The Campfire

Hunting in the wild outdoors is a lost pastime

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a strong, nearly uncontrollable pull to the outdoors. Only God knows exactly where this desire came from. It feels primitive and it resounds deep into my very soul.

By Payton Woolsey

When I walk into the woods with a bow in hand, I’m the most me I could ever be. But, growing up, I had parents who didn’t hunt. My father enjoyed getting a line wet, however, but more in a dabbling manner — so that doesn’t really count.

For me as a child, it took a good while before I finally got my chance to hunt whitetail deer.

Finally, my Uncle Jeff, who was a pretty good hunter himself, offered to take me with him. Little did I know, what an absolute madman he was. He seems to be able to stay warm on nothing but Marlboro Lights, Pepsi, and donuts.

But had it not been for Uncle Jeff I may never have been an outdoors-man.

Deer hunting

Not my Uncle Jeff and I, but a nice re-creating. Photo Credit: Umdende Hunting Safaris

My first deer hunt was cold and windy as shit. I remember quite openly and realistically asking myself, “what in the hell was I doing out there?”

Also, I might add, Uncle Jeff isn’t one of those morning hunts and evening hunt kind of guys. Rather, all day sits on public land.

Let me tell you, it was a reality check from watching monster bucks killed in Southern Iowa on TV. To this day, every last deer I’ve ever seen on public land has been running for its life.

But, I’ll be damned if I didn’t stick it out. Finally, on one of the last days of the season, three does were trotting by at about 80 yards.

Jeff started to say, “do you wanna shoot one-” BOOM, off went the ancient Winchester .30-30.My heart was pounding, and adrenaline was rushing to my head. I was hooked.

The deer hunting was the more natural part, but chasing public land gobblers is about twice as hard as a witch hunt.

The area I cut my hunting teeth is south of Salem, Missouri, on a 15,000 acre stretch of Mark Twain National Forest — with nothing but timber, high ridges, with broad, deep valleys between. I cannot express how steep these ridges are.

Also this crazy bastard, aka Uncle Jeff, liked to run up and down chasing turkeys that had heard every call ever uttered.

He would get to the top of a ridge and slump at the base of an oak tree and light a cig. I always thought it was impressive how little of the cigarette butt was in his mouth, and it never fell out. He was bobbling all around as he spoke, Wheezing and out of breath.

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Looking back, I’m not sure how he didn’t up and die. I’m in much better shape than he and I concluded it was suicide to keep hunting with him. But, I did anyway, and it’s generated some of the most memorable moments of my entire life.

If you are a hunter, I sure hope you take a kid out along with you. The hunter indeed is a dying breed, and its art must be passed on.

If you are an adult interested in hunting, there are groups and events to introduce you to Turkey and deer hunting.

Hell, contact me even. As long as you don’t stink and don’t mind bad jokes, I’ll take you along. We all need an Uncle Jeff in our lives.

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