The way out here

March memories

Posted 3/15/23

Although it might not have happened in March, in the sudden stillness of the snowed-in season, I find myself reflecting on a few fond memories in hopes to keep their stories alive.

As I was …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
The way out here

March memories


Although it might not have happened in March, in the sudden stillness of the snowed-in season, I find myself reflecting on a few fond memories in hopes to keep their stories alive.

As I was digging out some old photos for another article in the upcoming FISH magazine, I came across a handful of others that more or less summarize my youth in the outdoors.

Now, I had grown up in the country, and a big part of that was hunting. Even if I hadn’t had a normal introduction to hunting, my father being a guide and outfitter ensured that my experiences would be more frequent and involved. Regardless of his occupation, however, it was my personal adventures that have remained in my own mind as the greatest experiences.

One of my first exposures to hunting was the bountiful population of rabbits around our house. I had been given a youth longbow and had practiced with it in the yard, retrieving my two or three raggedy arrows over and over for months.

The time came when target practice was no longer enough, however, and after consulting with my father, I gained permission to stalk the yard for a chance to claim my first cottontail. My great-uncle Joel Hill, who had owned the property before my family, was an avid beagle hunter, and had apparently stocked the hill with an abnormal amount of rabbits many years prior. Now their numbers showed the effects of his passions and gave me a chance to explore mine.

I never met my Great-Uncle Joel, but it is interesting to reflect now on how he gave me the following modicum of family insight.

For months more, I would stalk the perimeter of our yard with bow and arrow in hand, learning where the rabbits would den and where I would often encounter them. I would be rekindled to take up arms when I would finally quit for the day, only to go inside and look out the window to see one or two hopping around a nearby bush.

I’m sure they were learning as much about me and my routines as I was attempting to learn about theirs.

Over the course of those few months, I let fly a few arrows, learning my limits in terms of range and how my quarry would react in response to the sound of my twanging light bow or even the sight of me attempting to be sneaky.

Alas, I continued to educate the would-be hasenpfeffer, pushing my luck and continually coming up empty. The temptation was heavy to go inside and ask dad if I could use my .22 Crickett rifle. Fortunately for me, my dad saw the value in taking my first animal with the bow, and laid out the ultimatum that I was not allowed to hunt with the gun until I had succeeded with the bow and arrow.

I didn’t really know why that was so important back then, but as a more experienced hunter and parent now, I truly appreciate the edict. Anyone can pick up a gun and point it and pull the trigger. I’m not saying that gun hunting isn’t difficult in its own way or that it is in any way wrong. But when I was a kid, I didn’t know I was learning that hunting was a lot more than just killing.

In any case, my hunt continued. I was determined and frankly concerned that I would never graduate to other forms of hunting if I didn’t complete the mission before me. It didn’t help in my pursuit that my sister decided that the rabbits should be saved at all costs. It became her mission likewise to yell at the rabbits I might have otherwise cornered, scaring them off and ruining any chances I had at accomplishing my goals.

As I came to later learn, it wasn’t that she really cared all that much for the rabbits, it was more that she found an efficient way to pester her brother.

One day in the midst of our debate on the rabbits’ right to life, she conceded long enough to give me an opportunity I had been working hard to take advantage of. Just a few yards behind our house was an open patch of the yard where the rabbits would pop out from the tall brush behind and browse the area for food. There were a few trees and things in the landscape that gave me certain windows to get into position while they couldn’t see me.

Having spotted a rabbit in this zone, I slipped out the back kitchen door with bow in hand, holding my breath and easing the screen door back into its frame to remain as silent as possible. Normally it was at this point my sister would fling open one of the windows and begin yelling at the rabbit, but today she sat in the kitchen either for my benefit or because my mom had admonished her. As I drew my bowstring to my cheek I could feel my heart beating high in my chest and throat. I wanted this. I knew the rabbit was in range and I was in position standing just off the porch now, waiting for the rabbit to hop once or twice more into the open again. As I forced myself to breathe in and out trying to steady myself, it finally took those fateful last hops into the open. I froze for a moment, aiming, knowing I had him, I blinked, breathed and aimed again, fearful I might lose the best opportunity I could ever get.

In a split second of clarity, I released, too full of adrenaline to follow the arrow as it flew. The very next thing I saw was the rabbit struggling against the ground where my arrow pinned it in place. I quickly ran up to it and ensured it passed without a moment’s more distress, before removing the arrow and carrying my prize back to the garage to wait for my dad.

The way out here, some things are worth the wait, and although we don’t always see the plan in our struggle, there is sweet victory to having patience and practicing obedience and respect. I find the same is true in the rest of my life even now, as I struggle as a farmer and as a father. I wonder what God has in His plans that I don’t understand amidst the setbacks and impediments I currently face. But an old photo like this reminds me I can trust in His timing and keep the faith.

March, hunting


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here