Because it’s Father’s Day weekend I had today’s article nailed down, but the more I thought about it and put “words to paper,” the further away I got from my initial intent. I was going to give you (and my daughter) a bunch of great gift ideas to honor fathers. The next thing I knew I was thinking about all of the great things that my father, aka “Dad,” had given to me.
Dad gave me many things during the course of my life. If I had to list the very best one it would be the outdoor “gene” and it is something that his father gave to him. I guess maybe the qualifier in that first generation pass down is that it was during a time and place when hunting, fishing and gathering were a part of subsistence living. If you didn’t bag a deer or two for the freezer, it meant you had to make up the difference somewhere. Grandpa Wally was partial to squirrels and my guess would be that during the lean deer hunting years the squirrels paid the price by filling that meat food group.
When I started out as a hunting pup it was still a time when hunting was for food first, sport second. Back then our first deer that was bagged was meant for the table. That same table would serve wild asparagus, morel mushrooms, wild rhubarb, every kind of fish the Mississippi River held, ducks, rabbits, and anything else we could gather short of going to the store.
I can remember my childhood hunting and fishing times with Dad as if they were yesterday. Like the time we went squirrel hunting and watched a buck chase a doe by us twice. At the time I didn’t know what the white-tailed rut was, but that was the day that I learned about it. The buck was probably a basket rack eight-pointer, but to me I was sure that I had just seen the new world record and if you had asked Dad, he would agree.
Dad was also a trapper with muskrats being his specialty. I’m not really sure how old I was but I remember him pulling me in a sled because I couldn’t keep up with him as he went from trap to trap. We were in the backwaters of the Mississippi River and all at once the ice gave way and suddenly Dad was struggling to remain upright. What I didn’t know initially was that the water was only waist deep. For a few brief moments I had thought the worst was going to happen. Dad pulled himself out of the water and we moved on to the next trap like nothing had happened. I thought that Dad was a superhero and that he could do anything except walk across thin ice.
Dad is the how and why I got into elk hunting out West. In those early years we used rifles and Dad was there when I bagged my one and only bull. It wasn’t a monster but at that time and place, it didn’t have to be. It was a pretty special day that I was able to share with Dad and my brothers.
I could tell you about the first time Dad took me ice fishing, duck hunting and walleye fishing. I may not remember what we brought home but I do remember Dad taking me. So, for all those things and more I say: Thanks Dad! If I did things right, years from now my daughter will tell stories about her first bass, or crappie, or white-tailed deer, etc., etc.
What to watch for this week: wild rhubarb is now big enough to harvest. Be careful when harvesting because this tart pie filling plant is a perennial and you don’t want to over harvest.