One evening during one of the breaks of a hunter education class I was teaching, a kid and his grandfather came up to me. “I want to deer hunt. What kind of gun do I need?”
Without hesitation I responded, “Your Granddad’s.” While it seemed I was just coming back with a quick response to garner a smile, I was truly being sincere. While hunting consists of shooting at animals as part of the process, the real joy is the connections the hunter makes. Experiencing the hunt and bringing the most joy from the experience comes from the meld between you and God, nature, family, our forefathers, and memories.
Stories I share of my grandfather and father are not just vehicles to carry on who they are and what they did, they become part of who I am as well. When I share these stories with my kids, it also becomes a part of who they will become.
When black bear hunting, I cannot help but think of President Teddy Roosevelt and his passion for the great bruin or Daniel Boone and his storied encounter with the beast in the Great Smokies.
Want to read about Teddy Roosevelt's bear hunt? Click HERE.
The buffalo hunt my father and I went on included a hike to a tall mount that stood out amongst all others on the horizon. When we reached the top, not only did we have a fantastic view of the Dakota pothole region, but there, right at the flattened peak, was a circle of stones. Around the circle were other smaller circles of smaller stones. When we returned to the hunting guide and inquired about the area, he told us that was an ancient ceremonial ground for the Indians who lived in the area. I could envision the tribes hunting the herded bison just as my dad and I were.
Read about Bill Howard's Most Memorable Hunt-the Great Bison HERE.
Sitting in cover on the edge of the field, anticipating the coming of a strutting gobbler with fanned tail is enough to set any hunter in flurried heartbeats of anticipation. The thought of Benjamin Franklin’s pursuit to make the wild turkey our national symbol for its courage and meaning to our land brings a sense of historic proportions to the hunt. The turkey provided nourishment to the pilgrims on their original plight into the new world. Even the Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans centers itself around the bird.
To think while sitting in a tree waiting on the whitetail to sneak his way into shooting distance was likely precluded by a Cherokee, Catawba, or Tuscarora several hundred years prior in the same location can be both overwhelming and comforting.
So, as I watch and remember my son shooting the old Ithaca shotgun, I realize that the bridge from my son, to me, to my father and to my grandfather has been completed. I also know that one side of that bridge is a long road of that has been paved over time with blood, sweat, pain, tears, joy, and accomplishment while on the other side is a road yet to be cleared but already well planned.
So when you ask “what is the best gun?”, know in advance the best gun is one that is well used and experienced.
Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site GiveEmTheShaft.com. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.