My dad took me hunting 32 years ago. As a child, I thought my dad was the greatest hunter who ever lived. Deer camp in Central Wisconsin was a ritual with family and friends. My children now come to camp with me. Three generations of family in the same deer camp at the same time. It is a week out of the year I cherish the most. I killed my first deer when I was 14 years old and it was the greatest accomplishment of my short life. My dad was there to experience it with me. Little did I know just how much hunting was going to influence life.
When I was in college, I started to bow hunt. The first person I turned to for advice was my dad. I borrowed his ancient Fred Bear bow, he gave me some guidance, and quickly I was shooting a paper plate from 20 yards away. I had a hard time believing his bow could kill a deer.
I remember the encounter like it was yesterday. I was invited to hunt at a friend’s family farm in Sauk County Wisconsin. I was eye level with a ridge and hunting in the peak of the rut. The biggest buck of my life was working his way directly to me as I stared in bewilderment. I could not move. I could not stop shaking. The big 8 point stopped broadside and we began a staring contest that seemed to last forever. I never moved. I never attempted to grab my bow. The buck walked off and I eventually calmed down. My first buck fever experience left me wanting way more. Shortly after it happened, I called and told my dad about it. He gave me a similar account of him hunting, seeing the biggest buck of his life, and not being able to gather himself in time to take a shot. His story brought us even closer.
I graduated college and moved away from my parents. Deer camp became more special because I knew it was time to spend with dad. Ten years after killing my first deer, I shot my first buck. My dad was there to experience it with me. He was over 500 yards away and could hear me frantically yelling “Dad I shot a buck!” over and over again. To this day, that is my greatest hunting memory.
MY LOVE FOR HUNTING HAS ONLY GROWN
Hunting has become a lifestyle so important and special to me that I do not know what I would do without it. My dad took me down a path and I have never looked back. I am a certified Illinois Hunter’s Safety Instructor. I have volunteered to teach countless students the basic concepts and intricacies hunting embodies. Occasionally, I get to learn from the students.
I have taught numerous friends how to hunt and shared their successes and failures. I celebrate my success with my wife and children, my mom, family, friends and especially my dad. I started a tradition that if I shoot a buck, I call my wife first, followed by my parents. My mom knows to just congratulate me and hand the phone over to my dad. I tell him what happened. He reminds me not to fall from my tree.
THE SITUATION TODAY
My dad does not hunt much anymore. Matter of fact, the past two deer camps, I do not remember him going out at all. I worry about him every day and cherish every moment I have with him. We disagree on just about anything and everything hunting related these days. I wish a time machine existed so I go back 32 years earlier and do it all over again.
I plant food plots, I run trail cameras, I hang tree stands, I tend to hunt only one deer. I think about hunting almost every minute of every day. My dad sometimes does not understand my obsession.
My dad stays up late and has seen every movie ever made (or at least that is what I understand from him). We make small talk and I listen as my dad describes his latest electronic quandary. I try talking about hunting, but the subject usually changes quickly.
The person I once dreamed would go on yearly Western hunts and chase Midwest whitetails every fall went left when I went right.
WISCONSIN TURKEY SEASON 2020
I have not hunted a turkey in probably six years, but I had an opportunity to do so this past May. A close friend owns land in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and there are plenty of birds. I was asked to guide someone new to turkey hunting. I would be teaching someone to hunt, just like my dad taught me.
The morning of the hunt, we drove about 45 minutes to the property. I explained how the day would likely unfold. The morning and afternoon were uneventful. We moved and called. We saw a few birds, but nothing happened. Later in the day, I located a roosting area. We chose trees to lean on for the evening hunt. With about 30 minutes of light left, birds started coming from everywhere. I was sitting about 20 yards away from the hunter as the woods began to erupt. Multiple toms gobbling, strutting, and drumming. Hens flying up into trees. It was the kind of evening hunt you only get to experience a few times.
I looked over at the hunter and his eyes were wider than they probably have ever been. He could not get situated and fidgeted like a child trying to sit still at church for the first time. He ignored my countless attempts to get him to stay still. Turkey fever took over. He began waving his bare white hand at me in case I did not know there were turkeys nearby. He heard one of the gobbles and in that moment, I saw a side that was hidden many years ago: the hunter inside.
The hunter I was guiding, my dad, never got a shot off that evening, but seeing his excitement made everything worth it. What made this experience even better was that my sister was with us too. Just me, my dad, and my sister. The memories experienced will lead to conversations and laughter for years to come.
A few weeks later, my dad told me what a great time he had and how he was looking forward to turkey hunting next spring. He never saw me do it, but tears of joy ran down my face. My hunting buddy was back! My dad taught me everything he knew about hunting and now I get to return the favor and relish every second of it. The next ten months cannot go by fast enough.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL
Pop, I cannot thank you enough for making me the hunter I am today. Without you, none of what drives me into the whitetail woods would exist. I will cherish our previous hunting experiences forever. Hunting connects my life and I have you to thank for starting me on the journey. Now go out and buy that crossbow you have been talking about for the past five years and let’s make some new memories.
Happy Father’s Day Dad,
Your son Geoff
Author: Exodus Black Hat Team Member, Geoff Guzinski