By Rob Wrobel
This story originally appeared on NortheastArchers.com.
1994. 14 years old. It was my first year bowhunting. Dad owned a fishing and hunting store, mainly a wholesale bait shop in Central New Jersey in which he let me work at for 3 dollars an hour. That 3 dollars an hour pretty much went to pay for my consumption of hunting and fishing equipment. Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops catalogs were the only place I thought money should go at that point. Funny the amount of boat/marine stuff that I wanted every year, we didn’t even have a boat at the time. I’m 31 and I still don’t have a boat, but if I did, there is a faded crumbling list of things I already know I want.
My $3 an hour for grinding dirt for packaged night crawlers, cleaning killie and shiner tanks, interspersed with long breaks of shooting in the back, or wandering the Old Bridge woods, probably never came close to paying for all the stuff my parents bought me, supposedly with the money I “earned”. Earned was much more. I never bought a cup of nightcrawlers that had such fine soil in it than what I produced at my father’s instructions. And you know what they say ” you are what you eat”. Never another store in our area would allow you to come in and order 1 dozen big killies, or a pint or a quart for that matter. You now get what comes in the net. Not my Dad. He gave what was asked, because who wants to go flukeing with inch long killies?
On with the story at hand. I had a sweet bow that my parents bought me, and some great hunting partners. Uncles, my Dad’s friends. Guys to look up to if only for certain things. But that’s life at 14, when adults bring you into their world. Hindsite will point out all of our faults, but at that time they were kings to me.
George and my Dad helped me build a stand between two oaks. Nothing special, just a platform and seat. Dad always wanted me carrying around this heavy ladder stand. I presume to be safe, or maybe to keep me out of his good spots. That stand haunts me. Like carrying a Prius on your back. It’s probably something that still pushes me to hunt as light as possible. The built stand allowed me to ditch the ladder stand and the two couldn’t be thanked enough for that. If that was only all.
The full year is a blur to me, still in school, not hunting weekdays. Some weekends during bow season still being taken up by fall baseball. I was pretty decent back then. Both with a bow and a glove, but not so much a bat. I don’t even know how many times I was out bow hunting but at one point a doe was standing 30 yards from the built stand. Didn’t even see her come out. Just appeared, like a gift. My 14-year-old nerveless body wasn’t phased by 30 yards, chip shot. She went down and died with a bleat, which confused me. It was my first deer, Why was she bleating? I didn’t even know it was called a bleat at this point. Fear of wounding, fear of losing, fear of failing I called Geo on the walkie talkie, or ran to his stand, I can’t even remember which. He took me through the blood trail, explained the “dying bleat,” and brought me to my first deer.
Friends, family and hunting partners come and go and sometimes come back again. Some even leave this world forever. But the beauty of hunting is the connection that can never be broken between Men. The times shared, the times enjoyed or suffered are never forgotten and forged in a manner that could not be stronger. Thank you Dad, Mom, George, Jim and all the other adults that brought me along, taught me, loved me and spent their time on me.