What is a hobby?
The dictionary’s definition is “An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” I guess by that definition hunting is my hobby, but it feels more involved than just a way to spend time. I have had other hobbies, such as kayaking, basketball, hiking and the like, but I do not feel as strong of a connection to them as I do hunting. I believe it has a lot to do with how I was raised and what has been passed on to me from previous generations.
My grandpa was a subsistence hunter. He grew up in the back woods of West Virginia where the only meat his family ate was from what he brought home from the mountains. It started early in life when he became the sole protein provider for his family while his dad fought in WWII. They survived on squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, and many other lesser used animals. By the age of 18 he probably spent more time in the woods then most people have in an entire life time.
He used to say, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” It was a motto he lived by. Every school year he would start, but come hunting season he would start skipping class. The same thing happened when the coach wanted him to play football. He started playing but as soon as hunting season came around, off to the woods. I think my Grandma said he only had a 7th grade education. I know that did not matter to him he got the education he wanted. He was schooled in the woods.
Everything changed when he joined the Navy. He ended up in the belly of a destroyer as a boiler tender during the Korean Conflict. This is probably the only time in his life he spent more than a few days out of the woods. When he got out he could have gotten a pretty lucrative job as a boiler tender, but he realized it would not give him the freedom he desired. He ended up starting his own roofing and siding business, so he could work hard all spring and summer and slowdown in the fall and winter and concentrate on hunting.
He passed his love for hunting and the outdoors down to his wife and kids. Before he married my grandma, my Great grandma told her, “If you want this marriage to work you better get yourself a shotgun and a fishing pole.” and she did. The entire family hunted, all five kids, two boys and three girls it did not matter.
From the time I was four I hunted with him. He was there for my first kill, a groundhog at age five and my first deer, a nice eight point buck at age 11. We went on hundreds of hunts up until age 18, when I joined the army and was stationed in Germany. I was able to come home on leave and go hunting with him. I wounded a button buck that he helped me track. I was able to get another shot and recover the deer. It was the last time I would ever hunt with him. A few months later he suffered a heart attack, which led to a stroke. He passed away before the next deer season.
He passed on to me more than just a hobby. He passed on a way of life. I rarely go to his grave, in fact I have not been there in years. He is not there. He lives in the woods. Every time I hunt he hunts with me.
I am a hunter because he was a hunter. Hunting is not my hobby, it is my heritage.