It’s a pretty well known fact that we’re not aging backwards, but what does it mean to live with a passion so strong that everything must be done to keep it alive and well? When does it start and does it ever stop? Here are a few thoughts about it…
A few months ago I met a great guy and ex-air force pilot called “DD” (he wishes to stay anonymous so let’s call him that way). He’s one of my father’s long time friends and has been shooting and hunting for just about his whole life. The first thing I noticed about him is the exceptional drive a man in his seventies can have for his hobby… or passion for that matter. We had a good old whiskey to start with and then we quickly went into talking about his hunting adventures.
This is where it got interesting: seniors are sometimes reduced to just being “old-fashioned” by youngsters, but I tell you, this guy’s no joke. Not only is he up-to-date with the best equipment there is but he also has a deep understanding of the hunting and shooting world: from the many types of hunters to the political stances and laws, his great experience has built and sharpened his opinions. 60+ years of living it doesn’t make you young, but it sure gives you perspective, and for a guy in his thirties I find this to be priceless.
From a dot to a full circle
For many, it all starts out by following your father’s steps and with the hope to one day take part in the great adventures you’ve been hearing about for so long. Like driving, even if an elder sometimes lets you touch the wheel, you’ll be riding in the passenger seat for some time…
You then start by observing and listening to those who know best but think about it, who exactly knows best? At first you might think it’s you, but you’re quickly reminded you’re still a young-know-it-all kid. So you essentially start out by carrying equipment, washing the car and serve wine to laughing adults talking about their caliber around a camp fire or a semi-automatic shot-serving bar. At this point you’re actually probably already shooting led, one at a time: that’s surely one small dot for you, but a giant leap for a little man’s kind.
The next step is, if you’re in the right region anyway, to start tracking. This is when you get your first real adrenaline rush, nothing compares to the feeling of a wild boar’s noisy steps rushing towards you like a dark and angry mass. You learn to work in teams, focus on your environment and to apply essential safety rules. You’re gathering info at lightning speeds.
This is what you’ll need once you’ve passed your permit, be it for hunting or sport-shooting: fast response, acute sight and hearing, a good physical condition and a deep respect for nature and its rules. You are now shooting big guns and with them come big responsibilities.
After years of development you’re a grown person, a passionate shooter, lover of great guns and maybe an ageing one too: remember the guys around the fire? …you’re now in the circle too!
As life evolves kids start popping out of every household. This is when things start to turn around, hopefully you now have kids carrying your stuff around! But it is also means that a very profound change is about to happen: to your kid(s) – or other’s kids – you’re the teacher, holder of knowledge, rule keeper, storyteller and maybe even a true hero… flashback anyone ?
Having a passion is one thing but seeing it grow and live in your kid is almost like living it yourself, which brings us to a fact: “DD”’s passion has not only grown but almost doubled.
Still in the game
“DD” has had to adapt, his body is less able to comply with the rigorous demands of certain types of hunts and guns, but his mind and focus stay sharp. He now does every hunt with his son, they share their passion and he helps him overcome the physical barriers. Even his grand-sons are getting interested. They always work a way out to have “DD” not too far from a road in case his heart fails again and they are in constant radio contact to be able to call for help if needed. Their hunting grounds are chosen as wisely as the people they hunt and shoot with.
His old Brownings surely wear a few marks of time but when he talks about them, you can’t do anything but admire the passion being fired right in front of your eyes!
Well done young man, I am now 85 and find it best to shoot seated. Must say I am pleased to get to my peg after a long track across mud and crop, friends are kind and will swop Pegs but I mustn’t stop. The day after often tells its tale and I say “do I need to go” , after the first shot there is no question.
This week is a hard one , Monday a family day with a 145 bag, yesterday 275 super partridge and pheasants in a high wind, today hospital for cancer treatment , tomorrow another family day , perhaps 200. Thank goodness nothing on Friday , rest perfect rest, Saturday is a syndicate day (which I run) which includes taking Jack for a day with the picker up, he has had two days beating and some shots at clays under an instructor, he is 15 and I want him to see all sides, following Saturday he is carrying my gun and marking birds if we manage to shoot one.
I normally shoot a 410 or 28 but bought a Browning 20 bore a few weeks back which I find very easy to handle.
Keepers don’t like guns using 410’s as it suggests the birds are poor flyers , actually was ask by one shoot to bring my 20 and not the 410 , I refused the invite and shot the next estate two days later killing 17 good birds with 20 shots with a lovely hand shake from the picker up behind me, that what makes the day.
All I can say , is keep going , although it has been my last season for the last five years.