Hunting and fishing is a pivotal role in my family’s life. Growing up in Texas, I was introduced to the outdoors at a very young age; whether it be fishing for sunfish with a cane pole or sitting in a deer blind. As I grew up, I quickly became more accustomed to the importance of the outdoors, and it wasn’t until this past year I looked at fishing possibly as a career and life for me. As a young man, I am still not sure about what I was born to do, as I’m sure anyone my age would be. I am a 15 year old kid who is still learning about geometry and biology to hunting and fishing. Though school takes up most of my time, I find as much time as I can to tie flies, volunteer at my local fly shop, practice my cast and my shot, and of course hunt and fish. In my few years of being a teenager I’ve experienced social cliques and popularity trends, but one thing I’ve latched onto and strived to become more involved in is the outdoors.
Now, I can almost guarantee you that any hunter or fisherman has that “one” outstanding story where everything went right, and so do I. But this story is not one of quantity of fish caught or in this case ducks shot, but one of quality of the hunt. This past Christmas break my brother, Mac, mentioned to my parents in our living room that he planned to go duck hunting the next morning with his best friend (who is also a close family friend of mine). Immediately I jumped in and asked if I could join, because I have never gone duck hunting. Expecting a no, I was shocked to hear him and my parents agree that I could in fact tag along.
From that point on until 12:30 that night I was frantically running around and grabbing whatever I could think would be useful for the next morning’s hunt. Getting a solid 4 hours of sleep, I jumped out of bed at the sound of my alarm and quickly got dressed. I grabbed my gun and bag and piled them into the truck where we met our friend Ross and his beautiful chocolate lab, Ellie, in the driveway. Sipping my brother’s black coffee was a rude awakening in the back of the truck as he blasted his yearly duck hunting song, “Feathered Indians”. This may sound like a normal beginning to a hunt, but since my brother is a senior in college I don’t get to go hunting with him often.
This was a special morning and I could feel it. We got to the ranch house and I quickly transitioned to my grey fishing waders (definitely not duck waders), and drove down to the pond in a Polaris. We threw out decoys and hid the Polaris and found a seat next to a brush pile and waited for what we were here for. Not long after, ducks started splashing into the water. After a pretty slow morning, we ended up only shooting 7 ducks: 4 for Mac, 3 for Ross, and 0 for me. This was not a very successful hunt, yet it was one of greatest hunts I’ve ever experienced. I spent a day with two of the closest people in my life, filled with laughter and some frustration. After this hunt I could only help but feel remorse because I did not want it to end, but I knew I just had a great day. Some of the best days in hunting or fishing may not be a successful day in quantity of what we ended up with, but the quality of what we ended up with. I ended up with a closer bond with my brother and a new idea of why we do this and who I am. This simple yet complex idea of going outside and sitting on the ground and waiting for some birds, brought me to the conclusion that a good day is what you make of it. I believe this corresponds to your life as well. A good life is what you make of it, and I plan to make the best out of mine.
Hunting, fishing, family- this came hand in hand in my childhood. Being outdoors allowed me to spend more time with family I don’t see often, and build stronger relationships with the ones I do. Most of the best days of my life involved my family. This was made possible by the two great parents I was blessed with who are more than willing to make time and pick up a rod or gun and go somewhere. My parents are two of the most hardworking people I have ever known. They give all they have and work for more so that they can give my brothers and I the best life possible. I have endless amounts of memories due to them. Many kids my age have not been blessed with as great of parents as I have been. Most teenagers sit around in front of a TV screen playing XBOX and not giving a care about the outdoors. Hope for our future wildlife and outdoors community is diminishing and we have to put our trust in our younger men and women to protect the world.
