Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sharing Our Hunting Heritage, One 12-Year-Old Girl's Story

Abby & her 4x4 whitetail buck
Just three months ago she turned 12. This fall, she joined her peers to learn ethics and safety at a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) hunter safety education course. She graduated with a perfect score. Shortly thereafter, her father took got her a rifle and took her shooting. Her aim was sure. Her grouping was tight. Abby was ready to hunt. Accompanying her father, she logged miles in the mountains, endured hikes and the Montana cold without the opportunity to raise her rifle. Last Saturday, with her dad by her side and while wearing her FWP issued hunter orange vest, Abby stood with her .243 balanced on a bi-pod and her crosshairs firmly set on a whitetail deer. She was nervous. A few moments later she stood over her first harvested animal—a beauty of a 4x4 buck.

It was just three months ago that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation officially announced the enhancement of its mission to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. The new addition is “hunting heritage.” How do sportsmen and women enhance their hunting heritage? They do what Abby’s father did. They take the next generation hunting. But it’s not just about harvesting an animal. It’s about fresh air, mountain ridges, lakes and rivers, meadows and marshes, tree stands, grassland and shrubbery. It’s about developing an appreciation of wildlife—from small critters to birds of all kinds to big game. It’s about watching the sun rise through the early morning fog and eclipsing the mountaintops at daybreak and watching it sink in the West at dusk.

Enhancing our hunting heritage is also about enhancing relationships. You probably heard the old saying “Take your kids hunting and you won't have to go hunting for your kids.” Do you remember your first hunting trip with your father? Or what about your first time hunting with your mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandfather, grandmother or other family member? Do you have a buddy who accompanies you on your hunts? All those relationships only grow stronger with each step as you hike and hunt together, as you stop to rest, as you chat to refine a strategy, as you eat, and as you sit around the campfire together talking about the day’s happenings and reliving past memories.

David & his father, Al

RMEF Life Member Randy Newberg said “The father-son hunting part of it is the real trophy for me. It is kind of simple stuff to build a fire and sleep out under the stars. There is a lot of fun to it. No TV. No faxes. It is true freedom."

That rings oh so true for the Johnson family who took Randy’s words one step further. David Johnson recently accompanied both his father and his son on an elk hunting trip. “We didn't shoot any elk, but we had a fantastic time together in the beautiful Colorado mountains,” David recently posted on the RMEF Facebook page. “Many great memories were made! I sure love those guys!”

Abby, proud papa Seth & their whitetail bucks

And that brings us back to Abby. Despite six hours exposed to that frigid Saturday morning Montana weather with a biting wind chill and temperatures 20 degrees below freezing, she sported a warm smile on her face—a smile of accomplishment, empowerment and perseverance. Believe it or not, that young smile was actually overshadowed by one even brighter. Her father, Seth, beamed with satisfaction and pride.

Good job dad!  Thanks for enhancing your personal family hunting heritage and letting us share in it.

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