One man's passion for hunting is over; the tales remain
After nearly 60 years, I no longer hunt. I always looked forward to opening day, basking in the sun (not ideal waterfowl hunting conditions...
Special to The Seattle Times
COULEE DAM — After nearly 60 years, I no longer hunt.
I always looked forward to opening day, basking in the sun (not ideal waterfowl hunting conditions, to be sure) with my transistor radio tuned in to the Dawgs, Cougs or the World Series.
But last Saturday, when waterfowl season opened, I slept in.
I wasn't the average weekend hunter. I live in north-central Washington and have duck and goose hunting within 15 minutes of the house. Some 25 years ago, I hunted at least twice a week during the 14 weeks of the season.
I didn't learn this ritual at my father's knee. I have been pretty much self-taught. Since 1948, I have documented each year by saving every combined hunting-fishing-federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp affixed to the back of a hunting license in a scrapbook.
I have heard of many who have given up on the sport and I always wondered, "How could they if they had the passion that I had?" Some said they didn't like to kill animals — after eating a Big Mac a few hours before hunting; others said their hunting companion had passed away and it just wasn't the same anymore, and so it goes.
Health and energy became a factor for me in recent years. Vision, hearing and cancer made hunting a big challenge.
When I began, a few years after WW II, I was introduced to deer hunting. There were a number of Japanese and German weapons that had been brought home as souvenirs by members of the armed forces. They were converted into sporting arms but there was one problem. Some were said to be sabotaged and might blow up when fired.
If unfamiliar with a weapon, owners were advised to test them before they were used in the field. My friend's father acquired a Japanese rifle that had been given to him by a friend. He didn't know the history of the piece, so it had to be test fired.
Tied in the fork of a tree with a long string attached to the trigger, the rifle was loaded and the weapon was cocked. We all hunkered down some distance away, his father pulled the lanyard and the gun fired. It didn't explode and was deemed safe to use as a hunting rifle. It was dutifully handed to me and became my rifle as long as I hunted deer.
Then came waterfowl hunting, my longest hunting passion. I've hunted ducks and geese on the Skagit and Stillaguamish flats, rivers, ponds and lakes and corn and wheat stubble fields in Washington and Wyoming.
I owned four Labrador Retrievers at one time or another. The first one, from the Seattle pound, was mostly a "pot licker." He refused to retrieve, and I gave him away to a friend in North Bonneville. He told me that shortly after I gave him away, he retrieved a warm Thanksgiving apple pie. He never found out whose pie it was.
The other three dogs came from recognized retriever kennels in the Seattle area. They were purchased at between 6 to 8 weeks old, and I had them until they were euthanized between 12 to 15 years. Nick was buried in a garden in Wyoming, Barrabas in a flower garden in Coulee Dam and Genghis in an abandoned goose pit in Grant County. Then came a myriad bunch of other "tools" that a waterfowler needs to be successful: silhouette, shell and floater decoys; bird calls, warm camouflaged clothing, rain gear and probably the most important part of getting you to where you want to go, a four-wheel drive vehicle.
My adult children have no interest any more in hunting, although they accompanied me when they were younger. If I burned them out, they never said. Their spouses came from non-hunting families, and consequently their children, my grandkids, have no interest, either.
I'm probably not buying any more duck stamps. Instead, I will begin wading through my collection of hunting paraphernalia, with big plans to have a huge yard sale next year.
But even after that, I'll still have six decades of memories.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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