Hunting, for the Regan boys, was a rite of passage. For years, I walked behind my Uncle Fred, dad, and brothers carrying most times nothing, but occasionally an unloaded BB gun. I served more as bird dog than anything else, staying out of the way — at times learning to properly carry a firearm — and walking mile after mile alongside my elders as they pursued the bobwhite quail in southeast Kansas.
That all changed when I was 8 or 9, old enough to read and therefore take the hunter’s education course offered about 10 miles from our farmhouse in Uniontown, Kansas, a town of 250 or so people where we attended elementary school.
Finally, I could carry a real shotgun and hunt with the men. I still remember that first hunt, and I remember Uncle Fred showing me how to clean a quail.
My dad never hunted, at least in terms of carrying a gun and taking aim at prey. I simply don’t think he liked to kill, but he understood the importance of it and raised us with an appreciation for the outdoors in general, and especially for hunting and fishing. When we were without a bird dog, Dad would invariably end up in the middle of the hedgerow, trying to flush out any bobwhites that he could. If all else failed, he’d throw hedge apples up into the air for target practice.
Sadly, once I was about high school age, the bobwhite quail population in our part of the state plummeted. No longer would you see guys out walking fields in brush pants and orange bird hunting vests. Seldom did you even see bird dogs.
Luckily, I had older brothers and a couple of good friends in high school that got me into duck hunting, and then later in college I bought a bow, and the archery whitetail season has been an obsession ever since.
As much as I love deer hunting, after spending a good chunk of the fall by myself in a tree trying to be still and quiet, I always look forward to getting together with a few of my closest friends and family and taking to a blind in hopes of shooting a few ducks and geese in late winter. You really appreciate the camaraderie of a duck blind after all those hours alone in a tree.
One of those high school duck hunting buddies, Todd Foxx, chipped in for our special section on hunting and wrote the deer hunting article you’ll find on page 32. He’s one of the more skilled hunters I know, and we still talk often about what we are seeing in the field, comparing dog training notes, or trying to plan a way to get together for a hunt.
What about you? Do you have any close buddies you’ve been hunting with for years? What are some of your favorite hunting stories, great successes or otherwise? Send me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org), and your hunting story might wind up in the pages of a future issue.