Nimrod Jr's First Buck
Nimrod, Jr's First Buck
Nimrod (Michigan)

Sunday, Oct.6, 1996, My son, age 12, headed for his ground blind and as I walked to mine I thought about the last time I had hunted with a bow. It was 12 years ago in the same area by our home. I had been hunting with a bow for 2 years and had not drawn on a deer but laerned alot about deer and hunting.When my son was born I had decided to hang up the bow to spend as much time with him as possible.

When he was 8 he went scouting with me and by age 10 he had learned how to read deer sign, track deer and where the best spot would be for a blind according to the sign and cover. He was with me on several gun hunts and was able to experience a bit of buck-fever. For Christmas and his 10th. birthday he got his first bow. He really enjoyed shooting it and I could hardly wait for his first opener.

Aug.'96 He completed his hunter safty course and started to anticipate his first bow season. In Sept. I set his bow, a Darton Scout, at 35 lbs. of draw and he could shoot it 12 times before tiring. He practiced at 5, 10, and 15 yards with tight groups and a smooth draw.

I told him that I would be about 300 yards down the fence line and if he needed me, he could whistle for me and that wouldn't spook the deer. I had been in my ground blind about 30 min. and spotted a doe and 2 fawns at first light. I had been watching them for about 15 min., waiting for the doe to walk into my shooting lane, when I thought I could hear my son trying to whistle! I knew she would step into it any second but I couldn't wait to see what he needed! The doe had no idea that I was there until I grabbed my bow and quiver and started running. I couldn't cover the 300 yards fast enough!!

I asked him if he got one and he said he thought so and he thought it had a couple of horns on it. At about 7:30 am, he said he saw some movement at the edge of the corn and stood up in the ditch to get ready! He saw a big deer about 20 yards away, walking towards him with it's head down and thought it was a doe. As he started to draw the deer picked it's head up, revealing the couple of horns. My son froze as the buck looked in his direction!!! Then he put his head down and stepped forward. My son drew and released his 100 gain broadhead!! He heard the arrow wack the deer and as the deer ran through the corn, the arrow was ticking the corn and then stopped.

He showed me where the buck was standing, it was a 15 yard shot. The big tracks got me all excited and we started to follow them. We tracked him to the end of the corn, about 40 yards from the blind and my son found the arrow. The broadhead and 11" of the arrow were missing! The arrow had dark red blood on it and I knew he had his first bow kill! We knew it wasn't over yet as the tracking was difficult. We split up to cover more ground and were within 30 yards of him but the tall grass kept him well hidden.

About 8:45 we walked up to the house and had breakfast. I left a message with Grandpa. I told him we had a buck down and we were headed back out to find it.We started where we left off and about 10:45 we found him!! WOW!! I dropped to my knees beside the buck and thanked God for such a magnificent animal and my son's success!! I knew right then and there that a true hunter was born.

The couple of horns grew to a big 8 point! We started to drag the buck to the edge of the wooded lot and I told my son I didn't know how he was going to get him home because he was heavier than any deer I had ever tagged!! As we reached the edge of the wooded lot, we heard the comforting sound of grandpa's quad-runner! I told him there's your ride home.

The buck dressed out to 180 lbs., aged at 4 1/2 years old, with 8 1/2" tines, and an 18 1/2" spread. He is entered in the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan records book with a net score of 118.7 net (123.5 gross). The arrow entered just behind the front leg when extended forward. Went through the left lung and ended in the liver. The head is mounted in the living room and the venison was great!

Why I am a Sportsman
Why I am a Sportsman
By HideHunter (Iowa)

Today I helped a good friend take his third turkey and in the process happened to fill my tag within seconds. It was a great hunt and after a cup of coffee and a few pictures we picked six and a half pounds of mushrooms.

But you know what the highlight of my day was? As I sat in the pre-dawn darkness, listening to a half-dozen turkeys vie for the attention of a hen (who was really a busted up old bird hunter) a Carolina wren landed on my right boot, jumped to my left and stared into my face mask for a full ten seconds. I've had squirrels run across my legs, and a 'coon sniff the bottom of my boot, but this was the first time I ever imitated a bush well enough that a bird landed on me.

When something like this happens I sometimes stop and think about why I hunt. A non-hunting friend of mine often asks me philosophical questions about hunting and the 'wren' thing made me think.

Dear Cindy,

Your question was, "Why do I refer to hunters as sportsmen? Shouldn't the playing field be a little more level to make it a 'sporting proposition'?"