Alongside my family I have lucked out with some awesome friends who are very much involved in the outdoors. Sharing time fishing or hunting with my friends really provides a closer relationship. You see each other at your best when you are truly in your element, but also you see the worst side when nothing on the trip seems to go right. But what is amazing about the experiences I’ve witnessed and been a part of is the self awareness we express to each other. I ́ve had fishing days with my friends where it seemed every cast we were catching a fish, but I’ve also had many outings when we haven’t caught one. What I noticed about the difference between the two of these is when you are having a standout day of fishing you are obsessed with catching more and more, and you get somewhat greedy. The days when you don’t catch much or any at all, you become aware and grateful of your surroundings and the beauty of the nature and you notice where you are physically and spiritually. I fish for these moments. I’ve become a better man, fisherman, and friend while sharing experiences with ones I am closest with.
I have been working to become a dedicated fly fisherman. If you aren’t familiar with fly fishing you should really invest some time in looking into it, but this article is not a fly fishing tutorial. As the title suggests, this article is about why I hunt and fish. Obviously the main goal of fishing is to catch the biggest and baddest fish, but there are many more important reasons as to why I do what I do. Everyone has a hobby that they enjoy to partake in during their free time, fishing is that for me. But I want more out of fishing than just an every now and then hobby. I’ve heard my whole life, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I believe you have to work to be able to be happy, and that happiness comes from the resulting product of your hard work. That moment when you hook into the fish you have been waiting for for hours or even days is the feeling of true satisfaction. All the time and effort put into catching that fish, whether it be casting after school on the football field or studying every feature of this fish and it’s patterns, comes to full form when reaching that moment of this fish’s great fight. I strive to make fly fishing not just a hobby, but a career and a life. I feel true purpose when I am in the presence of water and these amazing creatures.
Making a livelihood out of fishing cannot happen without amazing people helping you along the way. What I’ve found out about fly fishing that really drew me in was the community. Fly fishing people, I believe, are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They never fail to give you a handshake or tell you what is biting and always a “how are you?”. I may never see the people that I meet on fishing trips again, but I will never forget them. Just recently we took a fly fishing trip to El Pescador, Belize. Every dinner at this fishing lodge, they would group you at a table with another group. This was an awesome chance to meet new people and hear their stories and their advice of what they’ve learned over time, and I’ve become a much better fisherman just by listening to experienced ones. I take this knowledge and pass it on to friends and family. My friends and I have built an amazing friend group that revolves around fishing. The experiences you share when you all have a common goal is exhilarating, and some of my best days are spent with family in friends fishing. Fly fishing has truly opened my eyes to a world that fits me perfectly and is always welcoming more.
Hunting on the other hand has always played a huge role in my life. I remember the time I shot my first whitetail, my dad looked at me and gave me a high five and a “heck yeah!”; a connection that would only get stronger and become more important. At the age of 8, I only knew a few things and one of those was the importance of the deer and harvesting the meat and thanking it for everything we got from it; including the experience. After every deer we shoot, we call in to our taxidermist in West Texas and tell him that we have a deer to bring in. When arriving at the taxidermy there is already a local family waiting there for us and the deer. These families take the whole deer and I’m sure they use every part of the deer that they can. This is an amazing reason for why I keep hunting and donating. On the other hand, if we decide to keep the meat, I can only help but feel like the provider of the household. But that feeling soon fades, for I am the youngest and it is my older brothers’ jobs to make sure I don’t feel too good about myself.
However, it is still an amazing way to acquire your food. Many people these days ask me questions about why I hunt, and occasionally I’ve even gotten the “what has that deer ever done to you” from a few people. Very frequently I’ll respond the same way and ask them if they themselves eat meat, and usually they say yes because I don’t much incorporate with vegans. I simply ask “what has that cow or chicken done to you?”. Now this response is a simple answer and somewhat of a kidding answer, but many people do not understand what, how, or why we do what we do. Hunting is an excuse to share times with family and build stronger relationships, and I am blessed to have been raised a hunter.
Through my small amount of experiences I’ve questioned why I spend time on these things and I’ve realized why. I hunt so I can sit in a blind for two hours with just my dad and me and silence. I hunt for the comradery of the sport and the experiences. I fish for the future relationships and experiences. I fish for the conversations about fish to be yet caught. But for whatever reason you do anything, do it because you love to do what you do. And that is why I hunt and fish, because I love the true simple happiness I feel when I am present in these moments.