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Dan Simmons: The trophy and the reward that goes with it

Hunting is about more than just a trophy or even the delicious pure meat reward that can be the result of being part of, and participant in, the natural pursuit in which man has been involved from the beginning of recorded time and even before.

Hunting is, and always has been, about the group or family that by working together achieves success. It’s also about the preparation and planning prior to the hunt, the campfire stories and retelling and memorializing the hunt, always together.

There is no better example of this than a parent passing on the tradition to the next generation, as it should be. In this story, the father, Sam Charles, and his son Anthony have been sharing time, and lots of it, in the field each season.

One reward Anthony has achieved is seven tags and seven successful hunts. With the guidance of his father, he has become a fine hunter and conservationist.

It all started when Anthony was 10 years old, accompanying his dad, and like many of us took on the role of bird retriever and packer. At the time the boy’s primary wish, like many of ours, was to hurry up and get a dog and a first gun to join dad on the hunt.

That opportunity came at age 12, with his first deer tag and his first success. This was followed with five more tags for elk, antelope and deer. All were successful, making it six for six. And then came tag seven.

It was an antelope tag, and they had seen a good one the year before north of Austin, Nevada, near a guzzler. As opening day came, and long before daylight, they jumped in Dad’s red Dodge 2500 with a pop-up, and they were off. Anthony now had a 7mm Winchester Short Magnum rifle and plenty of practice with his dad. Another season had begun, together.

It was a long drive with lots of stories, plans, backup plans and what-ifs. They were on the trail again and eventually arrived at the spot they had discussed and dreamt of for the past year. They were not disappointed.

As they began the hunter’s task of glassing the distant hills, it appeared as if there was an antelope convention on a hillside several miles away. This called for a closer look, and on they drove from 2 miles distant. Yep, there were a couple of good ones in the bunch.

They noticed the animal in the lead was significantly larger, and Dad gave Anthony his marching orders, “Get out and go get ‘em,” he said. Sam then got back in the truck and drove down the road a bit to put the truck out of sight behind a small hill. (Haven’t we all done this maneuver?) The small hill made an excellent observation site, so he set up his spotting scope and watched the show.

Anthony dropped into a ravine and slowly closed the distance. Two hours of careful stalking brought him to within 250 yards, but the buck laid down and was out of sight. The waiting game began. Thirty minutes later, the buck stood up and started walking toward the hunter. Sensing something, he started running to the right, but he made the fatal mistake. He paused, giving Anthony the shot he was waiting for, and he was down.

At this point, Dad “lost it” and started shouting through tears, “You hit him; wait for me.” And Anthony called back, “I hit ’em; bring the pack and cleaning gear.”

As they came together, they joined hands in a prayer of thanksgiving for the tag, the buck and being together. This was the culmination of lifelong encouragement, training, skill, luck and perseverance. It continues.

When they arrived home I’m told mom “freaked out,” too. Then the work continued as they prepared the reward of pure, fresh steaks and roasts, together.

Following the required 60-day drying out period, the antelope horns officially were measured with a score of 80. This was a Boone and Crockett Record Book trophy. Well, I’ve seen the certificate and I’m just waiting for a couple of those steaks. Congratulations to my fellow hunters.

If you have a story or something to share e-mail me, dansimmons@usa.net

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