Webster defines 'sportsman' as 1. "One who engages in sport, especially open air sports such as hunting fishing, racing, etc."

I guess that would answer your question, but because you and I are never content to take the easy way out, let's go further. 2. "One who exhibits qualities especially esteemed in those who engage in sports, such as fairness, self control, etc."

My suggestion to you is that if you do not wish to actually try hunting, take a camera with a standard 35mm lense and take a picture of a game animal. Go during the legal hunting season and not in a city, park or refuge. Get close enough to take a picture of the critter of your choice. You just have to get an identifiable animal on film (little dark spots don't count). Limit yourself to the open season, legal shooting hours and the legal gender if applicable. You'll find, through the effort involved, that the playing field is much more level than you think.

It is the restrictions under which we as hunters place ourselves that levels the playing field and make us sportsmen. Notice said 'place ourselves'. It was the hunter who demanded seasons and limits - who asked for a Migratory Waterfowl Stamp. It is hunter who is largely responsible for the return of the woodduck and the whitetail deer. In a 'Sand County Almanac' hunter Aldo Leopold wrote the most respected treatise in conservation. It was sportsman Theodore Roosevelt who established the national wildlife refuge system.

How many non-hunters understand the breeding rituals of the whitetail deer, how many quail make a perfect rosette or the tracks of a weasel from a mink from a housecat? Have you breathed deeply into the mouth of a den and identified the occupant as a groundhog or fox or badger?

Do you know why so many cottonwoods have a seam that runs from butt to uppermost limbs and where to find ironwood and dewberries and hazelnuts? Can you tell the deer's succulent white oak acorns from the less desirable red oaks?

Do you know where the woodies hide in the potholes off your personal river, where springs feed the slough and the turtles bury for winter? Do you know a woodcock from a snipe and a green heron from a bittern?

Have you swam in the icy water of a Canadian lake and sat naked on a rock as the warm breeze dried your skin?

Do you know trillium from jack-in-the-pulpit or ginseng from Virginia creeper. Do you know the heat of hedge and the myriad of colors of burning walnut? Have you ever seen a scarlet tanager, or a bob-o-link or a yellow throat?

Have you lay on your stomach and watched baby foxes tumble like kittens in the springtime sun or seen young turkeys scramble for cover at the appearence of a redtailed hawk?

Do you know a leopard frog from a pickerel frog or the call of a gray tree frog from a Wilson's toad?

Do you look daily at the housing developments that are now the timbers and wetlands of your youth - and every day, still take it personally?

Have you held, in your cupped hands, the miniscule ball of fluff that's a baby kildeer or marvelled at the ten squirming heads that fill a chickadee's tiny nest of moss? Have you walked among the the tombstones of an abandoned cemetery and identified plants that were mostly extinct in your grandfather's youth?

Obviously, you needn't hunt to know these things - but would I if I didn't? Probably not.

If I could leave you with two things, they would be that there is so much more to hunting than the level of the playing field..and that I think the term 'sportsman' applies.

An Interview with Gator Hunters
Goodhunting Archives
An Interview with Gator Hunters

From the Goodhunting Archives

The following is a compilation of posts from Goodhunting regarding alligator hunting in Florida. The questions are condensed and reworded. The answers were lifted directly from the posts and are unedited.

How do you go about locating, hunting, and bagging a gator?

Answer by Jim Kribbs:
Helen, T.W., and others, this may be a long post, but I'll try to answer your questions. Remember I'm an apprentice and Gator is the expert. He's been doing this for a living for 20 years. It's ALL he does, it's his livelyhood, so he can add to, or correct this if need be. Booger has been helping him for a couple years and has quite a bit of experience also. I've been about 10 nights maybe. Gator is a professional, very safety concious and is probably the only trapper in the state who has had no serious accidents, so I'm very "comfortable" accompanying him.

I made an observation just this weekend which Gator totally agreed with. Helen, you can probably relate better than most. During my 13 years in L.A., I learned to understand the Richter scale as it relates to earthquakes. A magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a "moderate" earthquake, and a "strong, destructive" earthquake might be might be rated as a magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic basis of scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a TENFOLD increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value.

On my previous trips we had been catching 7 - 10 footers and they were "huge", powerful and dangerous. This weekend we tangled with two 12 footers and I couldn't believe the massive difference! Gator has caught up to a 13'7" gator. I can't even imagine the rush that one brought on! Once they get into the 10 foot range, it seems every inch after that is a MAJOR difference, hence the Richter scale comparison above.

