Last weekend many goals set 28 years ago were realized that
had begun with five little words. It was the day Deb came home smiling and said “You’re gonna be a dad!” My mind raced full of questions without answers. Excited, scared, anxious and wondering “what if I’m a lousy dad?” When telling some school colleagues the news I’ll never forget what science teacher Charlie Steffen told me. An older guy with grown kids of his own he simply said “appreciate a good nights’ sleep now because once born you’ll never ever have such a sound sleep again!” Looking back he was bulls eye
right on. But it didn’t change anything because when Erik arrived I could envision the future teaching him things important to me which was to be of sound character, a good friend, a hard worker having a life-long appreciation for the outdoors.
About 5 years later I heard the same words and was excited all over again. Soon with the addition of Chad we were a family of four. Nestled in my wallet was a plastic covered black and white silhouetted image of a man and young boy standing side by side on the bow of a bass boat. It was a personal reminder of what I hoped would be the future. No promises
but the beginnings were simple for both boys and very much identical. I remember so many of their “firsts.” The first fish, one a 6 inch largemouth and the other a sunfish both caught on one of many Snoopy poles stored in 5 gallon buckets at home and far from the lake.
Most of the neighborhood kids fished pretend tournaments from my deck
while I was away at some tournament myself. Memories are stored coming home to monofilament lines draped from trees and dangling casting plugs. They had
caught sharks, whales along with some bass. My job was to free the lines, retie and get them back in the bucket for the next day.
Hunting trips too began casually. Both Erik and Chad first had pop guns as we
headed afield together when they were small. It was an opportunity to begin sharing passions in a way that started building a foundation for the future.
The progression for each was slow but seemed so natural. It went from Red Ryder BB-gun, to the first youth model Remington 20 gauge pump. In the beginning they each carried it empty, the next season I carried the shells handing out one at a time, then one shell chambered and finally loaded with three. All along the way safety was constantly
preached along with hunting ethics and at the age of 12 both took the Firearm
Safety Class I taught.
In summer we fished but unlike the falls my equipment became theirs, my tackle theirs not at all unlike my youth and dad’s tackle. So when things went missing I smiled and remembered. But the black and white photo still carried was becoming a reality. Together we traveled, fished, hunted and laughed at “special” sandwiches, missed shots and high-fived
My purpose for sharing brings me back to the day each boy arrived. You see neither sets of ourparents had attended college but together Deb and I agreed that would become our priority. I had earned a teaching degree and beyond knowing the advantages along with the hard work required.
Along the way came many firsts too. First duck, pheasant, goose and deer
shot. I remember each vividly. One was a hen Redhead winging over tree tops
headed for McCormick Lake. Erik’s 20 gauge rang out dropping the bird dead.
The other first was a Blue-Wing Teal flying about Mach 5 over the
cattails. Again one shot from Chad’s 20 gauge dropped it inside a dense mass of cattails. I don’t recall which Golden it was but in she went emerging with that first of many yet to come. The memories are there etched in vivid color and from time to time I call each back to relive if only for a moment.
When Erik left for Bemidji State University it was like half
of my very soul left too. But the next 5 years spent with Chad filled that emptiness with more memories. Tournaments, fishing, laughs and a few tears along the way and then it was time again. Chad too had chosen his school of choice, the University of Minnesota
Duluth. I knew all along that it would happen and was as it should be but to say I was lost is an understatement. But there were still some openers and some weekends we spent together and there were the dogs still wagging their tails and eager to go. Today there’s still
fish to catch and fields to walk although neither seem to be quite as important as they once did. Of course that is part of the grand scheme isn’t it?
Today the future has arrived. Erik graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology
and is working with the Minnesota DNR. Last Saturday Chad was awarded his degree from UMD in Conservation Science. So I guess you now have a better idea about how we began and understand a bit about the journey. A journey that had as its foundation the outdoors and the unlimited potential Mother Nature has at her command. Would I have changed anything along the way you might ask? Answer: “Not One Single Moment!”
