For as long as I can remember, hunting and fishing have been in my life. My father is a hunter, my mother is a hunter, my grandfathers were hunters. One of my earliest memories of hunting is tagging along with my grandpa walking the hardwoods of eastern Arkansas with a .410 killing a mess of squirrels….after we had cut and loaded a rick of firewood of course. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old but those memories are still crystal clear in my mind.
I remember cold November mornings in a makeshift tree stand in Eastern Oklahoma during gun season just hoping to see a whitetail much less get a shot at one. We didn’t have money for treestands so we used oak pallets spiked in between a couple trees, or we just sat on a log. After the morning hunt Dad would pick us up in an old green Dodge pickup….man that heater worked like a champ….defrost only😜. We didn’t have a ton of money so we use socks for gloves most of the time and I can tell you from experience, cold fingers need warmed up slowly so don’t stick them in the pickup heater vents😩. I killed my first deer in 1987 with a Ruger#1 .243. No scope, just iron sights. I’m quite certain even still today my dad questions how in the world I made that shot.
After deer season we’d be Rabbit hunting with my dad and my uncle in the river bottoms with a truck load of beagles and a shotgun. One of our best spots was a lot next to a cut corn field with old farm equipment in it. Nothing more fun than standing on an old plow blasting cottontails as they run under you. Once in a while you would kill a field rat big enough to eat hay and pull a wagon.
Spring time would come along and the fishing would begin. Ripping up and down the Arkansas River with my dad and my uncles. Jug lines, limb lines, trot lines…we did it all and boy did we fill the freezers! Those catfish didn’t stand a chance!! Sand bass, did I mention sand bass? Man did we catch em! Only problem with sand bass fishing at the dam was you had to get up waayyyy before the crack of dawn to get a good spot below the dam. 1/4 ounce jighead with a white or yellow curly tail grub and you could fill a 5 gallon bucket before sunrise….good times!
And then I discovered Bowhunting!! The road we lived on was next to 5,000 acres of clear cuts and that’s where all the locals hunted and set up deer camp. For me, well I guess you could say I lived at deer camp. Two brothers whose dad owned a local pawn shop would camp in the same spot every year near our house and that camp is where I saw my first compound bow. Pretty sure they were both shooting Oneida Eagles. I’m quite certain they got tired of me hanging around camp waiting for them to break those bows out to practice. I can’t remember if they ever killed anything but I remember those bows! I finally got my first compound bow in 1993 and it was all downhill from there. I’ve been a dedicated archer since then and honestly wouldn’t change that for anything.
As I reflect back on my childhood, it strikes me that even though we didn’t have much in the way of expensive gear or fancy guns and bows, we still made memories that have proven to last a lifetime. Those memories that I have are the core of my love for the outdoors that drive a profound respect for wildlife and conservation that I have passed on to my children and will pass on to my grandchildren. That’s my hunting heritage.