A Family who Hunts Together…

Story Katie McCrary

am asked often, “How did you start hunting?” My earliest recollections of hunting are Sunday afternoon squirrel hunts with my father and brother. I think my dad was really just getting us out of my mom’s hair.

We’d creep through the woods because he’d tell us to walk like Indians. He’d quiz us on our tree identification skills. I think I could identify upwards of 15 different tree species by the time I was 7. Along with Dixie, our trusty feist squirrel dog, we’d turn our eyes toward a hardwood canopy in search of squirrels.

My brother did most of the shooting until I turned 8 or so. I vividly remember getting a .22 rifle and scope of my very own.

After that, I gave him a run for his money on shooting squirrel.

One fall I learned one of the most important tenets of conservation. My brother and I fought over who got to shake the squirrel nests. We would swing on the long vines running down trees to see if a squirrel would bound out of its nest.

That day, much to my excitement, a raccoon appeared. I carefully took aim and shot. I was overcome with joy. I had just shot my first raccoon!

The raccoon fell from the limb … straight into the nest. I fired several more times to free him to no avail.

My dad used the situation to teach us two things: never leave an animal to suffer and never waste a kill. It would have been so much easier to leave that raccoon in the nest, considering we had walked at least two miles into our woods. Instead, we trekked all the way back out to our barn for a chainsaw and made the return trip to cut down the tree and put the raccoon out of its misery.

We then skinned it and later had it for dinner because another tenet of responsible hunting is never kill more than you can eat. To this day I remember every single moment of that afternoon … even the greasy-tasting coon.

That afternoon set the tone for my hunting life. You must respect nature and the animals in it. I learned grace, mercy and respect that day. I had no idea how important those character traits would be to me until I got older.

I lucked up and married another lover of the outdoors. Lu was raised quail hunting, and now we are able to share that love. With the lack of wild quail coveys in our area, we try to schedule family hunts several times a year at Burnt Oak Lodge in Crawford. There we enjoy a day of hunting, food and family fellowship.

We also hunt with a special group of friends every December. During the rushed holiday season, we slow down and spend time catching up while sharing a passion for hunting. I look forward to these hunts all year long.

I am currently working very hard to finish training our family hunting dog, Raina. Talk about a humbling experience, raising kids and training dogs. I think you can gain just about every life skill you need through these two experiences. My two boys, Nash, 8, and Rigg, 3, and I take the same nature walks identifying tracks, trees and leaves as I did as a child.

When Nash expressed an interest in bow hunting, I purchased my own first bow and became best friends with the bow tech at our local archery store. There’s been a lot to learn, but I have enjoyed the process of learning alongside my son. It’s just another gift hunting has given me, one I will cherish when he is grown and gone.