In the spirit of the holidays, we’re counting down our top four guest posts until Christmas! These posts were the most viewed and shared this year and totally worth another look. In third place we have Katie McKalip’s post – enjoy! And congrats Katie!!
I was paying for my new shotgun, several years ago in a sporting good store, when it hit me.
Hunting had become part of my identity. But I wasn’t sure exactly how it happened.
Growing up, I had few opportunities to get afield, even though both my parents came from hunting and fishing families. And my upbringing in the suburbs of a city that severely restricted personal firearms ownership was hardly one that celebrated sporting pursuits.
But then I moved out west after college and had the good fortune to fall for a man who appreciated public lands and open spaces and opening weekends of various game species. I started going hunting, with him and then with other friends, for deer and elk and waterfowl but mostly upland birds. Gradually, borrowing guns became an inconvenience – not to mention that some of the guns I borrowed were too large for me, at 5 feet 4 inches, to easily manage.
So I picked up a used shotgun, a single shot youth model that fit my frame but kicked like a mule. I took it on a few hunts and clays shoots but knew I could do better. This led to me acquiring a Remington 870, a tried-and-true model that can lay legitimate claim to the term “America’s favorite pump shotgun.” Suddenly, I had a small but growing gun collection…and an increasing love for a “life in the open,” as Theodore Roosevelt called it. And like so many roads we walk in our lives, I found myself wondering what had brought me so far down the one where I had at that moment found myself.
What made me come to love hunting?
The time afield was a big part of it, of course…the anticipation of pre-dawn awakenings during big-game season, the comradery of upland hunts and watching the dogs work a field or creek bottom. And certainly the excitement of downing a bird or making a kill.
But the traditions resonated with me, as well. The forests and fields I hunt in the northern Rockies and the passion these lands inspire, particularly in sportsmen, resulting in their being open and free to any citizen like myself who cares to visit them. The shared experiences with friends and mentors, who welcomed me and easily shared their knowledge, also played a part.
The more intimate, family traditions matter, too. My father’s tales of the trapline he ran as a kid in northwestern Pennsylvania, my mother’s stories of her father ice fishing on the Great Lakes. My husband’s recollection that for him and his three brothers, opening day of big-game season was bigger than Christmas. And the anticipation of building those memories with my own kids someday.
My oldest is three now, old enough to get excited when her dad heads out to elk camp or when I talk about an upcoming bird hunting trip.
Someday she might carry on our family traditions. If she decides to try her hand at shooting, she’ll already have a gun, because the Remington 870 I bought is the youth model, a better fit for me than the standard size.
By the time she’s ready to use it, I just might be ready to add to my collection again.
Katie McKalip is director of media relations for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. She serves on the board of directors for Conservation Hawks and is a board counsel for the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She lives in Montana.