When a gator eats a dog, eats a person or acts aggressively toward humans etc., it is determined to be a nuisance gator. A complaint is filed with the state and Gator is called to handle the complaint. Gators are rather territorial, like deer. If farmer John says he's been seeing a 12-point buck out by the cornfield on the "lower forty", chances are if you hunt that area, you will find him. The same goes for gators. The complaint will state the area and size gator that is causing the problem. We go out at night and spotlight the lake. We check out whatever gators are spotted until we locate the one we feel is the problem gator on the complaint. It's like stalking game, there is an art to it and alot of cat and mouse, so there is alot of hunting skill and technique involved which comes with experience as in any other hunting. Gator knows this game well and it would take too much space to write all he knows about getting these guys. I learn more every trip.

If the "stalk" is successful (and with Gator it usually is) the gator is gigged. Surprisingly this doesn't hurt the gator (they could even be released without harm), but it does PISS THEM OFF!! Now the FUN begins! Hang on for the ride of your life and try to keep them from jumping in the boat to eat you! (they will) The gator goes crazy, biting, thrashing, diving, dragging the boat all over the lake. Total rush! Like fishing, the idea is to wear them down. Once they are "tired", it's time to get up close and personal. Get them to the side of the boat, fight them around until you can slip a noose over those open jaws and tighten it down to close the mouth. Reach in and grab his snout and pull his head over the side of the boat. Wrap PLENTY of tape around the snout, drag in a little farther, hog tie the front legs, drag in some more and hog tie the back legs, then man-handle him into the boat. (all that is the rasslin' part) Once they rest up, one swing of the tail can knock you into the next county and they can swing that massive head around and break your legs right out from under you! They are extremely powerful and have to be respected.

The reason for keeping them alive is, after hunting all night (we get to bed at daylight) the last thing you want to do is stay up all day processing the meat. The gator has to be skinned, boned, skin processed etc. This is alot of work and time consuming. If the gator is kept alive (gator has a big walk-in cooler) they can be processed at his "leisure".

There you have it in a nutshell. It is dangerous but very exciting. Alot like grizzly hunting except alot closer contact! They can eat you! I can't wait for the next hunt. Thanks Gator, and goose Booger for me the next time you see him!!

Answer by Gator:
First thing to realize is that I must locate a specific nuisance animal that is causing problems and that is sometimes a major problem as they do move around alot. Unfortunately there are many trips that end up in a dry run. I go out at night in a small boat with spotlights to locate the gator by shining his eyes, which glow bright red. Once located, we use an electric trolling motor to approach within 10 feet so as to harpoon him with a small tip that has a cable and rope attached and it slips under the skin and won't pull out. Now at this point the animal takes extreme exception to this turn of events and goes ballistic. Now many scenarios have played out once this occurs even to the point of 12 footers coming into the boat with you. Usually the gator makes an initial run that pulls the boat along at reasonably high speed for a while before he begins to fatique. At this point, we pull him to the side of the boat and get his mouth closed and tape it shut with black electrical tape. Once this is accomplished we pull him into the boat and tie his legs up so he cannot crawl back out. And that is the end of the story.

How are you paid? Are you a state employee, an independent contractor on retainer, or a bounty hunter? Do people eat the meat? If so do the hunters and their families eat it up or is there a market for it? What kind of market is there for the skins? How long does it take to skin one?

Answer by Gator:
Helen, I will try to answer your questions. I am under contract with the State and I actually pay them for each gator I catch. Long story. As for the skins and meat, I sell all the meat I can get to restaurants and wholesalers from $5 to $6.50 per pound, and yes, we eat it also. The skins are sold on the world markets to manufacturers and vary in price from year to year from $20 to $45 per foot. The processing is extremely time consuming as it will take 1 man 5 to 6 hours to process 1 ten footer. Hope this answers your questions and feel free to ask anymore.

You have to pay to perform this risky service? Why?

Answer by Gator:
Thanks Helen. The reason we pay the state is that when the Nuisance Alligator Control Program started 20 years ago, the state controled the sales of our hides and for this and for the reason of making this program self sustaining, (not using taxpayer funds), they collected 30% of the proceeds of the hides to pay for the program. (Even though they were already gaining by not having the wildlife officers going on gator calls anymore.) Now, instead of 30%, they collect a Validation fee of $30 per animal. This fee is for them to place a CITES (Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species) tag on each hide so it may be sold anywhere in the world. Anymore questions, feel free to ask as I know this is new to a lot of folks.

