As I sit in my dad’s recliner on early Christmas Eve morning 2018, I paused to reflect on my life that led me to pick up my laptop. My memory bank flooded with thoughts and emotions as I began to type. With any luck, what is in my head was transferred to the computer.
Most of us had someone teach us about the outdoors, whether it was hunting, fishing, trapping, or just good conservation practices. Maybe it was your dad, mom, uncle, grandpa, friend, or a combination of many people. In my case, my mentor was my dad, Raymond “Bud” Houser.
Other than the love for his family and God, my dad loved nothing more than spending time on the water or in a tree stand. His love for the outdoors was instilled in his children while we were still very young. It is something we still carry with us today as we attempt to pass it on to our own children and grandchildren.
With today’s distractions in the world, there is one place I can go to escape from reality if just for a couple of hours. Sitting in a tree stand or on a lake, my mind is allowed to wander, to times past and what lies ahead. It is also time to rekindling memories of times had with a man that meant so much to me and will always mean so much to me.
What would have come of my life if I was not introduced to the outdoors at such a young age? Would I spend these cold winter days bundled up inside not enjoying what is so freely given to me, to us?
So much of my life revolves around the outdoors, whether it is writing a magazine article, producing a TV show, or just getting away from it all. I owe it all to one man, my dad.
It has been more than three decades since I killed my first deer. Now, admittedly it was not a big deer, it was a fawn, if you need full disclosure. But, for a 9-year old boy, it just as well have been a 150-inch buck.
Watching my dad walk through the woods upon hearing my shot, and then seeing my trophy just feet away, his smile lit up like a Christmas tree. The look on his face was nothing but pure pride. All of this missed shots, complaining of the cold temperatures, and all the other things a young hunter can muster up were quickly forgotten in that time of celebration.
Did I just evolve from a young boy to a young man with the crack of a shot? Did I prove to him I was capable of doing something many my age were not capable of? I don’t know what exactly his thoughts were. If he said, I can’t remember. But, to this day I do remember the look on his face as we stood in the door entrance to the home as he retold the story to my mom. Nothing can make a young boy feel more secure than the admiration of his dad, and I got it that on a cold December day so many years ago.
Over the years I have been blessed to hunt much of North America and beyond. Everything from squirrels here in Illinois to the biggest animals South Africa has to offer have fallen to my shots. But, it all began with a dad showing his love to his son.
Through those years, dad managed to kill a lot of deer. None was bigger than the last deer he killed in November 2010–a giant buck scoring almost 170 inches. Dad was not a trophy hunter. He loved being outside, but more so he loved spending time with family, watching others succeed, and enjoying a little thing called “Houser’s Deer Camp”.
Dad isn’t with us physically anymore after passing in a tragic accident in 2011, but his spirit lives in each one of us. This is not just during deer season, on Christmas Eve, or any of the other days throughout the year. His spirit lives within us 24/365.
I have had many conversations with myself and other family members about what I am doing as a chosen career. It always comes back to the one question, “Would Dad approve”? I think he would, and as long as I believe this, I will continue down this crazy path. My only regret is that he can’t be here to see it all unfold. As my wife says, he is in Heaven doing the happy dance.
Through the years, deer camp grew to include many people. Other family members and friends began hunting. Others showed up at camp just to cheer us on and enjoy the fellowship. But, it all started with a dad taking his son hunting and passing on his love for the outdoors.
Is a successful hunt killing a buck to put on your wall? Sure, it is nice to kill big deer but there is so much more to hunting for me. As 2018 grew shorter and deer season began to take a back seat to what is really important this time of year, we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. But, because of what I know, thanks to my dad who celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ every day, I will get the opportunity to be with dad again, and maybe even get to spend a day in the woods with him just one more time. Who knows?