It was a typical Wednesday morning. The flurry of getting everyone’s needs met before they headed off to work or school went by without a hitch. The clutter and dishes left in the waste would have to wait because this Wednesday was about to become non-typical. The night before I had carefully prepared everything my 4-year-old son and I would need for a bearventure. I had treated all our clothing with Permethrin to combat the army of ticks I was sure were waiting for us. I had laid out a few options in backpacks knowing that these adventures are always unscripted and I never knew if I would need the pack to carry gear or the pack to carry a kiddo but either way, I would have both. Mason was very excited to go and his past experiences had always been fun which in a twisted way leads to his disappointment in us not getting a bear. He doesn’t realize that all the steps I take to make his adventure one he can enjoy minimizes my chances of bagging a bear but the excitement in his face when I tell him we are going makes it all worth it. I could raise my odds but that would make his adventures with mom something that he may not always enjoy and I want to fuel his love for going outside and chasing that freedom feeling and I know that someday it will pay off when he is bigger and stronger and we are out there making memories that also include a big black bear on the ground. I am investing in that future one little bearventure at a time and the memories we are making along the way are absolutely priceless.
As we loaded everything in the truck and headed out, he was downing a morning sippy cup of hot chocolate. It was raining on the drive to our hunting spot but I knew the weather had called for afternoon sun and I was hoping it wouldn’t let me down. Along the way we saw a lot of deer and Mason continuously blew his rabbit call in case a bear might hear it and show himself. At one point he even heard a “growl” from the woods. I didn’t have the heart to destroy his imagination and my love for the mind that he has, gave me the mental strength to endure the constant rabbit screaming in my backseat. Children render mothers immune to noise. The drive itself was beautiful and we enjoyed being able to see mother nature finally shedding her winter blanket of snow to reveal the colors and sights she had hidden for so many months. We glassed the hills on our way to the parking spot looking for the greenest grassy spots. There wasn’t much grass growing yet and we determined that the bears in these woods must be starving. There were many winter kill deer carcasses strewn about the area and it was a testament to the harsh winter we had experienced this year.
Finally, we reached the barricade of stones that marked the end of the dirt road and came to a halt. Mason’s excitement at getting to stretch his legs took over and he was ready to go. I got all the gear I needed stashed into the cargo pockets of my hand me down military issue pants that my husband had generously let me use. I grabbed the long-range rifle and slung it over my back then grabbed the lever action and Mason’s hearing protection and shut the door. Mason held one of his dino buddies and we were off. The glassing destination I was heading toward was reached eventually but not before following the winding path of a child’s curiosity through nature. We paused at the roaring creek to play Pooh sticks. We wondered at the dead deer carcass and calmed the sadness welling inside with a conversation about the circle of life…thank you Lion King. We played logging trucks with the deadfall timber from a large burn many years before and all of these things made this hunt so very special to me. There were teachable moments for him and me around every turn of that trail. We marveled, we wondered, we wandered. My passion for hunting has always been at an extreme level and I would have never thought that having children could increase it. It’s not the same when your children come hunting with you…somehow it is so much better even though the tags I fill are rarely with them.
When it was time to head home so that we could pick up Mason’s sisters from school I made sure to hang back just a little bit to ensure that he would reach the truck first. I was rewarded with his signature fake whistle, because he hasn’t yet learned how to actually whistle, signaling he made it to the truck first and his sly little grin of happiness sealed the deal. The drive out was full of rabbit squeals and questions until finally the excitement and long walk got the best of him and he fell sound asleep. In the silence of the drive home I was overwhelmingly thankful for the opportunities to experience life with such an amazing little person and I just hope that I can be all the things he and my daughters need me to be. Life after kids is no longer about you. I am merely a guide trying to pave the way for this new little mind to fly successfully into the world ahead and these kids will fill the void left when my life is through. When one is gone another fills it’s place and the great circle of life is completed. I could not be more excited or proud of the little people who are going to take my place in the great grand scheme of life and I am so grateful I have had the pleasure of experiencing it all with them and through them. Whatever adventures lie ahead are just icing on an already very large and delicious life cake.