11.05.2011

New Traditions

Since I was 11 years old I've looked forward to this Saturday morning each year.

"Opening Deer Hunting!"

In has to be on Saturday in Central Minnesota, or nobody would show up for work! For some it's a religion...I was about to say almost, but that'd be wrong. There's no almost about it! It's full on worship in some circles.

Typically a guy's day, there are many businesses that will host events today for the "Hunting Widows" - a term I've always thought macabre due to the dangerous nature of firearms and the unfortunate accidents that have happened.

Between my dad & I, hunting has been our thing. I have vivid and fond memories of opening morning in 1985, my first time out in the woods hunting with dad. I was cold, bored, sitting on my butt with my legs dangling over the edge of a tree stand, maybe 10' in the air. Only about 30 minutes had passed since we got in the stand!

Around 7:15 AM I remember Dad whispering, "Mike!"

I sorta looked up and said, plenty loud, "What?!"

He whispered, "Quiet, there's a deer."

There not far in front of us was a nice sized, whitetail, buck walking with his down along a trail, about to pass us along the woods line.

I froze.

And waited.

And watched Dad as he lifted his rifle, aimed, fired.

Two shots with his bolt action rifle and the buck toppled over about a 100 yards out into the grassy field in front of us.

"That. was. awesome!" went through my head, or more likely whatever the 1987, eleven year old's equivalent was back then.

A little while later I was back to cold and bored. I'd gotten out of the stand and was sitting the grass at the base of the tree my dad was in. A young doe came out and sniffed around the fallen buck. It was something I'd never experienced, seeing deer running around, hearing shots being fired throughout the woods, knowing that someday I'd get to be the one shooting too.

That was the day I became a "hunter."

Later on we went out and checked the buck. Dad found one entry and two exit holes...perfect shots based on where the deer was when he fired.

As his son, I was in awe.

That first weekend hunting with dad is almost mythical in my mind. I don't know how my dad remembers it, but I recall loving tromping through woods on game drives and almost wetting my pants in surprise as a hidden doe jumped up not six feet from us and seemed to hover along the ground as she flew away from us, shooting a lever action .30/30 for the first time (and falling in love with that borrowed gun that dad eventually bought for me from a friend), hanging out with the other men, and just enjoying the whole experience together with dad.

Today is the 26th opening morning since that weekend. I've been out in the field 23 times, only missing hunting when I was living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma going to Rhema Bible Training Center in '94 & '95. This morning I am away from the field once again.

You see, this opening morning was to be the first hunt for my own son, Andy.

He's 10 years old, and he's a joy to me! We have been talking about today since last year when we realized some DNR regulation changes to encourage youth hunting would allow him to have his first hunt with a gun two full years before I did (I was 12)! As a daddy, I was a little nervous about getting him out there, but thrilled that we'd get to go together.

As the year has gone by other things have happened to.

Last May, my wife and I worked with Andy's school and determined that Andy has some unique challenges. He was educationally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. My basic understanding of this is that he processes information much differently than many of us. In some ways that is very positive, but in other ways it's a big challenge.

For me it's been a good thing overall. As his dad I don't want to make excuses for his sometimes bad and erratic behavior, but knowing about the challenges he faces helps me to understand what's going on too.

Naming him has been kind of like starting an old car where you have to pump the accelerator a couple times before starting. Before knowing about that little tip, it's easy to be frustrated when the car won't start. After knowing it, you adjust your approach to starting it and have much better success, and less frustrations getting on the road.

As we got closer and closer to this morning and the plan to go out hunting, I realized I didn't know how to give Andy the first hunt experience that my dad gave me. Partly due to Asperger's, and partly due to not putting the time in with Andy on hunting yet. Bottom line, I felt we weren't ready to go out there and be a team and really enjoy the hunt together. I needed to do a better job preparing both of us.

Yesterday I called an audible if you will. I'm not a football guy, as most any who know me know, so if I got the term wrong, oh well. But I changed the game plan.

I told Andy and my family that we would not be heading out for hunting this year. I'm focusing on connecting with Andy and hopefully by next year we will be ready to take to the woods together, suited up, and ready to go!

After I post this we're going to head out for cinnamon rolls and coffee, then off to Cabela's to learn a little more about hunting, shoot the arcade hunting ranges, and work on connecting hunting and Asperger's too.

Today I'm still hunter, and doing my best to be Andy's daddy too. I love him so much and I'm thankful for him and the times we get to have together.

Thanks for listening.

For all the hunters out there this weekend:

Shoot straight, be safe, have fun, enjoy what our Creator's given us!


And send me pictures of your hunts and trophies!

Jesus loves you,

Mike