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By age three, the little girl was tagging along to turkey calling contests, where she would proudly watch her father compete. Dressed in camouflage, she would carry around a push-pin turkey call and tell all of the other contestants about her daddy's hunting success. When she was around four, Wayne eagerly took his daughter afield. He found dove hunting to be a perfect excursion to include the little girl. She would sit and play with the dog or build dirt piles on the ground until her father told her the birds were coming, at which time she would freeze as she had been taught, enthusiastically watching the sky and sometimes she was even allowed to shoot her BB gun for practice. Again, Wayne would take time to explain every action to his daughter. The little girl loved going hunting with her father and accordingly, she would never have to beg to accompany him.
As she grew up, she accompanied her father on many trapping and hunting trips, anticipating the day that she could go with her gun, and each time she was schooled in everything about the hunt, from scouting to cleaning the game. Wayne was teaching her all he knew. He wanted his daughter to enjoy the outdoors as well as be knowledgeable and respectful towards the animals and their abode. In the evenings, she would sit on his lap in their big recliner and watch hunting videos, quiz over duck species, or practice calling.
When she became capable as a shooter and hunter, as able as a 6-year-old could be, Wayne took her squirrel hunting and she was ecstatic when she shot her first squirrel. After this, the little girl was addicted and Wayne had a hunting buddy. At that time, the laws in Missouri did not allow a child to hunt big game until the age of nine, but neither Wayne nor his little girl could wait that long.
When the child was ready to hunt with a rifle, Wayne began to take her to Oklahoma to hunt for rams. Her first kill was an Angora goat and Wayne could not have been more proud. By this time, the little girl was following in her father's footsteps. They would travel the country together, hunting and competing in turkey calling contests. His daughter had become quit skilled and was beating all the little (and not so little) boys in the youth division. At the trade shows Wayne was hired to do turkey hunting seminars. His daughter heard so many of them that she had them memorized. She would sit in the Quaker Boy booth at the shows and almost answer questions about calling before her father could. His pride grew and he would beam as men stood amazed at this little girl who could outcall most of them and who was answering their hunting questions.
Age nine did not come soon enough for Wayne or his daughter. Her birthday came and she acquired her hunter safety card. It was finally time for deer and turkey hunting. Deer season came one month later and the little girl was beside herself. Wayne had carefully scouted an area that would provide many deer sightings. He had spent the summer finding the perfect spot and had built a tree stand that would be large enough for the both of them to sit in. Opening day of deer season he was there with his daughter. When a doe showed up with in range, he coached her through the steps of taking off her safety and aiming. She did not need to hear this as she had practiced for this day for so long, but she didn't mind the refresher course. Wayne's heart began to beat fast as his increasingly heavy breath began to fog his daughter's scope. As the trigger was squeezed he saw the doe run off into the woods. "Great Shot!" He told her excitedly. He went over the safety steps as his daughter unloaded her gun and began to climb down from the tree stand. Together they walked to where the deer had stood. Patiently Wayne watched his daughter use her knowledge to find a blood trail. He helped her and slowly walked next to her as she walked bent towards the ground, animatedly looking for blood, pointing to it, and grinning with each new spot. After about one hundred and fifty yards of intense trailing, she came upon her prey. She hugged her father as she jumped and screamed elatedly. She stroked the doe and hugged it. Wayne was so proud, he knew that his daughter had become a good woodsman and hunter, and more importantly he knew that she loved it.
That was the first of many deer that I would hunt with my father. I can still remember the hunt vividly, as well as his hug after we found the deer. My father was the most unselfish man I knew when it came to hunting. He cared more about my being successful in the woods than himself, sitting with me until I was successful, as long as it took. I also remember the first time that I asked to deer hunt by myself. He reluctantly let me, but gave me a walkie-talkie to take along and radioed every ten minutes or so to make sure I was fine or see if I needed anything. When he heard my shot, he was there without hesitation. He was so proud to find an eight point lying under my stand.
My father and I have had many hunting adventures together, including deer, turkey, elk, birds, and more. He is proud of me that he carries pictures of me and my game around in his briefcase to show all the guys at the hunting shows. For fifteen years, I was his hunting buddy, and I still am, but this year I had to tell him that I would not be hunting with him. I have married and moved to a farm where we have plenty of land to hunt on, and I decided to deer hunt there instead of on my dad's lease. It seemed to crush him when I told him that I would not be joining him deer season, but he understood and called everyday to see how I did and what I had seen that day.
I have many years of hunting left with my dad and I plan to take my vacations to various parts of the country where we can hunt together. He taught me so much growing up and gave me so many opportunities that I will never be able to thank him enough, but I hope that this Father's Day I can show him a little bit of gratitude for all he has done. We will be going squirrel hunting and having a big squirrel dinner for all the family. By the way, because of my father, hunting has spread through the family... my mom, sister, brother, nephews, and niece all hunt. Now he has a granddaughter that is five and this particular little girl has a certain twinkle in her eye when "papa" tells her about the deer mounts on the wall. He bought her a BB gun this year and when she comes and visits, they sit together and watch the outdoor channel from his recliner. She cannot wait to go dove hunting with him this year and when he is with her, he wears that familiar proud smile.
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