EVE didn’t get much of a look in over the last few weeks. I have been focused on the opening of this year’s Duck season in my state.
My father is getting to the end of his hunting life, and has seemingly been self-sabotaging his last few seasons. Talking himself out of going, never getting out on time, and making decisions that don’t give him the best chance of success.
I get the impression it reminds him about how his eye sight, hearing, balance and reflexes are no longer anywhere near as good.
The side effect of that however have been my own experiences have been sabotaged.
This year I decided I really needed to focus on my own hunts. If Dad came along, all the better, but my first emphasis needed to be on my own success. I guess that might sound selfish, but it is more of an acceptance that Dad isn’t enjoying it as much.
I spent a lot of time over the last month buying camping gear. It has been more than 33 years since I have been camping, but if I want to get access to some of these far away swamps and lakes I need to be able to stay overnight.
On the weekend before the opening I drove a 700km round trip and scouted out where I would go.
On the opening weekend I did the same 700km round trip – camping by myself on Open eve.
I managed to have everything I needed, enjoyed hot and cold drinks and a hot meal, and woke at 5:20am to the most brilliant moonless star filled sky I think I have ever seen. I also got into the area I wanted to hunt and set up with plenty of time to spare so that I could enjoy the quiet and anticipation.
Dad did come along – but only arrived near my camp on opening time. He called me to ask where I had set up – which was the same I had indicated in SMS 90 minutes before, had told him on the phone the previous night, and discussed in person the previous afternoon. I watched the first couple mobs of ducks pass by – unable to shoot as I patiently spoke to him.
In the end I got a good feed of ducks over the weekend, and my Dad remarked a number of times that he really enjoyed the two days of hunting – almost as if surprised.
I think I first went out with my Dad when he hunted ducks some 35 years ago, and have been hunting ducks with him for 31 years, aside one or two years where there was no season. This year there has been a baton pass – Dad will now go on hunts with me, instead of me going on hunts with Dad.
There were two things that otherwise stood out for me about the weekend.
The first was that camping by yourself just doesn’t feel entirely right or comfortable. (Even for this Hermit.)
The second was the widespread change of tone in the anti-hunting protesters. There are some who have deep anger that the season has not yet been banned – and their social media commentary is full of hate and wishing death on those who disagree with them. They get lots of likes and support for it.
It is not just a Duck Hunting thing – I’ve seen EVE players wish death on other players, seen it in road rage, in fact, just about any sort of disagreement seems to rush head long into hoping death gets involved.
Has society moved so far away from reality that they don’t actually comprehend what death is and means? That they think it is an acceptable reaction?
You hear people say that they cannot comprehend the attacks that were made this week in Brussels, or those in France or the UK or America – or the far more frequent and more deadly attacks across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and so on. I don’t find them hard to comprehend, I am reminded almost daily how barbaric apparently civilised people can be.
Life seems more real and peaceful sitting on the side of a lagoon hunting for your own food. I’m not sure how many more years – if any, that I will get to do it.
Man oh man… My dad took me into the woods with him the first time when I was 8… 47 years ago. And I lost him in Aug of 08. He was my hunting buddy. The only ‘real’ lifelong hunting buddy I have ever had. Taught me everything I know, how to hunt, track, shoot, gun safely, reloading… how to field dress and clean game. How to be a hunter and a sportsman who hunts ONLY for the table.
Thankfully in the US while we do have some vocal anti-hunting groups, they are, IMHO, never really going to get a foothold here, at least not in my or my kids lifetimes. Simply too many who have grown up with it as I have… as a part of the fabric of their lives. we raise all kinds of animals for slaughter, taking game in the wild at least harks to the reality of what being a natural human and an omnivore IS.
I envy you hermit.. I do. I haven’t been able to get back out int the woods, or in the blind, since my dad passed.. It’s simply too hard, I keep waiting for him and looking for him… and he’s just not there.
I assume you saw that Neville Smit’s father just passed recently… it is a hard blow to a son, no matter his years, to lose hi father… Enjoy this time with your dad man… savor and treasure it.
And yeah… campin’ solo is just wrong! It’s like drinking alone… =]
A good friend of mine (the person who actually introduced me to EVE) moved his father into a nursing home last week. He had just finished treatment for his 4th occurrence of cancer (his second brain tumour), and it was obvious he could no longer care for himself. His prognosis is very poor – and I can see my friend is battling with the reality of that.
It has certainly prompted me to think about how much longer my parents might be around, and to make sure I make time for them. Neville’s posts reinforced that.
I do feel a level of guilt however, particularly after reading your story. As I have mentioned a few times, my Dad is a rather annoying fellow. He suffers from anxieties, OCD, trust issues, and is fairly selfish. He drove me crazy as a kid, and can still rankle as he insistently pushes his advice or sternly insists on his (often off track) version of the facts.
Without hunting I don’t think we would have had much of a relationship in adulthood. It has given us a shared interest, we see each other more because of it, and it has made us more accommodating of each other. It is an odd – as I said above – guilty thing to realise.
I am not sure my kids will get to hunt with me. My oldest is 10 and pretty flaky about discomfort. If I took him out too early he’d run and never come back. My youngest is 7 – and quite frankly tough enough for it already. However she won’t do as she is told. So I wait. On one hand it might be easier for them if they don’t get introduced to the realities and evils of politicians, the media, political correctness and activists. On the other hand they will lose important lessons about responsibility, respect, effort, and just the reality most of the world still lives in – the need to directly gather their own food. Something most of the people in our part of western society have completely forgotten about in only a generation or three.
