How did this whole "hunting" thing ever get started in a young boy growing up in Kendrick, Idaho? Our family moved from Seattle, WA to this little Northern Idaho community when I was only 8 years old. My dad, a minister, was not a hunter and did not own a gun. I had never shot a gun; had never even held one, but I somehow knew I needed one. It wasn't long before I badgered my Dad into buying me my first rifle, a Daisy BB gun. Oh, how I loved that little gun! Over the next few years, I nearly wore that little rifle out. BB’s were five cents a packet, those little round packs that were about the size of a package of Necco candy.
Picture of me and the Daisy BB gun at 9 years old, and NO, I never did shoot my eye out!
I finally talked my Dad into buying "us" a 22. He picked out a used Remington Targetmaster, model 510 single shot and paid a total of $10. I tried my best to wear that little rifle out, but after tens of thousands of rounds, at 49 cents per box, that trusty 22 still shoots today. My Dad gave it to me on my 14th birthday and I have since passed it on to my son and he to his.
I was relentless on the local squirrel population, spending several days a week stalking the pesky little ground-dwellers. If I had a nickel for every squirrel I sent into rodent-heaven, I could easily buy myself a new over and under shotgun. By the age of 13, I thought I was ready for bigger and better things.
I talked my Dad into taking me out deer hunting. With no rifles in the house, he borrowed an old 8 mm Mauser from a minister friend and talked him into throwing in a few shells. I'll never forget that first outing..... We drove out the graveled Cedar Creek road from town and stopped on a big corner with a view out over the Potlatch River and up the far hillside. It was a misty fall morning as we looked across the valley through patches of fog. I don't know who saw it first, but we spotted a deer about 200 yards away, walking slowly up the hill. With no binoculars and no scope on the rifle, we didn't know if it was a buck or doe, but in Idaho, back in 1958, any deer was legal. I had never even shot the old Mauser to see where it hit. Who needed practice when you have shot that old Daisy and the 22 so many times?
I raised the Mauser, looked down the open sights and fired. My Dad said the deer went down. We had to slide down a steep 50 foot bank, wade the river and climb up the far hillside to get to the deer. Wow! When we got there, the 5X5 whitetail buck was still alive but I quickly put another round into him to administer the coups de grace. Here we were, neither one of us had ever seen a dead deer, let alone clean or take care of one. On top of that, we didn't even own a hunting knife. All we had was the small, yellow-handled pocket knife I carried in my Jean’s pocket. I knew I had to "cut the throat" so it could bleed out. That's what everyone did back then. (an old wives tale) With that done, I had to "cut off the scent glands", or so I thought. (another old wives tale) I'm sure we did more things "wrong" than right, but we finally got that animal cleaned and ready to haul home.
I'll never know how we drug that big buck down the hill, across the river and up that steep bank, but we finally got it to the car. I do remember not closing the trunk of the 1951 Chevy so everyone could see my trophy head hanging out the back. We took the deer to N.B. Long's Grocery in Kendrick where it was cut and wrapped and put into a rented locker space.
I somehow cut the antlers off that deer and crudely nailed them onto a plaque to hang on my wall. For years, those antlers hung above my bed with my old Daisy BB gun slung across them. I don’t have a clue how they were ever lost, but I’m sure that during one of our frequent moves, they got left behind.
That day and that experience are etched deeply in my mind. It was the beginning of a lifelong love of hunting. Over the past 53 years, I have been blessed with countless hunting friends and an unknown number of hunting stories. Some of them are good and some are not. But they have all contributed to the volumes of hunting memories I will carry with me forever.