Mentors are king of the woods- by J. Martino

Mentors are king of the woods By: John Martino It’s a pivotal time for the tradition of hunting. Due to urbanization, countless activities for children and the constant draw of electronics, today’s youth are getting less exposure to the outdoors and even showing less interest in hunting. This weekend marked the opening of this year’s firearm deer hunting season. Thankfully, many children will share this experience with their grandfather, father, uncle or other adult mentor. “Sunup is the coldest time of the day,” will be said time and time again. Whether it’s true or not, who knows, but I’m sure the phrase will reverberate through numerous woodlots. For the next several weeks the woods will be filled with sportsmen and more importantly – children. Many of these youngsters will be sitting in tree stands or ground blinds. Their fists balled up in thick gloves and feet curled up in two pairs of socks packed into thick boots. The shiver that runs up their spine will not be so much from the cold but from the excitement of what the day may hold. This is a special time of year when many fathers will be taking sons and daughters on their first deer hunting adventures. They will be doing their best to pass on important safety measures as well as a wealth of useful knowledge. These mentors will say things like “only move when the deer can’t see you,” or “always pay attention to the wind so a deer can’t smell you.” Whether sharing a two-seat “buddy stand” or sitting together in a blind the adults will be looked upon as King of the Woods. Their gun will be held like a scepter, their orange hat a regal crown. Children at a young age are impressionable and eagerly await more words of wisdom as they wait legal shooting time. They will notice everything, like the steam that rises from spoken words of their father’s breath, which smells like a hint of morning coffee or last night’s beer. As time moves on and the years pass, a natural evolution will take place. These same children will make less time to hunt. Their weekends will become occupied by friends, members of the opposite sex and school activities. After graduation many will move on to college and then new careers. But as their life gets settled they will feel a hidden sense of urgency to reconnect with things they remembered and enjoyed earlier in life. They will again find themselves driving in the pre-dawn darkness with their father or maybe even their own children, drinking coffee from that same old thermos. Many will visit the deer woods they knew in years past. As they spend the day together they will become keenly aware of the gray hairs sticking out of their father’s old hunting cap. They will also observe how time has made their dad’s step a bit slower, but regardless, he will still be looked on as King of the Woods. There is one thing everyone will notice, regardless of the number of deer taken through the years. It will be the somber realization they have already taken a true trophy, the special prize of just being in the woods together. After all, it really wasn’t deer they were after, but a relationship – a man and a child in pursuit of each other. On these types of hunts success is always seen. To all the fathers who will accompany their child for the first time this fall – cherish it. To the youngsters – revel in it for the rest of your lives. For those who will be spending time in the woods with your own father, be thankful that you have a parent who made it possible while always believing in you. I wish you all a safe and successful hunt and of course always pay attention to the wind and remember that sunup is the coldest time of the day.