When you skin the gator, do you take it off in big pieces.? How do you process the skin?

Answer by Gator:
It is taken off in one piece Helen and then it must be fleshed (remove all meat from it) and salted and rolled up then stored in refrigeration. For now we sell green skins but are presently in the process of going to a finished skin market as the green skin market is practically non existent..

How do you kill the gator before processing? Do you do anything with the heads? How do you strip the skin? How did you go from Real Estate to gator hunting. Did you apprentice with someone?

Answer by Gator:
Let me see, where do I start. I sell the heads either mounted or green or as bleached skulls (just starting to do this). I skin the gators from the back down saving the belly skin legs and all as that is what they make the leather from. I kill the gator with a .22 cal. bullet to the base of the neck just behind the skull. Death is instantaneous. I got out off Real Estate as it was far more dangerous than gators. Too many ways for people to GET you and a gator only has teeth. No hidden surprises. I actually learned by trial and error method though I did do it illegally for a few years before. It didn't really help as those illegal methods aren't used in this program. Anything else?

Are there many professional gator hunters in Florida?

Answer by Gator:
I think at last count there are about 40 of us.

What kind of gig do you use?

Answer by Gator:
Gary, it is similar to a slip off spear gun head but home made. About 1 1/2 inches long and 3/8" in diameter. It is center drilled to fit a small shaft so when it is placed in the animal it slips off and turns side ways under the skin. A short cable (600 lb. test) and a rope are attached to the head.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By TeeDub (Alberta, Canada)

I really don't remember the first time I went hunting. It was just something I grew up with, as it was with about everyone I knew. Living at the time in the interior of British Columbia, it just didn't seem like a big event.

The boys started going hunting with their Dads or Uncles when they were about five or six, and the girls started learning to cook. That's just the way it was.

The meat we ate was pretty much what we shot. We'd buy chickens from the local farmers and the very occasional side of beef, but we always had moose and venison in the freezer. As boys, we honed our shooting skills on squirrels, but we sure as heck didn't eat them. Don't know anyone who did, but then come to think of it, southerners were a pretty rare breed in that neck of the woods.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Raider19 (Virginia)

The first time I ever went deer hunting with Dad and Grampa was the most miserable week I have ever had. We slept in the back of my grampa's truck with a shell camper top on it and no heat. Every morning, the truck bed was covered with a thick layer of frost. Being my first extended stay in the woods, I did not own warm clothes. The only boots I had were an old pair of dad's combat boots. After freezing for the first three days, the weather man called for it to warm up for the end of the week. It did. I spent the last three days even more miserable with pouring rain and a balmy 35 degrees. Oh, did I mention that I did not see anything. Not even a squirrel or bird. It was another 8 years before I got up the nerve to go again. By then I had better clothing and boots and killed a small doe on the last day of gun season. I have not missed a year since.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Miked (Massachusetts)

This is no B.S.,

Six years ago, my wife's cousin's hubby invited me deer hunting. I borrowed a shotgun and he meets me at my house at 5 am the next morning. We pulled off of I495 at 5:30, noticing a broken down car in the B-lane with the door ajar. We just ignored it and parked toward the woods.

Dan sat me in a spot and said he'd be back at 9 to get me. It was cold as hell. I thought I heard and saw a buck early but it was still too dark to tell for sure. Dan showed up at 9 and we had small talk blah blah... Then we heard bububububububububu, a helicopter was coming to us, 20 ft. over the trees. It then hovered there for 5 mins. We looked at each other and said SCREW THIS!

As we walk back to the truck, I noticed a State trooper behind the broken down car. If I can see him, he can certainly see these two pumpkins. We unloaded and walked toward my truck. GET YOUR F-IN HANDS UP! He shouted .We're cool, guns overhead, on our toes now and open chambers. He screamed it three times, til I suggested we put them on his cruiser trunk. I mean this cop was WIRED.

We went to give our H-lic., but I had mine in the truck (30 feet away) and Dan left his at my house. Beautiful! A guy who owned the car shows up and the cop didn't know what to do now. I suggested we would go sit on the grass while he took care of the other guy. He said ok and then placed our guns in his cruiser.

