Besides being born in Albuquerque, NM and living there for about a year, I spent the first 8 years of my life living in Queens, NY. Back then I couldn’t even tell you what a mountain looked like, let alone tell you what the biggest buck I had ever seen was. Even though we lived in the city, my dad made sure to include me in on his morning fishing trips over at a nearby bridge that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. This is where my love for the outdoors started. I can remember helping my dad dig up blood worms on the beach that we would use for bait and climbing the nearby trees while my dad watched our fishing poles in hopes that the rod tips would be summoned toward the big blue. Before heading out on these fishing trips we would always stop at Dunkin Donuts. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the day.
When I was almost 9 years old, my family decided that we were going to move to Arizona in hopes of raising me in a better environment and being closer to my Mom’s side of the family. My dad brought home an Arizona Highways magazine one day. My eyes were glued to this thing from the moment it came through the door. The magazine basically outlined every stream, river, or lake in Arizona and told you what fish you could catch there and how you could catch it. It also talked about hunting and the various species of game that resided in the area. I can’t tell you how many times I read through it. My dreams were filled with rainbow trout and huge mule deer bucks even though I had never experienced fishing or hunting for either of them. That didn’t matter though. I was headed West to live in the desert. The mountains were calling.
Right before we made the move across the country, my dad put in his application for the upcoming rifle deer hunt. As luck would have it, he got drawn his first year putting in! Even though I was excited to go on my first adventure in the mountains, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated about the whole thing. It was going to be my first camping trip. I went on a few trips when I was less than a year old, but that for sure doesn’t count, because I can’t remember that. The thought of sleeping outside, in a tent, was a foreign thing to me, but something that I inevitably would have to do.
Honestly, I don’t remember a whole ton about this first trip. A few things do stick out to me though. I can remember sitting next to the fire our first night there and my mom asking me if I was scared, which was probably followed up by me trying to be a big boy and say, “heck no I ain’t scared!” The truth is though, I was a little bit. Not, because I was scared of getting eaten, it was because of the unknown. Again, I had never experienced any of this. The first night we were there a herd of elk came through our camp in the middle of the night. My mother said that she could feel the ground shaking as they moved through the area. Apparently, I wasn’t that scared, because I was out cold through this whole endeavor.
A few days into this first trip, my dad decided to bring me out to where he had been hunting. This was super cool to me! First time walking out into the mountains! The walk seemed like it took forever. On our walk, my dad started to teach me about noting landmarks in the area, for the purpose of using them to guide you back to camp. I remember him telling me to head for the big red mountain and that would put me near the camp. Before this point I had never seen a deer. It wasn’t long until we did. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a buck present, just does. I was AMAZED though. The only wildlife I had really ever seen before were the squirrels back in NY.
In the following years, we went on more and more fishing and hunting trips. There was actually a point where we were going camping every single weekend! I couldn’t get enough of it. There were a few times that my dad got us so close to deer, it felt like we were in a petting zoo. These special outings soon became my obsession. I was probably the only kid in school that did a whole written report on Largemouth Bass. Every year when we would get back from hunting, my close friends would eagerly await my return along with the story of our adventure.
One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.
Jose Ortega y Gasset
Since that first trip 20 years ago, I have been on quite a few fishing/hunting trips, definitely too many to talk about here. The one thing that they all have in common though, is that every one of them added to my love for this way of life. If one were to ask me, “What was the one experience that really got you into the outdoors”, It wouldn’t be just one thing. It was a progression of events and experiences that got me into all of this. Each one added more and more to my passion. As a youngster I mostly fished and went hunting once a year for deer. These days it is kind of the opposite. Now, I mostly hunt and find myself going out fishing less. For me, hunting was always something way more then it seemed and maybe that is one of the reasons I find myself wanting to hunt more. Another big reason that I feel more drawn to hunting is the food. The idea of harvesting my own meat just sounds right to me. If I had the choice between an elk steak and a beef steak, you can bet your behind that I am gonna choose that elk steak any day of the week. More importantly, I hunt for the journey. There is an old quote that depicts this perfectly. It reads, “One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.” Throughout the whole time that I went deer hunting with my dad all of those years ago, we never killed a deer. Even though this was true, what I got out of these trips cannot be bought in a store or online. The lessons that the mountains give you can be ruthless, yet irreplaceable. Why do you hunt?