My introduction into hunting took place many years ago. My dad was an avid deer hunter and well before I was old enough to head to the woods with any sort of weapon myself I knew I wanted to hunt.
The animals were interesting and tasty and the guns were absolutely fascinating.
My first hunting experience outside of the bb-gun realm was the pursuit of deer with a rifle. I’ll not elaborate on my success that season. It should suffice to say that I hunted proudly, even sporting my blaze orange and back tag at school two days before the hunt.
Both friend and foe took notice and were equally enthusiastic about my fashion sense.
Well, it doesn’t matter what they thought anyway.
I would have worn it the day immediately preceding the hunt instead, but my parents signed me out of school for that day and the following Monday and Tuesday so I could be at our rudimentary camp for the weekend and be able to hunt the whole season.
Man, I really loved hunting.
The deer rifle I used when I started was not my own. Once my deceased grandfather’s, the .32 special was the property of my dad. And I wasn’t allowed to simply leave the house and venture into the woods with it year-round for some reason.
Eventually, though, I would get guns of my own.
One Christmas, my parents gave me a .22 rifle that I could use to pursue critters during the long small game seasons.
Immediately thrilled with the gun, I saw my self stalking the Northwoods with all my acquired skill and stocking the family freezer with meat.
Merely shredding some Christmas wrapping paper had transformed me from lowly schmuck, dependent on others for his subsistence, to mountain man. King of the Woods.
A king must learn humility, of course, and he quickly would. But not at that victorious moment.
I held in my hands the power to hunt nearly every single day of the fall, winter and spring.
“I’ll get a predator call and kill coyotes and fox for their fur and raccoons too. Plus, all those rabbits and squirrels and such I see will now be food for the family,” I thought.
The wrapping paper wasn’t yet fully clear of the gift and I had filled the freezer with meat and secured enough money selling hides to buy a snowmobile. I was already using the snowmobile to range far afield and run a trap-line when Ma spoke.
“Don’t you like it?” she wondered. “You don’t seem that excited.”
I awoke from my trance long enough to say, “Uh-huh,” or something similarily eloquent and heartfelt.
I wasn’t exactly the King of the Woods that I envisioned myself to be, but I logged many miles with that .22 in hand and plinked many targets — some of which were actual protein.
I still have that .22, but it’s getting a little dusty. If I take a walk and think I might scare up something edible I grab the shotgun. It’s just way easier to hit things, plus it gives one the option of hunting grouse, which are really good table-fare.
But that .22 was the reason I spent so many hours in the woods as a youth, even through the dead of winter. There wasn’t much there to hunt with a .22 except the occasional rabbit or squirrel, but I had an impressive network of trails going through the snow from looking.
My first very-own shotgun was pretty special too. A single-shot 12 gauge that was nearly as scary at its aft as it was at its fore, the gun was a gift from my Uncle Loopy and Aunt Aggie. Loopy, practical joker that he is, supplied a few high-brass shells to get me started with the old (nay — ancient) gun.
The first shot I fired with it nearly broke my right cheek bone. I had neglected to summon my inner Lou Ferrigno when taking my grip on the scatter gun and it leapt from hand to face. From that point forward, I think I took on a slightly greenish hue whenever readying to touch off a shell.
Whether I was summoning my inner-Lou or simply ill with the anticipation is something even I’m uncertain of.
The gun did serve the purpose of gaining me a great number of man-points in the eyes of my friends, though. They feared the gun as if it was a mother about to search under their beds.
“C’mon,” I’d say. “Shoot it.”
They’d look at the long beauty, with its scarred wood, worn steel and electrical tape-bound buttstock and hedge.
Occasionally, someone would shoot it, though. My other friends’ eyes would gleam in anticipation on those occasions.
Warned to hold on tight, one of my friends, Wes, very obediently did so. Upon Wes firing his shot, the barrel of the gun separated from the forestock. Now that’s summoning your inner-Lou.
Interestingly, no one ever asked if I’d be willing to sell the magnificent firearm or even if they could shoot it a second time.
The old gun, a New York Arms “Victor,” still has a spot on the gun rack, but is no longer used. The steel looks just a bit too worn at this point.
I did some online research on the gun just to find out what it might be worth. From what I gather, mine could be worth as much as $15.
It’s worth at leat $20 sentimentally, so I guess I’ll keep it.
As a youth, the looming seasons were especially exciting, and though gun deer season and the fishing opener certainly trumped the small game opener for me, it was still a date to anticipate. Even a day to get up early enough to be in the woods at daybreak.
I don’t plan daybreak hunts for the small game opener these days. It is also the opening of archery deer season now, though.
Deer pique the interest a little more, but it’s often just too warm or I’m just plain not ready to bowhunt.
Still, I love the excitement that the smell of a cool night and moldering leaves brings. I will be out in the woods this weekend, even if it’s just to hang a trail camera or work on a stand. Perhaps I’ll sit somewhere with my bow if it’s not too warm.
Maybe, instead, I should grab my old “Victor” and take a walk. Grouse numbers are down this year, so I’m not likely going to have to use it anyway.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com