I asked Dan if it was OK to hunt here. He said he'd been hunting here for 12 yrs. Not to worry as long as a LOCAL cop didn't show up! Here he comes, down the breakdown lane. DAMN! No written permission. We're gonna lose the guns! The local talks to the Statie and takes our guns to his car. He then comes up and asks who's the cop? He saw the police sticker on my truck. I was working as a rent-a cop, and my dad and bro were local cops. He asked if we had written permission to hunt State land. We said no. Too bad. Those look like expensive guns! Now I'm PI$$ED! I've got to buy my bro-in-law a new $400 gun.

The local comes back and asks me if I knew Jr, from Tewsbury P.D. Yuh, if that's good I told him, he's my brother. Him and Jr. were on the regional S.W.A.T. team together. Oh, great! guy says. Here's your guns back. SCREW!

We left. I asked Dan if this was a normal day for deer-hunting? He laughed and said it must have been me. He hadn't ever seen a cop out there in 12 yrs. The next year I took up bowhunting. I've taken 3 deer outta the same spot on I495! We park IN the woods now!

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Hotshot (Indiana)

9 years ago, at the tender age of 23, I found myself living and teaching in a rural area of Indiana. I had always been interested in hunting, but had no one to take me. A fellow teacher let me borrow an old 20 gauge single shot. I went through a couple boxes of shells getting used to it. I woke up early, and headed out to the appointed meeting place with a fresh license, and what I thought was enough clothing to stay warm while waiting for a deer to walk under my appointed tree. I did not have nearly enough clothing. But I was hooked. Someone shot a deer nearby. A student, and her family drove by as I helped drag a doe out of the woods. They offered a ride to us back to the house instead of having me sit by the deer and the son of the teacher walked to get a truck and drive back to me. The next morning I added more clothing and still froze. I went deerless for another year after my first. I finally got one my third year. Oh, I also bought a lot of warmer clothes, my own shotgun, built some tree stands. Started teaching hunter safety--after taking the course myself, and you know the rest.


First Hunt
First Hunt
By Herb (Oklahoma)

My first hunt was near my cousin John's cabin. John had stepped in after my father died and was making sure I got a chance to learn the ropes about hunting and fishing. I was maybe nine years old, and was carrying a borrowed 410 shotgun.

We followed his Brittany, Sugar, all over Farmer Hammet's east pasture with nary a bird. We did kick a pair of does out of a thicket, though, which was unusual enough at that time that John commented on it.

Just before we turned back for home, Sugar went on point. We walked past her slowly and just as we got to her the covey flushed in all directions! John shot twice and I shot once, and one bird fell. I know I didn't get it, but I can still remember the sight and the feeling. John asked if anyone had watched the bird. My mother, John's wife and I all answered yes and I pointed to where it had fallen. "Not that bird! Where did the rest of the covey go?" Sheepishly, we all had to admit we hadn't noticed.

For years, I didn't understand why John's wife and my Mom came along with us that day; neither carried a gun (although they were both good hunters) and it sure seemed like a long walk to me. In fact I probably didn't under stand it completely until this past fall, when I got to go on a friend son's very first hunt. Watching that boy take his first duck was much more fun than I had had in the outdoors for some time.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Gunther (South Dakota)

Well, I wasn't even born yet,,,

Seriously, I don't remember not hunting, fishing, etc. Mom said I'd yank the pins outta my diapers and stab grasshoppers. And I was only 15 years old at the time.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Cliff (Pennsylvania)

My first day of hunting was one of the most difficult days in my life. Like many of you, my entire family tree is outdoors-oriented so I was around the stuff from an early age. I think I was born a hunter. The first sounds I made were imitating animals. I was fascinated with critters from the time I was born. My dad and both my grandfathers were avid hunters. I always figured on my first day of hunting we would all go hunting together.

But my paternal grandfather got cancer. It is not just nostalgia to say he was one of the kindest men I have ever met. He was also an extremely big on ethics, which was kind of unusual for his era. He loved hunting squirrels in the swamp behind his house above all else.

Well, the first hunting season of the year was squirrel season. It was coming up, but my grandfather was going fast. I always was sure that someday--someday--he would get to go hunting with me.

I have written a much longer story about this, and I don't have space to go into the details. But the night before my big day of hunting, my other grandparents picked me up at school. My parents were supposed to pick me up and this seemed odd.

Keep in mind my two sets of grandparents were close friends--they lived across the street from each other--so they were pretty upset and I knew something was wrong.

"Pop" was dying. At 8:30 pm that night, he died. It was the first time I lost someone so close to me.

