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Today is October 4, 2022

Outdoors

Passing on the outdoor infatuation, instruction, pleasure

Passing on the outdoor infatuation, instruction, pleasure

Bo Wilcher, the author’s great nephew, on his first squirrel hunt three years ago. Photo: Tony Kinton

    The hunter in me encourages a minor episode of melancholy at this time of year. Those long-anticipated seasons that occupied my mind and spare time in September are soon to be a memory for another year. Yes, there is a West Texas hunt and magazine assignment that will be completed before you read this. And there are a few more treks planned for the squirrel woods during February, my favorite hunting activity. Turkey season will roll around in March. Then there is even another African adventure and magazine project that will occur in mid-summer as I push through thorn bush, wooden longbow in hand, and search for that magnificent Grey Ghost of the rocky tangles, the kudu. All grand dealings. But those five months of being free to ramble in Mississippi with a prodigious list of open seasons available are ending soon.
     As I look back on the outdoor experiences that will become memories within a few days, I am reminded of the good derived from them all. I put a deer in the freezer but watched in wide-eyed amazement and deep gratitude as countless more of these marvelous creatures simply went about doing what deer do. There was no cause to draw the bow or cock the hammer on my rifle. Watching was the greater reward. But perhaps the greatest reward of the 2012-2013 seasons was spending time with my great nephew Bo—the closest thing I have to a son or grandson. He is becoming quite the hunter.
     And he took a deer one cold afternoon in late December. Other than being with him, I was not involved. He spotted the deer first and I sat in silent observation. I saw him squirm into position and coax a too-big rifle to his shoulder. I studied him closely as he made sure he had the proper hold and sight picture. I marveled at his calmness and patience in the midst of excitement. After the shot I smiled in approval as he quietly extracted the spent case and poked the remaining thumb-sized rounds back into the magazine and slid the bolt closed over them to assure the chamber was empty before he moved the muzzle. I saw that glint of sobering sadness peek through the enchantment. I feel that same heart tug when I do as he did.
     To be truthful—and selfish to a degree—I hope some of what he demonstrated was the result of my training over the past two or three years in similar settings. Or perhaps these practices came from long conversations he and I have had regarding safety and respect and what it really means to hunt and ultimately take an animal. Or maybe it is just his compassionate nature. There is a possibility that I had nothing to do with it at all. But whatever the impetus, he seems to have learned well.
     But that deer was not the only thing of great import on this outing. We talked in a whispered manner about his future. I learned more of his dreams and gave encouragement to strive for them. He even asked my opinion on the type and caliber rifle he should get. I outlined a variety that might be considered and instructed him to make his own decision based on practicality rather than misguided publicity. We talked of his friendships and how these can and do influence his own life. We talked of God’s creation and its marvels. I was pleased with his insight.
     He asked about my adventures in various venues. I told him, as I have before, of a lonesome and haunting late afternoon and early evening alone on a South African kopje as I sat and shivered with cold and excitement and a pronounced degree of trepidation as unfamiliar night sounds filled the air and the Milky Way engulfed me. I told him of my attempt to stay aboard a spooked saddle horse as he ran through tamarak and spruce in an attempt to put distance between himself and a grizzly. The horse had no regard for me! I told him of a Montana blizzard that put four of us inside a big canvas tent for three days in the Missouri Breaks. I told him of growing up with very little and yet experiencing a true form of wealth while beside my dad in the Pearl River swamps hunting squirrels for supper. Those latter remain the grandest memories of them all.
     The weather was cold that day Bo and I went hunting. But never did I hear a complaint. Never once did he suggest we go home, nor did he have his pack stuffed with electronic gadgets. He was there to hunt. And he did it with proper style. “I want to do all those things you have done,” he said. Perhaps he can.
     Bo and I have a campout and squirrel hunt planned in February. I will report on our adventure in next month’s column.
    Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. Book 2 in Kinton’s “Wagon Road Trilogy” is now available. Order from your local bookstore, Amazon.com or Kinton’s website: www.tonykinton.com.

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