I’ve loved hunting and fishing ever since I was old enough to remember. When I started dove hunting I was so little I couldn’t reach the trigger on my sister’s double-barrel Fox so I had to hold it under my arm. Dad only let me put in one shell. Hunting as a kid with Dad provided some of the happiest memories of my life.
The absolute best was when it was just me and Dad. I had him all to myself. He’d tell me stories. Once when he was a kid he only had one bullet left. He stalked a rabbit and finally had a shot. He took it to town and sold it for 25 cents, exactly what he needed to buy another box of .22 ammo. The Depression was tough.
As I grew older our comradeship just deepened as we went on bigger and better trips. Even after I had left home, every deer season I’d rush home and the first call I made would be to Dad to tell him detail by detail about the hunt. Today I still love to hunt. Only now I no longer have Dad with whom to share my stories. He died 27 years ago leaving left a void that nothing will ever fill.
I tell you this so you can understand how much it meant to me when I had my own children. I didn’t have boys, but in this day and age that’s no big deal. You see a lot of young girls in the woods all “camo’d out,” trudging behind their dads. It was now my turn to pass on this rich heritage of the Claycomb family. This was a tradition that originated between a dad and his offspring long before taking a kid to a soccer game became a fad.
Sometimes we hunters face not only challenging experiences, but some that are dangerous or life-threatening. I could not wait to get shoulder to shoulder with my kids to explain things just like Dad had done with me. It was as if I were destined for such golden moments. So you can imagine how proud I was when my oldest daughter, Cami, decided to spend a day with Dad hunting.
Cami was 13 so there was no doubt in her mind that this was a great sacrifice. By this time she had become very active in tennis. In fact, she’d made it to the Team USA Nationals in Chicago for the ages-16-and-under league where she made it all the way to the finals.
I took a day of vacation and we loaded up to head for our first hunting spot. Back then there wasn’t any comfortable kids’ outdoor clothing. That was unfortunate because when kids are in their formative years, they’ll drop the outdoors or anything else that isn’t comfortable for something else and likely won’t return.
"I could not wait to get shoulder to shoulder with my kids to explain things just like Dad had done with me. It was as if I were destined for such golden moments."So you can imagine how proud I was when Cami took off in pursuit of her game. I was equally proud of little Kolby, 11, who bit her bottom lip and followed her big sister’s example. My years of begging them to go hunting with me did not have near the influence Cami had over her sister.
It was cool to see the big sister turn around and patiently wait on the little sister trudging 10 yards behind, encouraging her to keep up. Our field was covered with other hunters. When that happens to me, I never wait on anyone.
The girls and I hit it hard for 6½ hours, stopping only once to eat, and that was because I was hungry. They would’ve skipped eating altogether. I had to stop once more for the restroom. They pleaded to go around once more, seeking their game, while I stopped. I let them go ahead of me.
As is the case sometimes, it took a while to find our quarry. We were into the last minutes of legal hunting time for this special father/daughter hunt. Little Kolby’s eyes were wide open, focused on three different targets, though she only could bag one. Which shot would she take?
While Kolby’s eyes darted back and forth, Cami zeroed in on her target. It was time to pull the trigger. Kolby wanted to know which shot to take. I had to let her make this decision herself. I wouldn’t always be there to help her. But as usual, here came her big sister. Without a moment’s hesitation Cami said, “The red one, Kolby. It would definitely look better on you.”
You see our game was not a rabbit or deer. No, our goal was to get the best deal at the Boise Town Square Mall in a last-minute Christmas shopping frenzy. I’ve seen feeding sharks with less intensity than these two little girls showed that day.
No, we weren’t out hunting in the mountains but so what. We’d had the time of our lives fighting the crowds to find a good deal. We’d been together all day and had talked just like Dad and I had when I was a kid. And so what if our bag was not full of meat, but rather 10-items-for-$5 from the Claire’s accessories store. And no, we didn’t eat sausage and eggs and sip coffee from a steaming pot, but instead enjoyed Orange Julius’s and soup in a bread bowl.
And no, we never saw one bull but I did see a glitter in an 11-year-old’s eyes that shone brighter than any as she was accepted by her big sister. I did see a big sister help and encourage her little sister. And I did have two little girls hug me and tell me how much they loved me and what a great day they’d had. Yep, I’d just had the best hunt of my life and never fired a shot.