My dad, mom, etc all said that he would have wanted me to go hunting the next day. So my other grandpa and I went.

In a movie, I would have performed heroically in his honor. The reality was I was so upset I could not concentrate and I missed every squirrel I shot at.

Two weeks later, my dad wanted to take me out. We hunted the swamp behind Pop's house. It was a beautiful day and we saw lots of game, although I wasn't quick enough.

I remember him saying, "Pop knew he was dying and he told me about a week before that his one regret was that he never got to take you hunting. You have to know that he really wanted to be here."

I believe he is with me, and always will be. But I still wish he could have gone. I guess all this and more is why hunting means so much to me. I have a lot invested in it. As I see it, it's worth fighting for. It's also why I get more and more irritated by these suburban twits who seem fit to judge me for hunting, something that has more meaning to me than what they can ever know.

This weekend Jen and I are helping to clean out my grandmother's--Pop's wife-- home. She has finally moved into a nursing home. I guess this story seems even stronger with that in mind.


First Hunt
First Hunt
By Carver (Washington)

I didn't have a parent who hunted and only my mother's parents were alive. Of these two, only my grandmother was healthy enough to take an interest in the outdoors when I was old enough to go out. I started shooting an old 35 lb. recurve at 14 years of age and got really good with it. But in North La. back in the early 70's in the pine hills, there,weren't many deer compared to the swamp parishes. So most everyone hunted with hounds and driving the logging roads. Well my dear grandmother would take me out walking the backroads, showing different plants and tracks and stuff, teaching me. Come deer season we went out in her huge Buick and road hunted. I'd sit on the hood with that little 35 recurve and finally saw a white flag bouncing off through the hardwoods. Of course the shot missed by a mile but I stood there in shock at actually taking a shot at a real deer. Grandmother said to run around the curve in the road we just came from and I did. Stood behind some grapevines and waited. Sure enough here comes that doe. She trots straight to me and stops 5 feet away just looking at me. I was shaking all over. After what seemed 4-5 hours, she trots off and I had a melt down from the adrenaline. She was a grand lady. Thanks for being there, Grandmother.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Bwana (North Dakota)

Have a lot of hunting memories that were firsts that I will remember forever, but as far as the earliest hunting memories I have, are those spent gopher hunting. Here in ND, gophers are flickertails or 13-striped gophers. Used to be every farmer in the area used to have cattle and in turn they also had gophers. After dinner at family get-togethers with Grandma, Grandpa, and all the aunts and uncles, the guys would grab their .22's, get into the car, and drive the gravel roads or around a pasture and shoot gophers. It was always a fun and relaxing time spent with family. And if you got into a pasture with a lot of gophers, you could shoot some at one spot, continue further around the pasture, and when you got back the ones shot earlier, were now the snack for the remaining gophers and therefore more targets could be had. Now with the low cattle prices almost no one raises cattle and the gophers are only a fraction of what they used to be. Now as for other firsts!

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Buckrub (Arkansas)

Age six, single shot shotgun, quail hunting. Weird that quail hunting was first, but I didn't shoot a squirrel till I was 14. Doves followed, about age 16, when we could drive ourselves and go on our own. But my whole family quail hunted. I was 11 before I knew that 'hunting' didn't mean exclusively quail.

First Hunt
This is my first hunt.
I never did a serious hunt until I was in college. I guess the first time I started to shoot things was when I was about 13. My father died when I was 10, no one in the family was a hunter, I picked up that through some local buddies. We started out with BB guns and shot anything that creeped, crawled, or flew. They moved up to 22's and I did the same thing. There never was a season, just shot things when we wanted to. In college I was invited to a real deer camp, tents out in the woods, cooking over campfires, bunch of Italian dago's from Detroit. After that weekend I was hooked. I hunted deer for almost 8 years before I shot my first doe. I have rarely miss a season since then. I hunted pheasants in HS and enjoy that even more than deer. I have taken all my sons hunting with me as soon as they showed an interest. My youngest has been hunting with me since he was about 5, he turns 20 next month. They are a little better at shooting only critters that are legal and in season. I have bought all their guns for them and buy all their hunting licenses. It's my way of making up for something I never had when I was a kid. I can only envy anyone when they talk about having their grandfathers' or father's guns. I even have a few now that I have bought used and set aside for my grandkids. None of my boys are even engaged yet but I'm ready when it does happen.

