D ecember 27 will mark two years since I lost my father Chester Moore, Sr. while hunting on our friend Robert Scherer’s South Texas deer ranch.
My favorite hunting partner fell dead from a massive heart attack while cleaning the biggest eight-pointer he ever killed on a cool night in the South Texas brush country. After the shock of that moment and going through all of the legal things someone has to go through when a family member passes away, I left the ranch at 10 p.m. to make the seven hour drive home.
It was the longest drive of my life.
Luckily I had friends who met me three hours from home to finish so I would not fall asleep at the wheel. However, it did not make the trip any shorter. Every mile, every minute seemed like it took me farther away from my Dad and the love of deer hunting we shared.
I say this not to gain sympathy because we all have tragedy befall us. It is part of this broken world we live in.
However, I think it is important to consider how we respond to such tragedies.
We usually hunt Scherer’s ranch every year but last year I just could not pick up the phone and make the call. Although I drive my Dad’s truck and inherited all kinds of outdoors gear from him, that was just too much. I could not even bring myself to go down to South Texas for another outdoors opportunity.
Being able through friends to hunt in that part of the state was a big deal to Dad and me. If we did not have friends like the Scherers it would never happen, and if I were not an outdoor writer other invitations would not have opened up. We knew it, and we were grateful.
The biggest pleasure of my career as an outdoor writer was taking my Dad on trips he never could have afforded or had access to, otherwise. Seeing my Dad shoot Canada geese in New York, shoot a monster buck in South Texas and catch sturgeon in Oregon were career highlights for me. The man who loved me unconditionally and took so much time to take me into the great outdoors deserved those opportunities.
My hunting and fishing—but particularly hunting was so linked to Dad that it is hard for me to hit the field these days. Fishing is different because I was fishing by myself since I was eight, but hunting reminds me so much of Dad that it still hurts. It’s not that I am overwhelmed with grief, but that the hunt is different. The hunts for me were as much about seeing him enjoy himself as it was me having a great time.
But it is time I take that drive again. I may or may not call Robert and ask about to go down to his place but I will definitely make my way to South Texas this year in honor of my father. He would certainly want nothing less.
I need the deer woods to feel peaceful again. I need to get excited by the prospect of the hunt, and I need to carry on the tradition Dad set for me.
His father was not much on support and mentorship. My Dad would beg and beg him to go fishing, but he would not take him. Finally when Dad was about 10 years old, he tied a string to his big toe and tied the other end to the front door. That way when his Dad opened the door, it would wake him up and he could try to talk him into going.
It worked and Dad never forgot that trip. He even talked about it on our last trip together in 2014.
I owe it to him and to me to put on the camouflage grease paint as we always did, climb in a blind and wait for a beautiful whitetail buck to come out. I will certainly do so on my Newton County lease this year and promise Dad a trip to South Texas.
What drive do you need to take this year?
Is there some place you have avoided because of a similar loss or have other factors changed your outdoors habits?
Get back on your feet and take that drive to wherever you need to go and get back to the roots of your love of the great outdoors. The Lord put healing qualities in the woods and on the water. I have felt their healing in my life before, and I plan on immersing myself in them this fall.
I am blessed to have a career that allows me to write, photograph and encounter wildlife and also to share messages like this with like-minded people. I thank God for it every day and never take it for granted.
Have a wonderful Christmas season and dedicate 2017 to spending as much time with your families in the great outdoors as possible.
Maybe I’ll see you out there.
Email Chester Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org