Happy Father’s Day
Right now I’m boarding a flight to Canada. It’s bittersweet because it's my first ever bear hunt and another big hunt without my dad. I’ve grown so much since his passing 2 years ago. As a father’s day gift, I would like to share a story of our last hunt together.
To my family, friends, hunting buddies and fans, your continued support, prayers, and words of inspiration mean the world to me.
Thank you and Happy Father’s Day to my Dad in heaven!
Enjoy this story!
When you reach a certain point in your life, you realize that you can never learn
too much about the outdoors. I have one person in particular to thank for always
reminding me that.
My dad was the one who introduced me to the sport of hunting, and the way he
went about it gave me a crash course, to say the least. It put me on a path that
few get to take when they talk about their inaugural hunt.
My very first experience to hunting was as an eight-year-old, whisked away to
Africa to follow my dad to watch him do what had become so important to him.
I don’t say this to brag, or to rub it in anyone’s face because their first hunting
experience was shooting varmints in the backwoods. I did those things too, just
in a different order.
That first trip to Africa, watching as my dad went after the Big 5, left me changed.
This man, who I obviously admired and loved beyond belief, felt so passionate
about what he was doing. Every move he made and ever word he spoke during
those intense moments had a purpose, and he showed me something that, up to
that point, I’d never fully thought about.
I wouldn’t actually hunt anything on that trip, but I returned to Africa five years
later at the age of 13, to start my own quest for the Big 5. I’d end up finishing it,
including the harvest of a male African lion, by the time I was 14.
Many, many hunts later, I never forgot what he taught me. The first time I ever
watched an animal fall to the ground after being shot by a hunter, I learned that
it’s not about the kill. It’s about the seconds, minutes, and hours spent together,
with people we love, in the great outdoors.
Last fall, I went on yet another hunt with my dad. By this time, hunting had
become our thing. It was the absolute best way of guaranteeing we had a chance
to be around each other. My life had become a whirlwind of obligations, some
welcomed and some not so much.
It got hard to get together, but scheduling a hunt with my dad was something I’d
never miss. Naturally, we went into the woods not far from my hometown of
Cleburne, and hunted this nice whitetail.
I call it nice, but maybe you’ve seen a bigger rack. You’ve probably seen a larger
deer brought down, and you probably have a photo of it, too.
But this is still a really important photo to me, because it’s the last photo I have of
my dad while he was still alive.
I couldn’t have known it at the time, but that trip to West Texas at the Droptine
Ranch would be the last hunt I ever went on with my dad. And I’ll never get
another chance to do it again.
The attention I earned from my second Big 5 hunt in Africa as a 19-year-old
Texas Tech cheerleader was never wanted or expected, but I did set out with
one objective which has helped me work through the emotions I’ve experienced
since my dad passed away in January. I made it a point to follow my role model,
and be deliberate in the way I conduct myself in the field and in the public eye.
If everything you do has a purpose, anything is possible.
That’s the reason I stand up for myself and fellow hunters. That’s why I value the
time I get to spend outdoors. And it’s the proof that my dad, who brought his
eight-year-old daughter to Africa, knew what he was doing.
I will do absolutely everything I can do to allow more people, especially women
and girls, remake their own version of that photo of me and my dad. It starts with
taking them hunting, answering their questions, and leading them down their own
path towards finding the joy of the sport. It’s not hard, and it’s actually something
you can do too. You’d be continuing on the lesson my dad taught me, that time
spent outdoors with the people who are important should always find a way into
Now that I’m branching out and searching for more ways to fuel my hunting
passions, I’m meeting more and more people who have just recently picked up
the sport. They tell me about their first deer, and almost always show me pictures
on their phones.
Each time I see their photos, I think back to the one of my dad and I.
That day was the last of a good trip, but I had yet to see a clear shot at this one
particular buck that was towards the top of the ranch’s hitlist. We had seen it a
few times in the pasture, my dad and I, and even tried a spot and stalk to see
how close we could get. The buck kept moving, and we couldn’t make it work.
My dad’s influence on who I had become, as a person and a hunter, took over. I
decided to wait it out, and devote myself to hunting that deer.
Sure enough, as I sat in the blind later that day, with less and less daylight to
work with as the minutes ticked by, the buck appeared.
Like it was meant to be, the deer walked right in front of the blind, and I took the
shot as soon as I had it.
It scored a 223 1/8, but as I said, that’s not what I remember about it. I instead
remember posing for the picture with my dad, with smiles on our faces, camo on
our backs, the brush in the background, and a deer that will be marked in my
XOXO and God Bless!