First Hunt
First Hunt
By Bert (Texas)

I don't know when I started, I always went squirrel hunting with Dad when I was little. That is the only kind of hunting he really ever did, other than some deer hunts with me when I got a little older. My first kill happened when I was 10. I had bought a squirrel call a few weeks before Thanksgiving, that was our annual hunt, I drove my sister crazy with it and she broke it a couple of days before the hunt, but I got it back together in time. Anyway me and Dad had hunted all morning and hadn't had a shot, so we headed back to the house for dinner. We stopped and sat down on a log to rest and I got out my call and started squeezing it, I had my grandmothers .410 and I think Dad was about asleep. I saw the cat squirrel on the ground on the other side of me and picked up the gun, cocked it and shot the squirrel, my dad came up off the log and hollered at me, "what are you doing?" I replied "shooting a squirrel!" He had no idea it was even there and was proud for me I think when he saw it. The next day I got two, my uncle came and brought his dogs, it was a blast.

Lil Booger's Turkey Hunt
Lil Booger's Turkey
By Booger (Florida)

The day before the spring season opened, Allen and I got up early and went to a friend's place where he had seen turkeys during archery season. Now, this does not mean they will still be there, but I was not going to take Allen out to the land of idiots, and try for his first bird on public ground. So, we get to the edge of the field and stop about 50 yards from the treeline and wait for it to get about quarter till dawn. When I hear the cardinals start up, I let loose on the Barred owl call, first just the "who cooks for you" thing, ( you turkey nuts know what I mean) then a laugh. Nothing. We wait a few, then I do a fly down cackle. Nothing.

'Bout this time the cramps hit me pretty good, so I ease off into the small planted pines to my left, drop my drawers , and commence to take a sh!t! Whilst I am so doing, Allen pulls out his box call and cuts loudly. Amidst my grunting and groaning I think I hear a Gobble! Quick as I can I get did, hitch up my britches, and scramble back over to the boy. He's grinning like a mule eating briars,"Did you hear him?" he asks? We wait a few more, then ease into the woods to the edge of a gentle slope that drops down to the bottom where I think he was. I cut a couple times, and he roars back with a gobble that almost knocks my hat off! Hell, he's already on the ground and only 80 or 90 yards away, and coming fast! We tear off running back towards the field, 'cause it ain't the season yet and I don't want to fuck this one up!

Well, the boy can't hardly sleep that night, I think he was standing by my bed before I even got the alarm clock shut off the next morning. We head on over to the place and are in the woods and in position well before daybreak. When I think it's about time, I give a soft tree yelp. Then a few minutes later I cup my gloved hands and pat them against my legs while doing a cackle, simulating a hen pitching down off the limb. This is usually good enough to drive a tom bonkers, but this morning, nothing. I wait about 10 minutes and call with a diaphram, nothing. About another 10 goes by, and Allen stiffens! "I see him!" (whispering) I tell him ok, just be real still. We wait a while and ask him what the bird is doing."Strutting, he's strutting". We wait some more. I ask again, same answer. "Is he moving this way?"..."No, he's staying right there, about 75 yards down the hill." So I call softly. Nothing.

Folks, this goes on for a solid f#ckin" hour! Finally, I eeaaasse over so my head is by Allen's, and he whispers directions to what he's been watching all this time. "That's a God damn stump!" I say. He says, "Yeah, I thought it might be."!!!!!Well , we have f#cked away a large part of the morning by now so I pull out an aluminum slate call, new, bought just because I didn't already have one of these, And crank out some VERY loud, high pitched yelps. (LESSON:Carry everything you have, 'cause you don't ever know what they want to hear on what day) Anyway, I yelp, and he HAMMERS back, OBBBLEOBBLEOBBBLE!!! I like ta sh!t! (again) Allen gets his gun up on his knee, (20 Ga. Rem. pump, youth model, full choke) and gets ready.

We don't hear doodly for a long time, but I just wait. Suddenly, On my left and slightly behind, I hear a cluck. I answer with a soft purr, just to let him know I'm still here and hot for his bod. ( I'm a hen, ya know) I tell Allen to be damn still, he's coming in. A movement to my left makes me want to snap my head around, but I don't. I'm a turkey hunter and didn't just fall off the turnip truck! It's him, walking in towards the decoy with his 9" beard a swingin'. My hearts poundin harder then chinese 'rithmatic as the gobbler keeps coming. I can tell when he sees the bird out of the corner of his eye, 'cause Allen's shakin like a dog sh!ttin' a peach seed. Wait, I whisper, wait. When the bird spots the decoy, his whole manner changes. Instead of strolling in quickly, now he's easing in nice and slow, playing it cool. Don't want to run this little lady away, you know. I'm thinking that Allen needs to get his gun on his shoulder and the bead on the birds head and neck, but the tom's so close I can't risk a whisper!

