OLD HUNTERS NEVER DIE!!!
Being outdoors never gets Old! Waking up early and heading afield is special. Watching a lifetime of sunrises and sunsets is also wonderful. As we age, each hunting season becomes one less. Familiar forests, marshes, fields, and prairies are comforting.
Hunters understand their senses. We feel, see, hear, smell, and are most comfortable outdoors. As we age, we slow down and lose some skills. Dragging a big buck, loading a boat onto the trailer, rowing a drift boat, or disrupting a daily routine becomes harder. Fortunately, technology and new gear and garments helps. A 4-wheeler, Gore Tex, compression underwear, liner socks, and modern accessories are just a few.
Back in the day, I carried a pair of foil wrapped baked potatoes to keep my hands warm. These spud warmers later became lunch. Next came liquid fuel hand warmers that leaked and stank of lighter fluid. Solid fuel sticks were next. Today we use a shake and bake style disposable warmer.
Punkin Balls might have hit a pie plate at 50 yards in the early years. Now a proper sabot shotgun slug is accurate to 300 yards and more. Recurve bows could shoot an arrow at less than 200 fps. Now compound bows can hit a target further and faster. Times have changed. It is easier and more comfortable to hunt today than ever before, even as we age.
Walking in an Oak Woods feels like home to me. As an Appalachian born boy, acorns and nuts forests were always special. Turkeys, deer, trout, squirrels, and grouse never had a chance. The forest was comfortable, peaceful, and relaxing. It is where I went when life got tough or sad. In Montana, I only smell pine and sage, no acorns. Still a fairly good smell, but not home. The outdoors makes us stronger and happier.
Hunters evolve as they age. At first, we are driven to harvest a critter. Without a filled tag we feel unfulfilled. No meat meant a wasted trip. As we age that changes. Just the opportunity to hunt becomes more important. Any filled tags are just a bonus.
The greatest trophies from hunting are not the antlers and feathers on the wall. These are certainly special but are more like memorials and memories. The greatest trophies are the friends and companions that we shared them with. That is our legacy.
We all began our hunting careers thanks to a Mentor. They may have been a man, woman, family member, or just a friend. Someone took you out and showed you how. Hunting is not a do it yourself sport. If you do hunt alone, then you, like a lone wolf, are lonely and alone.
I have an old Winchester 30/30 lever action rifle. It is topped off with a side mount 4 power Bushnell scope. Not expensive or fancy. This was the rifle that I used to harvest my first buck. Since then, 17 other newbie hunters tagged their first deer with this same rifle. Now that is Mentoring. Sadly, no one has needed this lucky rifle, or me, in a while. Maybe my Grandson will become a hunter.
When my son Kyle nailed his first buck he screamed, “that is the most exciting thing I have ever done!” The 6-point whitetail was chasing does on an island in the Madison River. We had practiced with a Daisy 30/30 look alike BB gun, just as I had. Watching him tag his first buck was better than so many of my harvests. We used the old standard round point ammo. Today the Lever Evolution rubber tipped bullets drastically improve accuracy and range. The next new hunter will have a new advantage with my old rifle. Hunting with my son was awesome but now he works all the time.
My Dad never took me deer hunting. He had hunted deer as a young man but… Instead, I found other Mentors. One of my first Mentors was Doug. He had an arsenal of guns and even more stories. We hunted and fished together. He was aging and had time to teach a young buck some lessons. I learned to still hunt with him in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Once I learned how to deer hunt, I took my Dad.
We have also had shallow friends just because they were after our hunting spots. Their camo was good, the friendships were one sided and we seldom got an exchange of the gifts. After the lease or permission dried up so did the friendships.
An old Korean War Vet named Gino taught me how to shoot. My single shot Ruger became a special and accurate weapon after his instruction. My friend Keith taught me how to really shoot, hunt, and cook. We spent hours on his range, and kitchen, in Garrett County, MD., honing our skills. I have had many friends that shared and showed me the right path. I remember them all. Sadly, most of them are at the end of their trail or gone. Their wonderful legacy lives on!
Times have changed. Our world is smaller. More development, more outfitters, and private land closures, more non hunters. Sadly, the end of hunting sooner than later. If meat is not in a foam tray covered in plastic, from the store, it is not meat. Most folks that eat meat today are so removed from what they eat that they simply have no clue where it comes from. It comes from the store.
What saddens me the most, is how so many of the hunters and fishermen that I mentored have forgotten me. They are busy, focused, and have their own families now. Time is limited and they only can afford so many friends. They remember and appreciate their mentors but assume that these sportsmen have more buddies than they need.
The truth is quite different. The Older Mentors had plenty of friends. Now they are old, sick, dead, crippled, or simply exhausted. After age 60, many hunters are on a wing and a prayer. The phone rarely rings. Many older buddies would if they could but…
I do not understand or accept it. It would seem that the gifts of enjoying the outdoors would be so important that the students would want to reach out. Most do not. I wish it were different. Hunting as an older man or women is harder. One fall, or accident could mean the worst. So how do you haul that big critter, hunt the dark forest, or venture back into the wilderness.? As young men or women, we never looked back. Nothing was too hard. The gifts that we gave simply do not get returned.
Old Hunters also regret hunting with great friends. Our students live far away or have families. My friend Pete is a wonderful companion and I hope we hunt together again soon, before I get too old. I know that he would if he could. His father Don always has a special place in my heart.
As Old Hunters, we do our best. Many of our aged brethren know of what I am saying. We may be a bit slower and not as graceful, but our experience and knowledge make up for our declining health and energy. At some point, maybe we just need to fish.
Hunt hard, hunt harder!
For more Montana Grant, hunt him up at www.montanagrantfishing.com.