As August begins, I can't help but remember the late summer walks with my dad through the woods. My brother and I closely followed behind my dad taking two steps to his every one. Smelling the moss and swatting the mosquitoes, these walks began an adventure...a quest that would be months in the making. The result of our efforts....our many walks through the woods, the collecting of evidence with each step....would hopefully result in a successful hunting season.
As we navigated the forest, my father would point out every deer print in the mud and rub on a young tree; this was the evidence we longed for. We noticed every fern that blanketed the ground, discovering paths that lay hidden to the untrained eye. I could feel the excitement rising in my veins. I knew what would follow these late summer trots. I knew that once the summer sun disappeared and the autumn leaves began to rustle in the cool air, our hard work would be rewarded. We were scouting, like out forefathers before us, studying and learning to prepare for the season.
Only time would tell what we had learned while scouting the forest. There would be many trail runs or "assignments" before the final test. But, my father noted, we'd be prepared...ready when the time came. Out walks in the woods, though, would be the best practice as we memorized every scrape and footprint, planning and preparing for our season.
My father passed too soon; his footsteps no longer trudging over rocks and fallen trees. However, those lessons he taught me still echo in my head. These lesson in the woods were lessons in life as well, as I came to learn. Lifelong lessons...
One, respect...the woods and everything in it are gifts. Respect these gifts.
Two, patience...breath and wait, don't rush. It will come.
Three, work...hard work will produce results.
Four, earn...the best things in life are earned, not given.
Five, give...never take without giving back more, to the land or to others.
So as I take my own two girls on their walk through the woods in the late summer heat, teaching them the art of scouting, I remember and pass down these lessons of the forest...these lessons of life. And although my father's footsteps cannot be heard, he has left his footprints imprinted on my heart forever. And on the hearts of my daughters as I pass down his words and wisdom.
About the Author
Tom Clear, owner of Clear Archery Inc, enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and traveling, especially with his family. Swapping hunting stories, shooting his bow, and spending time in the woods make up his spare time.