All the sudden, Allen yanks the gun up and freezes. I can't believe it, he HAS to have blown it!! But no.. the gobbler just keeps on towards the decoy, Later, I found out that Allen was thinking, "I've got to get my gun on my shoulder and on that birds head and neck"...And when the bird's head went behind a big tree ( different angle from me) He got his gun up! That boy teaches real easy. Anyway, the tom gets to the decoy and starts tuning this way and that, showing her what a fine bird he really is, and when he pops his head up at my "Putt", I say,"Kill 'im" BBOOOMMMM!!!!!! The bird's flopping, Allen's charging at him like a swat team member, and I'm about ta sh!t! (for the 3rd time) Allen grabs the bird by the feet and gets the hell beat out of him by wings as the tom goes through his "dead dance", and we start towards the truck.

When we stop to cross the fence and get into the field, Allen hugs me and says, "This is the best day of my life!" I have to agree.

Teaching the Children
Matthew L. Miller
Teaching the Children
Gary Carty

Hunters who also happen to have children have undoubtedly heard a lot of horror stories lately. Stories of teachers preaching animal rights propaganda. Of fanatical groups producing virulently anti-hunting videos for the classroom. Of lessons that claim the whitetail deer is an endangered species. Scott Hottell, a seventh grade teacher at Metropolitan School District in Angola, Ind., has heard the stories. But instead of throwing up his arms in despair, he decided to do something about it. And what he did should serve as inspiration for pro-hunting teachers and parents across the nation. Hottell knows what hunting is up against. Unlike many hunters, he comes from a non-hunting family. His father has misgivings about firearms. He wasn't introduced to the sport until age 24, when he tied himself to a tree and attempted to take a big buck. He was instantly hooked, and began investigating ways to educate students on the truth of hunting and fishing. I thought, "How could I get something related to hunting involved in the school day?" Hottell says. "This is the one thing I really enjoyed, and I wanted to bring it to my students." Hottell began by soliciting help from the local Ducks Unlimited chapter. The chapter, which had just hosted two record-breaking banquets, was looking for a new way to expand. There was also an 800 acre habitat purchased by DU nearby that seemed perfect for a field trip. Hottell utilized the DU Chapter's resources and put together a wetlands course that focused on many aspects of waterfowl conservation. The 227 seventh graders of his school would study wetlands in their science classes. Their course study would conclude with a full day at the wetlands area, where they would see first-hand the need for habitat and the workings of the ecosystem. This past May, the first wetlands class concluded. The results? It surpassed everyone's expectations, even Hottell's. Professor Pete Hippensteele of Tri-State University helped students test water quality in the wetlands area. Students hunted morel mushrooms, built duck boxes, identified niches in habitat and learned about waterfowl banding. They learned what hunters were doing to save the environment, and how they could help. And the local Ducks Unlimited committee didn't only volunteer vacation time for the kids, they also contributed $4000 to the cause. With this money, each student received a Greenwing membership to the organization as well as a DU T-shirt. Just think: That's 227 new members to a pro-hunting organization. They get to enjoy the benefits of that organization, and have knowledge of waterfowl conservation, and it's not costing them a dime. Hottell hasn't stopped at the wetlands class. Hunting is a prominent part of his English classes. They'll read hunting stories and discuss the issues. He once invited a trapper to his class. The man stuck his fingers in the trap, and demonstrated how relatively painless the leghold trap was. Hottell said it burned an impression on many students who have heard nothing but bad things about trapping. He's also a certified hunting safety instructor, and spends his summers working at nearby Pokagon State Park. And he's sharing the joys of the outdoors with his own four-year-old son. The two enjoy canoeing and camping together, and his son caught his first fish at age two. This summer, he reeled--by himself--a 17 1/2 inch smallmouth. Hottell is happy with the success of his program, but he hasn't been content to just sit around and glow in his success. He has already been out encouraging neighboring school districts to get in on the act, and he's getting favorable results. Hottell believes you have to save hunting by influencing one person at a time. "They don't have to grow up to be hunters. That wasn't our goal," says Hottell. "But they will be voters in six years."