My Father taught me and my siblings how to hunt and fish at an early age. We knew how to handle a gun by age 10, and I started at 7. Except for maybe one sister, we all learned early on how to put a worm on a hook. We learned to clean fish and skin squirrels. We never wasted our edible kills and catches, and the family diet was often subsidized with fish, squirrels, venison, and waterfowl. After we kids got old enough, my Mother joined in, and earned a formidable reputation as a crack shot. Any legal deer that got within range of her .243 Remington was destined to become table fare. Some years she shot more deer than my Father.
Even today, I would rather have deep fat fried catfish or crappie, caught in Toledo Bend Lake than salmon or trout from the supermarket. I’ll take breaded back strap over a sirloin, and squirrel makes a fine pot of dumplings.
Something happened as I grew older. The kill is no longer a necessary part of hunting, and I can fish happily without catching much. I take great pleasure in walking the woods looking for scrapes. I enjoy filling the feeder and looking at the previous night’s collection of pictures from the game cams. Just sitting in the deer stand watching the world go from gray to color is satisfying, and hearing the forest come to life is fine music. If I get a shot at a legal deer or feral hog, I will take it, but not seeing any game is not a failure. I don’t bother the squirrels which show up from time to time near the trailer.
Last season, my brother in law, James, shot a fine, fat, legal doe which ran a short distance down hill before falling. He walked out to find my brother, Ron, and me to help drag her out of the woods. We dragged her about 30 yards uphill, huffing and puffing all the way, but we made it and got her loaded on the 4-wheeler. That may not seem like much of a big deal, but the youngest member of our crew was 71. I’m thankful that we are still able to do that, and look forward to being able to do so for some time to come. Until I get too old and feeble to do it, look for me in the woods during hunting season.