It was Christmas and the old farmhouse rang with laughter. Gathered around the dining room table our family spent the evening sharing memories and spinning yarns. As always, this included the telling of hunting stories.
Seated at the far end of the table, my 93-year-old grandfather kept us in stitches. Blessed with good health and a sharp mind, he still remembers more than he has forgotten, including how to use his dry sense of humor.
Wanting my three boys to hear their great-grandfather’s hunting stories, I asked, “Grandpa, when did our family start hunting in Grayling, Michigan?” He cleared his throat and said, “It was around 1927… ” and for at least an hour we sat captivated by his stories.
His gnarled hands motioned as he described drooping pine boughs and big antlers. Tales of bad blizzards and the biggest buck he ever saw captivated our attention. Spellbound, we listened of the War years when ammo was scarce and all he had was a couple rounds for an old .32 Winchester Special.
We grew tense as grandpa remembered being lost in the big Michigan woods. His experiences of tenting in the cold and stalking bucks in the snow were book worthy. We smiled as he told of all the effort that went into crippling an old car across the miles, just so he could hunt another season.
It was an honor to listen to sixty plus years of hunting reminisces.
When Grandfather finished, I asked if he had kept his little red hunting hatchet and he assured me that he did. This was the little red hatchet he carried for as long we had hunted together.
It was with that little red hatchet and a swift stroke that Grandpa would send a piece of pine bark flying. Exposing a bright white blaze on selected trees, those marks would become my roadmap to and from where I was hunting. With a Marbles compass and those ivory crescents, he made sure I could find my way in the dawn or darkness.
My interest in the hatchet is founded in the belief – this isn’t an ordinary hatchet. Maybe I’m just sentimental, but in my heart I believe the hatchet represents a whole lot more.
There is a legacy represented in that pitch stained piece of steel. That hatchet is a memoir of a mentor who passed on a heritage of hunting and the great outdoors. Every tree he blazed not only pointed me forward but it pointed back to a man who found it important to give his grandson an appreciation for the finer things in life. From that old Remington to his dog-eared Bible, he taught me there are some things you hold on to forever.
Today, my reason for hunting exceeds a high scoring set of antlers. Through experience I have learned there is value in spending time in the outdoors. The passion that began with a little red hatchet is now carved deeply into my family’s lifestyle.
As grandfather finished his stories, my mind began to wander. On this Christmas, I realized the greatest gift I had ever been given couldn’t be packaged under a tree. The greatest gift my grandfather ever gave was the time he spent teaching me about the great outdoors.
Eight-five years have passed since my grandfather started hunting. Times have changed and hunting has changed with them. The one thing that remains the same is my opportunity to teach another generation about the best things in life.
You may not own a little red hatched, but each of us holds the power to blaze a way for the next generation. Lets pass on the marks made by the little red hatchet. Take the time to introduce someone to hunting and God’s great outdoors. It may be the best gift you’ll ever give.
By Randy Hynes expressly for The Sportsman Channel