Back to US Life Histories

Hunting

Michael Sheehan

Hunting is something that has always been in my family, thanks to my father for introducing it to my brothers and I. I am a twenty-nine-year-old Irish-American and, growing up in Chicago, it has always been great to go into a wooded area, early in the morning, free of phones ringing, traffic, and the headaches life can create and enjoy the company of friends and hunting. Today, I have four children, so a little time to myself is great for me.

Hunting is a sport that takes skill. However, I think that bow hunters, like myself, are the most skillful hunters. When you use a bow, you have to be within twenty yards of a deer. With a gun, a hunter can shoot a target from at least a mile away. Where is the sport in that?

Someone can get hooked on hunting after the first time out. I did. I started hunting when I was thirteen years old. My dad and his friends would go to the cabin they had in Wisconsin and hunt deer. He took my brother who was seventeen at the time and I really wanted to go, too. I pleaded with my dad, "Let me, let me." I sounded like my son does now when he wants to go somewhere with me.

I eventually talked my dad into taking me, but when we got there, he wouldn't let me leave the cabin! He told me every time they went out that weekend, "Stay in the cabin." Finally, on the last day we were there, his buddies convinced him to let me come along in the morning. We went to this pine tree farm, where the trees were in rows and all you would do is walk through the rows; it's not like I could have gotten lost! Well, I saw my first deer through the trees, my dad gave me his old stick bow, and I aimed and missed. The deer ran away.

That didn't stop me from going again the following year, though. After my first time out, I was hooked. I really got into hunting that year, so my dad let me go with him and his friends again when I was fourteen. We went to a section of land that my cousin had found. I went out to a section of land by myself with my bow. It was pitch black, but I stood under a light in the area. Within the first ten minutes of getting there, I spotted a deer that was coming under a fence. I shot and it went down. It was the biggest deer that any of the twenty guys that were with me had ever seen, including my dad who had had thirty years of hunting experience. The guys were so ticked off that a fourteen-year-old shot a deer like that. The rack is hanging in my living room today.

Well, as the saying goes, like father, like son. My oldest son, who is twelve, went with me last year. On the opening day of hunting season, on his first time out, my son shot his first deer with my bow. I figured that, since he asked me if he could go with, he was interested in hunting. I thought that it could not have been that bad of an idea since my father had not thought it was such a bad idea to take me when I was my son's age.
In that sense, my son reminds me a lot of myself. Hunting can be something that we can do together, so long as I keep a close eye on him. Sometimes, even adults need a close eye kept on them.

A funny thing happened when I went out on a hunting trip when I was 25. My father, two of my older brothers, a friend of my dad's, and my cousin went out to a section of land in Des Plaines, Illinois that we usually go to. My cousin did something that was not very bright, considering he cannot swim. It was early and pretty cold out. There was a pond that had a thin layer of ice over it, and it was covered with an inch of snow. Rather than walk around the pond to cross it because he was too lazy, my cousin wanted to walk across it. I told him to go first.
He did. He got to the middle of the pond and everyone (including him) heard the ice start to crack. He started to run towards the shore, as if he could out-run the cracking. It was just like something you would see on The Little Rascals. He got about ten feet from the shoreline and he fell through. All of us helped him out and he was all right, but he had dropped his bow in the water, so we had to fish it out, which was fun because we were all making fun of him the whole time. It was one of the funniest things that has ever happened while I have been out hunting.

There have been disappointing things that have happened along the way in my hunting experience, too. Two years ago, four friends and myself went out to a remote piece of property with fields and woods. It was a section of land no one else seemed to know about. It had always been legal to hunt there, until some industrial development had occurred. We had not been aware that hunting was not allowed anymore on this section of land, and someone from one of the factories called the cops on us. I left quickly, and one of my buddies ended up getting a ticket for trespassing. Not too good for him, but I found it pretty funny.

I know that many people have a problem with hunters and hunting. The fact remains that there are more deer today than there were sixty years ago. Because there are so many, more die from being hit by cars on the road than by being killed by hunters.

Many farmers in Illinois issue permits to hunt on their land due to the overpopulation of hundreds of thousands of deer. In fact, I purchased one of these permits to hunt on a farm five hours outside of Springfield, Illinois. Many of the deer found on these farms are starving. That is why you hear people saying that they have deer eating the grass in their front yards. The deer have nothing else to eat because of the overpopulation.
In some conservation areas, the government hires sharpshooters to shoot these deer. They, in turn, take the racks and leave the rest to rot. They could have given the meat to shelters or to the poor. It's good meat without any fat. When I go hunting, nothing is wasted.

My father introduced hunting to me, and I have introduced it to my sons and even my wife. Ten years ago, my wife went with me on a hunting trip. She was turned off by some of the outdoor conditions and never elected to go again, but she was pretty good with the bow. She hit the targets on the range well, for not having any previous shooting experience. I was proud of her, and happy that she had taken an interest in something I love to do.

I have already mentioned my oldest son and his first hunting experience, but I have to mention that my four-year-old son is also getting into hunting. I think I will show him the stick bow, but it may be a while before I let him come with me. I think that hunting may be one of the things I pass down to my sons. They, in turn, may pass this hunting tradition on to their children, which also makes me proud.

Back to US Life Histories