There was a fateful argument during which I declared I was done with deer hunting. It was a waste of time. Dad’s face went blank — my uppercut hit its mark.
But his look haunted me. I realized at that moment I crossed a line I should never have even flirted with. Dad had killed more deer in his lifetime than Pete Rose hit home runs during his 24-year major league career (160). Hunting to him was more than a hobby. So his firstborn son rebelling in this fashion was more than he could handle.
Later that year, I was back in the field with dad and my brother. As fate would have it, I harvested my first buck that year. As the three of us stood over it, his smile transported me back to the day I got my first squirrel. I could appreciate that look even more years later when my son shot his first deer.
In the days between dad’s recent death and his memorial service, we went through hundreds of photos, slides and Super-8 movie reels. So many images of him in his hunting and fishing prime — posing with countless deer he and his hunting buddies harvested, fishing in lakes, the ocean and on ice, goofing around at his old hunting camp, showing off his favorite hunting dogs with a pile of freshly harvested pheasant in the background — and so many more memories.
My brother and I didn’t get to see those days in person. In fact, I don’t remember dad shooting a single thing ever since Jim and I came of hunting age. He still carried his rifle during deer season, although that changed over time to just a small walking stick. He looked more like an aging Yoda than a rugged outdoorsman.