My Dad, The Wise Hunter
The hunting season is in full swing. Everywhere you look you see people dressed in camoflauge clothing and quite often you spot a pickup that has one or more deer or antelope in the box. Walk into a sporting goods store, and you will see hunters purchasing what they need for hunting.
Although I’ve never gone deer or antelope or elk hunting, I vividly remember hunting squirrels, rabbits and quail when I was growing up in southeast Iowa.
Fishing and hunting were a necessity for my family. Dad, a coal miner, was out of work from the first of April to the first of October. Being a miner, he was provided coal for home and business heat. Even though he returned to the mines in October, my parents still didn’t have an excess of money. So we raised a huge garden and went fishing and hunting to cut down on money spent for food.
Dad and I, and later on when he was old enough, my brother, would go squirrel hunting every Saturday in the fall. Usually we took home six to 10 squirrels.
In the winter, we went rabbit hunting. I recall one rabbit hunting expedition that ended with the sleeves of my brother’s shirt in tatters and long scratches on his forearms.
Dad always told us that when we hunted we harvested only what we could use and we never left a wounded animal behind. This particular day, we had come upon several rabbits sitting near a pile of brush in the woods. Dad shot at one of the rabbits but his aim was a bit off and the wounded rabbit darted into the brush pile.
My brother instantly said he would get the rabbit. Dad told him to wait, that we needed to be careful in how we got the rabbit because since it was wounded there was no telling what would happen.
But my brother ran to the brush pile and started tearing into it to get the rabbit. It wasn’t long before we heard him yelling. He’d gotten hold of the rabbit alright, but not before its back feet had shredded his shirt sleeves and left his forearms streaming blood from many scratches.
When my Dad and I got to my brother, we found the rabbit had died of its wound. Dad scooped up handfuls of snow and put it on my brother’s arms to stop the bleeding. Taking off his coat, Dad wrapped it around my brother and we headed for home.
The next week when it was time to go rabbit hunting, my brother told Dad that he would not be so quick to go after a wounded one again.
Whether it was squirrel or rabbit, Mom would either fry them much as you do chicken, bake them, or make them into meatloaf or stew.
Hunting kept meat on our table throughout the fall and winter. Without going hunting, we would not have had meat a lot of days.
Dad instilled in my brother and me that you only hunted for food and you never, ever took more than you needed. Neither did you take only part of the game you killed and leave the rest. He taught us to respect the game we hunted, the fish we caught, and to be thankful for what we harvested.
To this day, all that Dad taught us about fishing and hunting remains ingrained in my brother and me.