I grew up in an itty-bitty town called Grayling in the upper part of lower Michigan. In Grayling we had the first day of deer season off from school so the boys could hunt with their fathers. The kill would be proudly displayed on the buck pole that arrived each fall. While I was not a hunter myself, it was absolutely normal to me.
I left Grayling when I was eighteen to attend college and I started inching my way south towards the big city of Detroit. After college I moved down to the Detroit suburbs to find a job and by all respects I became a city girl. But the roots that raised you stay strong and while I am a city girl, I found myself dating hunters and I ended up marrying an avid hunter.
When he proposed to me he gave me three things that would just “be” during our marriage. The most important was that he is a hunter and he will always be a hunter. I knew this going in and I was okay with it. I may not understand how to gut a deer and I don’t want to gut a deer, but I get why he does and why it is important to him. It is part of his core and who he is and it is part of why I love him.
Over the years he would anxiously await hunting season and he’d head off to “the property” or some other destination in search of that monster buck. He’s brought home a bear who is now located in my double story foyer and we are anxiously awaiting the huge elk that will be arriving any day from the local taxidermist. I didn’t love the idea of stuffed beasts in my house, but I accepted it. My husband, after all, was taught to hunt by his father at a young age and it is a part of him.
We have a five-year-old son named Hunter. He is named after my husband’s passion and has a middle name in honor of my husband’s father, who my husband lost well before we met. He is named after the man who taught my husband how to hunt. While we did not know if baby Hunter would like hunting, his name would honor the generations before him that loved nature and the thrill of the kill.
This year everything changed. Young Hunter decided he was going turkey hunting and announced this to his father. With much surprise my husband jumped up and watched as my son scrambled to locate his camo and other gear a five-year-old deems important for a day in the woods. Off they went to hunt turkeys and to bond in nature. Soon after they left my iPhone rings and it is my son. He announces he has done it! He killed a turkey. It was a “broken turkey”, but a turkey nonetheless. I asked that they send me a picture, but he told me it would have to wait because he is waiting for it to stop moving.
Really, this is my son? The boy who still carries around a stuffed cat and calls me “Fluffy”? Well, okay I thought. He is his father’s son and in there somewhere is the true “hunter” who has been obviously waiting to bust out. And out he came.
Soon my son arrived home to tell me all about his turkey hunting adventure. His was exhausted from adrenaline coming and going. But he had a story to tell and he had to express his aggravation in the fact that the turkey was not suitable for mounting. He would have to settle for feathers, which was not at all his goal.
It was as if my little boy changed in an instant. He went from snuggling with me to being a future man and a true hunter. He went from being my son to being his dad’s pal. I was thrilled with happiness and sadness all at the same time.
Dear Hunter, today is just the first of many hunting adventures. You’ve given your dad a great day to remember and somewhere up in heaven your grandfather is looking down smiling at the true hunter you have become. As your mother and as a city girl, I look forward to watching you mature and hearing about your future hunts.
As I watch you grow, I pledge to always listen to your hunting stories upon your return home. And most important, I will remain home with your beloved stuffed cat and wait for you to return from hunting the larger variety that stalks the grounds of Africa. For there is no doubt in my mind, that some day, you and your father will fulfill his goal of an African Safari hunt.