Turn the pages of my life backwards and eventually you’ll fall upon a 10-year-old boy. You’ll see me warily climbing up my first tree steps, empty handed. I was a spectator, armed only with low-quality optics to take it all in. It was my first real immersion in “the game,” and my very first season. The hunter in me has come a long way. I now live for the game and am defined by the season.
By God’s grace I was exposed to the game in my youth. I can’t say I was born with “it”—my dad was never a hunter. The game came to me through a mix of influence and curiosity, stemming directly from my two uncles. My grandfather wasn’t much of a hunter, either. So where did my uncles discover the game, which now owns a large parcel of property in all of our souls? Through their uncle, of course. Despite generation gaps, thankfully the hunting heritage continues to thrive in our gene pool.
My uncles and their adventures sparked a deep intrigue in me from a young age. When would I have the opportunity to see the things they spoke of? When could I begin building my own storybook? Until then I would spend my time observing and absorbing every loose fragment of knowledge and wisdom that came my way. When the time came, I would be ready with a humble respect for the game.
That “first season” mentioned in the beginning was the first time I was brought out into the deer woods. My task was to merely sit and watch as the whitetail rut unfolded beneath my treestand. It wasn’t my time to take part in the glory of the harvest; it was my time to behold the spectacle of the game, preparing for the many hunts to come. My uncle was stationed a few hundred yards away, waiting with the intention of putting a buck “to sleep” with his nocked arrow. This experience and the many others that followed sealed my fate as a lifer.
Two years later, I earned my firearms safety certificate and joined the ranks of the camouflaged elite. I took my first deer—a buck fawn—at the age of 12. Since then I have steadily built upon my game portfolio and understanding of the “things” that occupy it. But like other conservationists, for me it’s about respect before numbers. Respect the game. Longbeards, roosters, whistling wings or whitetails … they all command the highest level of respect.
Somewhere along the way I also garnered an appreciation for the ol’ pen and paper. Did it require 4 years of rigorous trials and tribulations in academia to put me on the outdoor journalism map? How about the excessive pile of debt that came with it? Fortunately, at this point hindsight holds no power. All that matters now is my privilege and opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with the finest community known to man: hunters.