Today’s post is the first of many submissions from my brother, Kevin Wright. Hear that, Kev? Now you’re locked in.
If there is one word to describe my dad, that word would be ‘meticulous.’ If there are two words to describe my dad, those two words would be ‘very meticulous.’ This is especially true when it comes to hunting.
Having a more devil-may-care nature, myself, I was always a bit puzzled by his scrupulous preparations during the doldrums of the offseason. Why a constant buzz of activity when there were no deer to be shot? Yet still, there my dad was: loading bullets of all calibers, tuning up the four-wheelers, considering the trading for and purchasing of new rifles, preparing for a hunting season that seemed to me to be an eternity away.
My dad’s meticulous nature is most clearly seen in September when we sight in our rifles. The procedure is set in stone and never wavers, almost ritualistic in its approach. Every September, my dad and I drive out to the shooting range with the rifles we intend to use in the upcoming deer season. We set up a wooden frame with cardboard nailed to it and tape two paper targets, printed up by dad ages ago, to its front. In keeping with the ritual, the tape is firmly attached to the cardboard to hold them tight but left loose on the paper for easy removal. The tape is reused for every target we shoot that day.
If a new rifle is to be sighted in, we back off 25 yards and set up our shooting bench. Rifles we’ve used before are taken back 100 yards. Setting up the shooting bench is a sacrament unto itself. Everything has been loaded in a specific order and is unloaded in the reverse: shooting bags first, then the folding chair, and finally the shooting bench are pulled from the bed of the truck. The chair is at least fifty years old and the bags are nothing more than the legs of dad’s old blue jeans, filled with sand and stitched at both ends, repurposed for a holier cause.
I shoot first, three shots at the target. Then dad shoots his three. We walk back to the targets and carefully remove them, leaving tape hanging on the cardboard. We do not commit the heresy of marking our shots with a pen and reusing the target. All targets must be marked, placed in a manila folder and brought back to the sanctuary of dad’s shop. With the targets in hand, we judge our shots, hoping for three holes grouped together an inch above the bull’s eye. If we are satisfied with our rifle’s accuracy, and we are almost never satisfied with our rifle’s accuracy, we call it good and move on to the next rifle. Carefully, we place fresh targets on the board using the tape from the previous target. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary for each and every rifle. This goes on until we feel confident in our guns or until the rifle barrels grow too hot for accurate shooting.
I never understood why my dad was so painstaking in his preparation, why he paid such careful attention to every detail throughout the year even though the season’s opening might be months away. But last year, I think I solved the mystery.
When my dad does these things, he is extending his rifle season, turning the sport he loves so much from a two-week window into a year-long enjoyment. He is savoring the experience to its fullest amount, stretching out the pleasure of the hunt.
In every carefully measured bullet reloaded is the whiff of a chill autumn morning. Every time he makes sure that the straps are cranked down and the bungee cords are tight on his four-wheeler, he hears a deer blowing in the frost-leaved forest. Every time he checks the tire pressure on his trailer, he is counting tines to see if the buck is big enough for him to shoot, or if he needs to let it walk for one his boys to hunt. Every time he scouts new hunting ground or sights in his rifle or swaps stories about the enigmatic habits of whitetail at the coffee shop, he is, somewhere in the depths of his soul, lining up a high-shoulder shot on a thick-antlered buck.
My dad has cracked the code. Rifle hunting for whitetail deer isn’t something to be enjoyed only a few weeks in the fall. The wise man will draw the season out, making of those two weeks an ever-flowing stream that can be treasured all year.
Do you have a story to share? Type up the details of your hunt, and shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a picture or two. I’ll make sure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed and publish on this website the story of your hunt for all the world to see. All I ask is that you then share a link to your story with your family and friends and maybe interact with those who might have questions or comments. Because stories are meant to be shared. And hunts are meant to be celebrated.