Thoughts from a Hunting Journal
These early days also saw the beginning of our annual Tioga trip. A three hour drive that ended at a high fence hunting preserve. Let the debate rage over high fence, "canned" hunts but it has always served us well to kick off the coming hunting season and introduce a new hunter to the sport. The first trip was a 50th birthday present for my father. He went with my mother and a Colt Python hunting pistol in .357. It was originally scheduled for a Russian boar mainly for meat for a bar-b-cue but it turned into a nice trophy ram.
The following year found the family back again. This time Mom, Dad, and Tara (my new bride). All going for something. Mom quickly put down a nice meat hog, followed by Tara's first kill ever, a ram. Dad ended the day with a red stag that was previously wounded in a rutting fight with another deer. The day-long hunt was our first attempt at videotaping the hunt and it went surprisingly well. That first stalk and kill lit the fire of the hunt in Tara that would fuel the future direction of our family; not our current family but the one Tara and I were about to start. The next year brought a new addition to our family, my first daughter. Madison arrived three short months before our annual trip to Tioga. I trucked that little peanut in a backpack through the rocky landscape in search of an animal. That hunt ended with a hog that put more than 100 pounds of meat in the freezer.
Through five years of visiting Tioga, we, as a family, collected some fine trophy mounts but more importantly some great memories. The "rustic" hunting lodge, the quiet nights with our new babies, the table talk with other visiting hunters discussing chicken leg bones and tall tales of yesteryear; all forming a foundation for a grander picture of life. Madison accompanied us everywhere. Hunting camp would truly become a family affair. Along with boars and rams and goats, Tara would put a buffalo in the freezer. Our final trip to Tioga would be in 2005. By then my second daughter had already been to Tioga and trucked up and down the hills in a backpack. On her second trip to Tioga, Bailey sat in Grandpa's pick-up bed and watched her mother stalk a cow elk. Our final preserve hunt ended with a beautiful off-hand shot from Tara's 20 gauge Mossberg.
And with that shot, our humble family hunting beginnings ended. The final tally: four boar, two rams, two goats, a Jacob's ram, a red stag, a buffalo, and a cow elk. The freezer was full, my novice wife was acquainted with some of the rigors of hunting and road trips, and our new farm was awaiting our return. Our hunting and outdoor tradition and future seemed well-established and ready to blossom.