Seymour hunter Doug Arthur’s man cave is his garage.
One wall features favorite examples of his journeys through the wild, including a bearskin rug, coyote pelts and even a bass caught fishing on his sister’s wedding day.
But Arthur, 52, most cherishes memories made in the field, as a kid with his father and grandfather, as an adult with friends, of time spent with his dogs. For Arthur, success of his trips into the woods is measured not only by the harvest but also by companionship.
Hunters seek meat for the table and sometimes renown from a notable kill that will be scored well in a record book. But those who have spent years following the seasons with bow and arrow or firearms very much savor the experience in the outdoors shared with those close to them.
Arthur grew up in Houston, not the big Houston in Texas but the tiny one near Freetown in northwestern Jackson County. His first times out in the wild with older male relatives were tag-alongs to learn what hunting was all about. Then came hunting squirrels and rabbits, a natural progression.
“My first gun was a .20-gauge,” Arthur said of his HR shotgun. “I killed my first squirrel with it. I was excited.”
He was probably 13 when he bagged his first deer. Arthur heard a shot nearby.
“Deer came running right over the ridge behind me, right past me, two or three of them,” he said. “It was, ‘There they go. Let’s go get them.’”
He ended up harvesting a spike running out of a ravine on a horse trail.
Arthur shot a turkey the first time he ventured out. About six years ago, he harvested a 250-pound black bear in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests on the Virginia-West Virginia line using hound dogs as assistants.
“It was just something I wanted to do once, but it was more just the camaraderie of the trip,” Arthur said.
Three golden-coated Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Koda, Kimber and Benelli, live in a kennel in his backyard. Their bark is powerful, and Koda is a pro at tracking fallen birds.
“He’ll remember them,” Arthur said of Koda’s retrieving skills. “He’ll mark them.”
For each animal harvested, Arthur can recall bonding adventures with partners.
“When you’re together, you can cut up, you can laugh,” he said.
Hunting ducks and geese, Arthur may go out with three to six partners.
“We pretty much laugh the whole time,” Arthur said.
He loves autumn and rising at 4 a.m. for a hunt in 28-degree temperatures with light snow. Such cold-weather elements that may be off-putting to others merely energize Arthur.
“That’s my favorite time,” he said.
Jeremy Steinkamp of Brownstown has two sons, Jayden, 18, and Jaycob, 15, joining him in the woods in camouflage for years. The pattern followed the one he followed with his dad, Dennis.
Close by where Steinkamp sat in his hunting building enclave rested a squirrel mount.
“That’s Jayden’s first squirrel,” Steinkamp said of the animal his older son harvested when he was about 10. “Taking your boys out and teaching them (is special).”
The outdoor world speaks to him as he soaks in the rush of a new day dawning.
“The peace,” Steinkamp said. “Sitting and waiting on everything coming alive, the sun coming up.”
Rick Zschiedrich of Seymour, 62, who began hunting with his father, introduced his own kids to hunting and enjoys reminiscing about the trips. He has hunted deer, turkey, ducks, grouse and mourning doves.
“Dove hunting was really fun with my kids,” Zschiedrich said. “We’d sit on a bucket in a field. Doves were a delicacy. One of the most satisfying times I had out hunting deer was when I had a buddy stand with my son, who was just of age, and it was just father and son. I just remember how excited he was. He never forgot it.”
Brad Herndon of Brownstown, 78, an outdoor photographer and writer, has hunted for 66 years. He and wife Carol, 75, share time in the outdoors, and both are experts at harvesting squirrels.
“I always said school should never start until two weeks after squirrel season,” Brad said. “My favorite hunting is squirrel hunting. You could always hunt anyplace you wanted. There are lots of them, and they’re delicious to eat.”
One year, Carol, who did not begin hunting until in her mid-30s, killed her limit of squirrels every day, 55 in all. It was suggested she should have retired right then with a perfect score.
“Maybe I should have,” she joked.
Brad believes every young hunter should begin with squirrel hunting.
“You’ll learn more about nature,” he said. “You have to keep moving. You’ll learn every trick. You’ll get lost and learn what’s over that hill.”
He has hunted squirrel with a shotgun, a muzzleloader, a bow and a .22 rifle. He is an accurate enough shot to win the Great Washington County Shootout six times.
A key strategic approach Brad employs is scouting where squirrels carry nuts. Then he stakes them out. Nut falls, squirrel darts for it, hunter whistles, freezing them, and then fires.
The Herndons sat in a small building on their property where deer mounts hung. Herndon said he tries to hunt only mature deer at least five and a half years old.
“I mounted them to pay tribute to the deer,” he said.
Being out in the woods hunting offers spiritual rewards, he said.
“You get to see God’s creation,” he said. “I see God’s handiwork in all of nature. It’s so fascinating. You’re never bored.”
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