Most of us learned the ways of the outdoors from our fathers or grandfathers or a seasoned friend or by trial and error on our own! Often, fond memories are conjured up when reminiscing about those learning experiences or episodes that formed in our beginning knowledge quest of the field and stream or etiquette of the hunt!
In the environment of today, learning about the outdoors is acquired by watching videos on You Tube or other similar platforms. While many of these are informative and factual, many are thinly disguised tools of the marketing efforts from the manufacturers of many of the products that may not have existed just a few years back! Lacking from these sources is the human element of experiencing the outdoors with a friend or relative as you mature and the camaraderie, disappointment or fun while learning to hunt, shoot or fish etc.
While I cherish the few times my father, Wilbur Herschelman, took me fishing for bluegill on the Apple family pond where the abundance of undersized fish, quite willing to devour my nightcrawlers created great excitement and zeal to continue learning how to fish! Or my grandfather, Orville Ferguson, taking me along afield to bag a rabbit or squirrel for the table began a fascination for the hunt that still exists today!
While both my father and grandfather have left us, many of my mentors and willing friends and outdoor partners of youth and adulthood are also gone leaving memories both incredibly positive but tinged with a forlorn sadness.
In the past several years, I was given the opportunity to introduce two individuals to the outdoor hunting pursuits that are somewhat familiar to me!
While introduced to a family located in the Amish community east of my home location several years back, several of the young sons took an interest in hunting the doves quite prevalent on their farm I had the good fortune to hunt. One of the sons, Brandon, after securing his hunter safety requirements and hunting license for this activity was introduced to the proper use of the shotgun and seemed to be a natural in following my instruction and admonitions to maintain proper follow through on the quick flying target. In just a few short years, he has surpassed the teacher in his ability to handle the shotgun, often using one of my guns too heavy or slightly cumbersome for a younger individual – he has matured into an effective dove shooter and enjoys the sport immensely.
Just recently, Kelleye, my spouse, and I were hiking the trails of Allerton Park crossing paths with a young good-looking couple whom we struck up a conversation with over the trail ahead. The male, Kevin, expressed a willingness to learn more about the outdoors and of hunting. Sensing his naivete in these matters and myself the expert, my opinion only and often proved undeserved, was willing to take my phone number for possible contact. Kevin did in fact follow up with me and I found he had taken the necessary steps to become a hunter in acquiring his F.O.I.D. card from the ISP and completing his hunter safety course necessary for securing his hunting license. He decided on purchasing a Marlin 591 over the Remington 870 for his first firearm purchase and now has purchased a compound bow he is now becoming proficient at shooting.
Kevin’s parents both escaped Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, his mother a mere child fled with a grandparent and his father stowed away on a boat at aged nineteen, enduring a life-threatening voyage to the United States. His parents, with assistance from others, learned the language, culture and secured their education and with the incredible will to succeed have thrived in the city of Chicago where Kevin was raised and went to school and graduated from college.
After several meetings, Kevin was invited to assist me to work on my deer stands in western Illinois and to hunt squirrels for his first hunting experience. Finally, the date was set, and we drove to my spot in Brown County Illinois for the hunt.
After removing his slug barrel from his gun and securing the regular barrel, we were ready to enter the woods! His young eyes and ears immediately excelled as he was able to spot squirrel activity at the onset! A natural at slow and methodical movement, he was able to get into position for a shot and his first firing of his new shotgun and his first ever firing of any firearm was able to bag his first target a young fox squirrel!
Although twenty-seven years of age, he experienced the excitement of this moment as many of us have in our younger days, of becoming a hunter!
Kevin will pursue the culinary pursuit of his bag of squirrels on this date and hopefully will continue his pursuit of deer hunting in the future as he definitely has the proper perspective in developing his expertise.
Both Brandon and Kevin have given yours truly a favorable memory in many of life’s lessons.