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Sportsman’s Quest: You always remember the firsts

While looking through my old picture albums I noticed many of the pictures, and the ones I enjoy most, are of firsts - pictures of my first deer, first bear, first sheep, and first salmon. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, as our memories of first events are often most vivid, and we have a special feeling for other firsts as well.

We remember our first toys, first teacher, first kiss, first date and of course our first car. As we grow older we are occasionally reminded of meeting our mates for the first time, proposing and the children’s first steps - and the cycle goes on.

There are always more firsts to look forward to and we need that to keep growing and reviving or recreating ourselves, anticipating and appreciating the next chapter in our lives. Does this mean we can’t enjoy the feeling of that first deer, moose or bear?

The answer to that is a resounding, NO!

It’s a fact we can’t repeat, with the same intensity, the experience for ourselves.

But, the excitement, emotion and satisfaction can be enjoyed by sharing the experience with our sons, daughters, friends or other beginning outdoor enthusiasts, which brings us back to the albums and pictures.

My son Peter’s first big game hunt was for moose. We set up a comfortable camp on an isolated lake one afternoon, prepared our tent, enjoyed a meal of fresh-caught rainbow trout and ruffed grouse, while sitting around the campfire.

He was too young for a fine cigar, but I think he enjoyed my company and stories of previous hunts as I indulged myself. We turned in early that night in anticipation of the next day’s hunt. That was a great bonding time, and I remember it well; we did a lot of bonding that evening.

Early the next morning we were up and quietly heading around the lake and into a likely-looking area of spruce, aspen and willows. Peter was the first one to see the young moose ahead and on the hillside - we devised a plan to circle above and up-wind of our prey and perhaps get in range, without being seen, heard or scented.

We continued on very sl-o-o-owly. As we got closer, I noticed Peter’s nervousness and perhaps a slight adrenaline tremor in his hand. Why not? My adrenaline was pumping too! I wanted him to be able to harvest this animal - his first, and remember it, as I remembered my first.

As we got within range we sat down, looked at each other and smiled a nervous smile.

I whispered, “Do you want him?” He responded with an affirmative head nod, and I responded likewise. Peter then took a deep breath, found a stable shooting position, as we had practiced many times before, and gently squeezed (not pulled) the trigger.

The animal took two steps and fell; a follow-up shot wasn’t necessary. We looked at each other as I gave him one of those “well done” pats on the shoulder.

The congratulatory handshake and “atta boys” came later as we sat beside, admired, and yes, felt a bit of remorse for this magnificent animal and the significance of this “first”, which was to be our winter meat.

There have been many trips since and I hope there will be many more. We were together for his first trout, grouse and squirrel. Later, it was his first deer and bear.

I am now looking forward to his first African safari - I want to be there and see if, like the other hunts, I can relive my firsts.

This is a unique, but universal, experience also felt by my friends’ “first hunts” with their families. I know my friend and fellow Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member, Fred Schmidt, felt it when his daughter Katie harvested her first deer, as he did when his wife Robyn harvested her first antelope.

Yes, you can relive some of your firsts; you just can’t do it alone. But after all, getting outdoors and enjoying the chase is better when practiced with friends and family. That’s what it’s really all about.

I have also enjoyed the first-time experiences of my pal, Ol’ Seldom. I can remember the first time he missed that broad-side shot at 50 yards, the first time he tried to “horse-in” that 35-pound salmon, and the box and a half of 20-gauge No. 7’s he used to down his first dove.

Oh, I remember it well; we’ve all been there, and it is reassuring to know that we are not alone.

Some of the recent readers have been asking about Ol’ Seldom, and how he got his name, so I will share this with you once again.

I believe Ol’ Seldom may be a fictitious character, but I’m not sure of the absolute definition of fictitious. He has been known to stretch the truth (he’s a fisherman). It’s been said that many of his stories are fictitious and he is a character. Does that make him a fictitious character?

Some say Ol’ Seldom got his name because he seldom gets near soap and water, he seldom is able to find his money when the lunch tab comes, he seldom works, and he seldom has the necessary gear when fishing (he “borrows” it from his fishing partners). But, there is one thing to which I’ll bear witness - he seldom goes home without fish. He is one of the most skillful, or luckiest, fishermen I know. I am sure you will continue to hear the saga of Ol’ Seldom as these stories progress. I hope you’ll join us fishing someday and enjoy him as much as I do - he’s my pal.

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