- Outdoor lessons learned early in life build great memories for the future.
- Take the time to share the outdoors with those you love.
- Be patient, explain the details, laugh and learn together – strong bonds form.
By Larry Whiteley
My 12-year-old grandson, Hunter, and my 10-year-old granddaughter, Anna, were going deer hunting for the first time. Hunter came with me. Anna went with my son, Daron. Hunter is a good name for a young man who enjoys squirrel, rabbit, and dove hunting with his family. Now, he and his sister will learn to hunt deer like their dad had with Grandpa.
The four of them sighted in their guns the week before. Grandpa and Dad taught them what they needed to know to be safe when handling the rifles Grandpa had bought them. They listened intently with wide eyes as Grandpa told him what to expect when out there. They asked a million questions. Grandpa and Dad patiently answered them all.
As they drove to where they were going to hunt on opening morning, it was quiet in the truck. Grandpa glanced at his grandson and said, “What are you thinking about?” “Oh, I am just thinking about everything you taught me,” he said. “I want to get my first deer.” His sister was sleeping curled up next to Dad.
“I know you do,” said grandpa. “But, you and your sister will both discover there is more to enjoy outdoors than just shooting a deer. God created it all for us and the wildlife.” Hunter looked at him quizzically and could not imagine anything better than getting a deer.
They got in their blind. Anna and Dad went off to theirs. Grandpa had Hunter sit between his legs right in front of him. The rifle was on a tripod to steady his aim. They waited silently in the darkness. An owl hooted. Hunter whispered, “What was that?” Grandpa told him and held him close.
The sun rose over the hill and shined on the frosted field. The fog lifted from the nearby creek. Birds started fluttering through the trees. Crows began talking to each other. Squirrels scurried through dried leaves. Hunter whispered, “They don’t know we are here. It’s like watching a nature show on TV.” Grandpa smiled. He knew his grandson was discovering there was more to deer hunting than shooting a deer. Anna would learn the same from Dad.
Hunter and Grandpa hear a noise. A young buck peeks out from behind a nearby tree. The deer senses there is someone in the woods with him. He looked toward them and then ducked behind a tree. He peeks around one side of the tree and then the other several times. The two humans never move. The young buck was finally satisfied there was nothing there. He walked away, and a memory was made.
Thirty minutes later, a doe walks into the field. She stops and looks behind her.
Suddenly, an 8-point buck slowly walks toward the doe. When he stops, Grandpa tells Hunter to take a deep breath and squeeze the trigger gently. The sound of gunfire echoed through the valley. Grandpa hugged his grandson and said, “You got it!” Hunter hugged his grandpa.
Later, they heard another shot in the valley. Anna also got her first deer that day, a big doe. Another memory she will always have of her and Dad together in the outdoors. Both would take many other deer in their years of hunting with Grandpa and Dad. Grandpa told them on the way home, “That is not always what happens on a hunt. Like in your life, there will be more good times than bad. More failures than success.”
That story happened 11 years ago. Hunter grew into a man. Anna became a beautiful young woman. Grandpa goes hunting less than he used to, and it is different now. Sometimes, he goes alone and sits in the woods with his memories. That day in his hunting history remains one of his favorite memories with his son, grandson and granddaughter. There are many more.
Hunter graduated from college, got married, and now lives in Kansas. Dad travels there often to go deer hunting and fishing with his son. Anna also graduated from college, married Drew, and lives in Texas with their dog Max. She no longer goes hunting, but the lessons she learned from hunting, fishing, and the outdoors will guide her in other parts of her life.
Soon, Hunter and his wife Molly will have kids of their own. Hunter, Molly, and their grandpa will take the kids deer hunting and teach them to enjoy the outdoors like Grandpa and Dad did with him. He will show them the deer head hanging on the wall and tell them the story of his first deer.
Hunter and Molly will also take their kids squirrel, rabbit, dove, and turkey hunting. He will share stories of him, their grandpa, and great-grandpa when they did the same thing. Hunter will teach them to be safe and the skills they need. He will tell them there is more to hunting than just killing animals, just like Grandpa did him.
The first time he takes his kids fishing, he will tell them about his first fish. Grandpa and Dad were there for that. His high school graduation present from Grandma and Grandpa was a Canadian fishing trip for the three men. Hunter later became an avid bass fisherman. He was a member of his college bass fishing team. He and Molly also fish together. They will with their kids too.
Grandpa and Grandma’s other son Kelly, his wife Lexi, and sons Ty and Sam live in Wisconsin. He loved to go fishing when he was growing up. His family all love to fish and travel to national parks together. When the boys were little, Grandpa and Grandma made many trips north to go fishing with them and spend time at lakes around where they lived. They even went fishing together a few times in Florida.
When Kelly was young, he never went hunting. It was just not something he wanted to do. Dad understood and didn’t push him to try it. A few years ago, Kelly called and said he and Ty wanted to go deer hunting. A few weeks later, Grandpa and Grandma were on their way to Wisconsin with their truck loaded with hunting clothes for both of them, rifles, deer stands, and more.
The morning of the deer hunt, Kelly could not get Ty out of bed to go. He and Dad went anyway. Like Hunter and Anna did several years before, Kelly got his first deer that morning. He beamed with pride. Dad hugged his 6-foot, 4-inch, 230-pound son and wiped away a tear.
Today, Kelly is battling cancer. It has not stopped him from fishing and traveling with his family. It has not stopped him from always being positive. He tells everyone, “Take it one day at a time, and put it in God’s hands.” Those words have been a tremendous witness and comfort to others. He knows where he is going when God says it is time, whether sooner or later. He will leave a legacy behind for his sons, whenever that is.
One of the definitions of the word legacy says that it is the long-lasting impact of particular events, actions, and other things that took place in the past or a person’s life.
Let me ask you this question. Will you be leaving behind a legacy for your kids and grandkids?
Stephen Moss once said, “Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world but themselves.” I believe that to be true. It is a great place to make memories and leave a legacy.
Grandpa thinks often about the legacy of the outdoors he will leave with his family and others when the good Lord calls him home. He does not doubt that his family will all continue their legacy with the outdoors. He smiles, looks to heaven, and says, “Thank you!” A tear runs down his cheek.