Mission Accomplished! Congrats Chad! I’m so proud of both you and Erik but don’t
forget to stop back once in a while and take me along – OK? I’ll make the sandwiches!
Now at the beginning of our turkey hunt we’re into the third day and I’ve yet to even see a tom, I did hear 2 and fooled a hen for just a moment until she busted me. I’m also tired and my butt hurts from sitting long hours on a cold wet ground. So thus far you might take this as a whining complaint but the reality of it is that my hunt has been absolutely “fabulous!”
Hunting partners include a very good friend, Bob St.Pierre and my 22 year old son, Chad. Prior to the season I’d scouted a couple days locating a few birds. Bob and I hiked another nearby WMA the day before finding lots of sign and a few birds too. After Fan Outdoors we headed out. Bob chose the WMA with Chad going off in the direction of the Friday morning birds. I picked a location on the opposite end of the same wooded WMA. Thursday the snow had been knee deep in the woods and even deeper on the edge. On this day the weather gods had finally smiled with a forecast high of 70 and sunny skies. Huffing ‘n puffing I arrived at the field edge overlooking a ravine also delighted to find exposed oak leaves on the south facing forest floor. Thinking I’d sit ‘n listen a while hoping for a tell-tale gobble but all was quiet except for pairs of raucous honkers, gurgling of sandhills picking waste corn in a nearby field often accompanied by squeeking sounds that had me thinking turkey but only hen woodies winding through the leafless trees. Crows glided overhead “caw caw cawing” to each other in a language only they seem to understand. Wearing Elim-Tick camo from head to toe I imagined myself mostly invisible almost like looking into a snow globe as a kid pretending to be an outside observer. But this was not the case at all. In reality I had become a silent observer inside mother nature’s world. While alone and mostly detached from the electronic world it’s easy for thoughts to wander. Mine went back in time wondering how much this wild world has changed since my youth. Gosh as a kid even the thought of hunting turkeys here much less anywhere in Minnesota was never believed possible much less that this land I
was sitting on would be open to public hunting. Sandhill Cranes had never been seen in central Minnesota in fact the first time hearing one near Chisago as a young teacher I imagined some prehistoric creature emerging from nearby brush with those strange sounds. Today these leggy, noisy birds are common. Even the honking geese with the musical
accompaniment of drumming Ruffed Grouse was then a dinner table conversation
topic. Then occasional small fall flocks would be chased by cars hoping for even a chance shot at one. Dad had shot only a single honker in a lifetime of bird hunting while in many places these giant birds are now considered a nuisance or worse.
So here I sat watching and then a rather large fox squirrel caught my eye. He was hopping toward me as I sat motionless with 12 gauge across my lap. About 6 feet away he stopped sitting upright with paws folded like a dog doing a trick for a treat. I must have posed no threat in his eyes as he slowly hopped by only inches away. It was really cool! Then suddenly the silence was broken with a loud “Boom!” Startled from my own little world I flinched thinking that just could be Chad! Then a couple minutes later my phone buzzed and the text read “I got one!” Ecstatic I replied “Yahoo! I”ll meet you back at the truck!” When I got back he was sitting on the tailgate with the huge tom lying in the back. With high-fives he told me the whole story second by second as it happened wearing a huge smile the whole time. He also said “this is cool usually it’s you telling me the story ‘n now it’s me!” The bird sported a 10” beard and gobbled at him for most of an hour before giving him a shot coming out of the full strut – his last!
So now maybe you can better understand why my turkey hunt this year is the absolute best that it can be. I have selfishly had the opportunity to see my son have the success he
worked for and earned. I’ve also been able to see the successful pride in his eyes and in the grand life’s scheme better that I didn’t get one because this is as it should and was meant to be at least in my eyes and in my world as a parent! But don’t feel too bad for me I’m still huntin’! But it matters not if I score a bird becausemy hunt is already a huge success and one I will remember as long as I’m here!