There were times when I saw worry and pain in my father’s eyes. That comes with any life well lived. However, I’ve never seen a hint of consternation in his face when the subject turned to deer or deer hunting. That’s because deer season is always the time for us to get back to nature and recharge our batteries.
Dad shot this big 10-pointer in 1969, and he still can recite every detail of the hunt. His love for hunting grew exponentially from that day forward for all the right reasons, and he’s maintained a wide-eyed view of the hunt. For him, each hunt is about individual circumstances and day-to-day goings on. In the end, it’s all about the memories and venison.
He instilled that mind-set into my psyche many years ago, and it was dramatically reaffirmed when I began studying the work of John W. Gardner, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Gardner’s wisdom on general happiness is one that transcends generations and applies to all lifestyles and activities, including deer hunting.
In 1990, while speaking to a business management firm, he said:
“One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we’ve piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.
“So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top, you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.
“You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.
“But life isn’t a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it — as some suppose — a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.
“Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves.”
The more recent photo on this page shows my dad with his latest deer. His smile says it all and indeed reaffirms that he’s one deer hunter who has a master copy of the key to happiness.