I can count on 3 fingers the amount of times I remember my Dad telling me he loved me. But I didn’t need to hear those words, because after all, what are the words without action? I knew my father loved me, not because he told me all the time, but because he showed me all the time.
My father’s passion was fishing. Every time he had the chance to go, he did. It wasn’t him going fishing that showed me he loved me, but the fact that he always took me with him. From as early on as I can remember, I was my Dad’s number one fishing partner. The times spent on the water with him are the most memorable moments I have. It was rare to receive any type of affection from my father, but he passed on his passion of fishing to me that is now at the core of my being.
Not only do I have a passion for fishing, but I also have a deep passion for hunting. That passion was not passed on to me by my father, as he didn’t hunt, but by a relationship with Ricky Hunt and his family that developed almost 27 years ago on the gridiron playing peewee football. I met Ricky Hunt when I was 6 years old. It is a friendship that still thrives in my life today. Ricky and I aren’t social friends and seldom see each other; but the moment hunting season starts, we are back to the friends we were in high school texting each other and planning our upcoming hunting trips together.
The Hunt family was pure bred public land hunters. Ricky’s dad (Coach Rick as I call him) has always treated me like his son. Not that I needed a father figure, but I wanted to learn to hunt and he was more than happy to guide me along the way. I still remember shooting my first deer ever. It was the juvenile gun hunt in Tennessee and instead of taking his own son, Coach Rick took me to the Anderson – Tulley WMA, where I harvested my first deer using his 30-06 with him right by my side. I also remember him showing me how to clean that deer. He told me to be careful when cleaning your deer and to not pop the gut. In my ignorant youth, I responded to that statement with “Why?” He took his knife and popped the gut, and all I can remember is this God awful smell. He simply looked at me and said “that’s why!” I remember getting up at 3 a.m. in the morning and getting to the hunting land an hour and a half before shooting light. Coach Rick would walk both Ricky and I through the woods to our stands every morning before tracking all the way back across the woods to his stand. He didn’t even save the good spots for himself; he put us in the spots where he thought we’d have the best chance of seeing deer.
As my passion for the outdoors grew, so did my passion for sharing the outdoors with the people I loved the most. If you think about people you take hunting or fishing with you, it’s not usually a random person or an acquaintance you kind of know; it’s your friend, your buddy, the guy or girl you want to spend that quality bonding time with. You care enough about that person to let them see what drives you inside and share that with them. Personally, I try to get my closest friends that don’t hunt to at least go hunting with me just one time. Not because I want them to see me shoot something, but I want them to experience the great outdoors and see where my passion comes from.
My best friend Aaron, who would’ve been the last person I thought would become a passionate outdoorsman, is now my favorite person to talk hunting with. It started with one late season duck hunt where we were just covered up with ducks and he was hooked. Even though he lives in another state, we share our trail cam pics, hunting tactics, and ask each other for advice on what we should do. Aaron was hunting with me the day I shot my first big buck. It was awesome to shoot a big buck, but it was even more special because I had my best friend there to experience it with me. I might not be there with him when he tags his first monster, but he’ll know that I’ll be happier for him than he is for himself.
I had a son in the fall of 2014 and it wasn’t until then that I truly understood what it meant for my Dad and Coach Rick to pass on their passions on to me. As I watch my son grow daily, all I can think of is how we are going to be best fishing buddies. In my head, I’m already planning where I’m going to put stands up so I can sit with him and watch him harvest his first deer.My passion is no longer just for me to enjoy the great outdoors, but to pass that passion on to my son and watch him fall in love with the outdoors the same way I did. Even though I make it a point to constantly tell my son I love him (and I will continue to tell him throughout his life) , I know that I want to show him that I love him by sharing the things I love with him. That is how I know that my Dad loved me, because I have the same love for my son and want to show him how much I love him the same way my Dad showed me.