My first Septembers were a long way off from any kind of elk woods back home in the Carolinas. The passion then was dove and squirrel hunting. My step dad would meet and talk to farmers all over the county and we always had plenty of fields to hunt and every chance we had, my step dad, brother and an occasional friend of my dads, would be sitting in the trees on the edge of a field hunting doves.
I loved those days. There was something magical about it. When I was hunting, it wasn’t about my age. It was about how good of a shot you were and how many birds you contributed to the dinner table. There was laughter, stories, joking, pats on the back and a feeling of respect and pride and self worth that came with all those hunts. There was an importance to what we did that was reverberated at the dinner table with the stories, jokes and laughter being relived as we all ate. I took incredible pride in being a contributor to our family.
It didn’t matter the season, or whether it was doves, squirrel, bullfrogs, coon or ducks and geese, My brother and I were hunting or fishing. I had realized from a very early age that the woods, rivers and lakes were the place to find “free” food for our family while creating memories and stories and filling my soul with self worth. Seeing the smiles on the faces at the dinner table and feeling the pride when my dad would brag to uncles, aunts and family friends about our shooting and the latest contribution was hard to describe.
Being a hunter gave me a confidence and skill set that I would take into every aspect of my life. I had a belief in myself that I could do anything if I worked at it and just figured out what it would take to accomplish what I needed. It is those lessons and feelings from my youth that gave me the skill set to move to someplace totally unknown and do things that were never even thought.
When I came to New Mexico, I really had no idea where life was going to take me. But I did know and have always felt deep in my soul that no matter what, no matter what life threw at me, If I just continued to rely on the life lessons learned in the woods of the Carolinas, I would always be able to make it. And make it, I did.
My wife, Loretta and I have been married for 38 incredible years. Our two beautiful daughters, Brittany and Ashlee, both raised on a staple of elk meat, are all grown. Life continues to move forward and those first Carolina Septembers are a long time gone now.
This September, like those of the last 37 years, the animals I now hunt are much much bigger and so majestic. And the laughter, the stories, the joking, the friendships… a full lifetime of memories are still being made.
But would I say that chasing elk in the Mountains of New Mexico with my bow in my hand is still magical? Darn straight it is! Because every time I step into those woods, I am that young boy again, full of excitement and a deep in my soul feeling of understanding, self worth and love in being a part of nature. Yep, definitely magical.