Nice post and pretty deep thread by the pair of you.
You touch on a number of very raw nerves.
My Dad also passed – January a year ago. He was a fisherman. About 20 years before his death he lost the use of his arm in a car accident. He would be completely reliant on someone else to take him fishing. Like Hermit’s dad he also self sabotaged. The helplessness was just too painful I guess. To my shame and regret I only realised this once it was too late. Work and life intervened. He died with that forever wish – to have one more nice day out fishing.
There’s a lesson there – if I can have it all over I would ditch work in a heartbeat and take him fishing – however cantankerous he may be. Too late for me…
I am somewhat fortunate in that my wife is adventurous. Just the two of us, no kids. We have also moved to a place where fishing is closer and easier (did not move because of the fishing 😉 ). We make a point of going out often. She never fished in her childhood and I love that fresh enthusiasm. Also hats of to you Hermit, for I am not convinced I would have gone out if I had to go alone. I am really grateful that she is willing and to accompany me – maybe I should let her know… Another lesson there.
Finally the politics – I grew up in South Africa and we had our fair share of politics of the most nasty kind. For all its racist faults the Appartheid government did one thing right: It looked after the countries’ wildlife. In the flip side of the coin to blind banning of hunting, the advent of the New South Africa introduced indigenous fishing rights to certain “in” groups, coupled with a general air of lawlessness and corruption. It is shocking to see the change in the space of just a decade. Most flourishing fishing towns of the past are now ghost towns – catches now so meagre it is not worth a visit. Abalone has been poached almost to extinction. There have not been sardine runs at the eastern coast in years – Chinese Trawlers harvest entire schools of fish in the now unprotected waters. Hundreds of Rhino are killed in national parks.
I know – irresponsible stripping and lawlessness is different to responsible hunting. And the anti-hunters’ motivations are mostly not conservation or anti poaching – but anti HUNTING. What these two groups have in common though is that either one could destroy these practices for future generations. Another lesson I suppose. We have to fight for what is ours be it conservation or rights to hunting/fishing. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Life is so complicated and rushed that regrets seem inevitable. It is just not possible to keep all the balls we are juggling up in the air.
Despite your regrets, I wonder if your Dad wasn’t chuffed that you also turned out to enjoy fishing. You carried forward a legacy that he wasn’t able to continue himself.
You are very lucky your wife is enthusiastic and gets out fishing with you. My wife has no interest in accompanying me. I do however have the next best thing – she doesn’t mind me spending money on hunting, and actively encourages me to get out. It probably helps that she likes a good wild duck strew.
There are a lot of people and organisations that have no qualms about pillaging our natural resources. Their goal is only short term profit. It is truly appalling.
I know there are rat bag hunters – but the majority are not. I am quite sure that when Duck Season is banned here that their populations will diminish. Hunting is sustainable if people are focused on retaining, managing and rejuvenating their habitat, and doing things such as harping on environmental water allocations. At the moment almost all of that is done by hunting organisations. When hunters no longer have a need to do that work, I am sure the protestors won’t continue the endeavour. They will forget about the ducks, and move on to the next target. (I’m voting for Horse Racing.)
I’ll apologize now if this seems a little off track at first. I was always quick. The fourth fastest in my school of 1100 or so, probably the quickest over 50 meters. Which is why I never could understand how my Dad could beat me all the time.
Then came a day in my mid teens when we went ripping up the beach and I finally stayed with him and won. I looked over to him with a massive grin on my face, saw how he was puffing and the grin faded with the sudden knowledge that he was going to continue to decline and that we would eventually lose him.
Queue lymphoma, then osteosarcoma likely brought about by the radiation therapy and radical facial surgery which bought him another 18 months. This wasn’t a quick process btw, it was over a decade. Didn’t make it any easier.
With an uncertain final time frame (weeks possibly months), and a total shitbox of a manager wanting me to sign a new contract when I was trying to apply for extended leave to go home. The leave was declined, so I gave notice on the spot. He lasted 6 weeks from the time I got back.
We were lucky, we were able to nurse him at home with staggeringly good support from the palliative care. We all came. Mum, despite having separated from him years before. Both my siblings. And in the final week, when he did not leave his bed again, we stayed watch around the clock and were all with him when he passed.
Grief comes in many forms and times. When you first really understand your parents will no longer be with you forever. With the knowledge that the seemingly unshakeable foundations of your world will eventually fall. On the decline, the diagnosis and on the final shuddering breath.
We too, our parents far more so, must also come to terms with bodies that no longer quite do what they used to. I suspect there is some grieving over loss there too, and that it is far easier to ignore it if you no longer put yourself in situations where the reality of it is all too apparent.
Glad he made the trip. Sounds like it may become a treasured memory for him.
I saw my Dad’s face when I first started beating him in competition target shooting around 30 years ago. He was proud. I saw his face last weekend when he caught up with me as we neared the end of our hunt – it was that same proud look. Proud that I had pushed myself to go out hunting when he was discouraging it due to the weather. Proud that I had managed to take a healthy bag of ducks in difficult conditions. Proud I had out shot him.
I hope you saw that look on your Dad’s face too. Although sometimes they can find it a little difficult to lose!
Reading the comments above have reinforced that I need to make a bit more of an effort with Dad – get out fishing with him for a start. They have also reminded me that when the end comes, I better ensure I make extra time to be there.