We rushed home from their Saturday morning football games so we could squeeze an evening hunt into our overly busy schedule. As the boys and I climbed in the car surrounded by bow cases, guns, ammo and our bag of wrinkled and unmatched camouflage, we couldn’t help but smile and giggle. We looked as if we were stuffed in a clown car at a circus held hostage by hunting paraphernalia.
As we made our way towards our hunting destination, I went over the usual safety rules with the boys. We exchanged a few “what if” stories and then my 13-year-old and I decided to think of and answer every question a 5-year-old could possibly think of, in hopes that this would occupy his busy little mind if only for a few minutes while sitting in the blind. Of course, this prompted further questions and consumed the rest of our hour-long drive. Upon arrival, I am confidently thinking that Evan and I nailed it! We couldn’t have possibly left anything out!
Once we set the blind in the “perfect” location, of course it was snack time! Strawberry toaster pastries it is! There were still a few more questions that couldn’t be left unanswered if you want to be the best 5-year-old hunter in south Florida, so we discussed the “hows” and "whys,” then set up for a long stretch of “silent” watching and waiting. As I sat back in my EZ chair I began to enjoy the serenity and tranquility of being in the middle of exactly nowhere. As, I looked at my child, sitting up tall in his camouflage doing his best to be quiet and still, I took a moment to thank my Lord and Savior for this amazing place we call home.
There wasn’t any noise besides that of nature, the wind blowing through the palmetto bushes, the birds chirping, the annoying crow or two, and every now and then that slightly loud whisper of my baby asking another question. In silence I would thank Jesus for this opportunity; when needed, I would answer a question that usually referred to a noise he heard. If I knew the answer I would search it on the smart phone, so as not to break the silence.
As 6 p.m. neared, I heard something to the east that sounded like it could be making its way towards the clearing that is lined up perfectly in my sight. The fact that it was coming from the east also meant it would be coming out closer to my son, who at this time decided to get comfortable on the ground rather than his chair. I reached down and tapped him on his shoulder to gain his attention. I slowly put my finger to my lips, signing him to stay quiet. As the crunching of dead leaves and brittle limbs became more dominant, so did the excitement of my little partner. He sat up as tall as he could and stretched his neck as if he were Gumby. Suddenly, just 4 to 5 yards away, there he was, standing broadside, the most perfect set up for a takedown. My heart pumping, my mind racing, and the draw on my bow feeling impossible, I took a breath in, held it and…my son, my pride and joy, leaped up and in to his chair to be sure not to miss the action! Snorting and blowing, that hog ran off to live another day!
We sat for a few more hours with not much luck of any harvestable visitors. We watched the sun set behind the tree line and called it a night. While gathering our hunting gear and breaking down our chairs, I couldn’t help but feel a small disappointment as my 5-year-old and I had been defeated once again. But as we paused for yet another snack, a precious little face looked over at me with strawberry residue around his lips and in the sweetest voice said, “Mommy, I am sorry I made your hog run away.” What he did not realize was how much joy he brought to my heart just by being there with me. It was at that very moment I realized that “hunting” was so much more than that hog. You see, I had spent the last several hours laughing about putting whatever we kill in the trunk of our car (this has happened before), exchanging stories on what the cops may say if we get pulled over, target practice, gun safety, deciding our final set up spot, and patiently waiting. I have all too often taken those times for granted thinking no more of them once the moment was over but, on this day, I saw the entire picture. It became very clear that each moment leading up to, and the actual hunt in itself, were to be appreciated in a much deeper way. It was so much more than that hog! So much more than the kill! So much more than bag limits! So much more than keeping score!
It may be a few more years before Tristen and I have any success at bringing home “groceries” while bow hunting, but the time spent uninterrupted and undisturbed by this fast-paced world is allowing me to pass on a tradition and create stories that are far more precious than gold.
Few words were exchanged, and only few were needed to put a smile on our faces, memories in our hearts and a lesson taught that will last a lifetime…It isn’t just about the harvest but the passion behind the pursuit!