I had in my youth the boys always anxiously await our next trip into the field.
One of the earliest memories that I have is my Dad helping me hold his H&R Leatherneck .22 up to bust tin cans on the banks of the Blackfoot River. The home movies of it help some, and the license plates on the '53 Ford Ranch Wagon say 1957. By then, I'd been out with the folks, and my Grandparents a couple of seasons, mostly in camp, but was allowed to pretty much roam the countryside at will by the time I was six. There wasn't a fish nor bird nor snake nor squirrel that was safe within range of that old six foot 'glass rod or my slingshot.
Dad and I drew an early elk hunt the year I turned twelve, and we took two raghorn five point bulls just west of Yellowstone park. Used an old Marlin .38-55 with 255 gr. Remington factory loads to take them. I'd been tagging along behind Dad, my uncle Bert, or one of my Grandfathers for several years by then, but always had a hard time keeping up. By the way, them hills haven't got any less steep over the years...not whinin' none, just a comment.
When I turned 14, I got my driver's license, and me and my three little brothers went up to Copper Basin and stalked a couple of Pronghorns, caught a mess of brookies and cooked them up, spent a couple of nights, and even had to fix a busted u-joint in the old F100 4x4.
I took my hay-hauling, milking, feeding money the summer I turned 13, and bought a new Winchester 190 carbine, and a 99H Savage .30-30. The year after that I got a Colt Trooper Mk III, and traded into my Granddad's Fulton SxS 12 ga., and bought an RCBS Jr press that I finally wore out about ten years ago.
As I recall, we got a Benjamin .22 pellet rifle when I was 8 or 9 years old, and me and the brothers DID wear that one out, mostly on starlings, but there were also an awful lot of jackrabbits, pheasants, huns, chukkars and spruce grouse that fell to that little gun. Used a homemade slingshot with surgical tubing that I made, Granddad Miles would supply me with ball bearings from his shop, where I'd help him bust the races to get them out.
Ya know, it's been forever since I been up in some of them places, and I need to get my grandkids up there to see if the erosion has uncovered any more fossils or points.....AND, I need to get Grampa Walton's '94 sighted in, and see if I can't put the sneak on that bull that he never caught up with.