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The Gift

Colby Kerber

Hunting Heritage Program Manager at Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever

The memories created during our recent pursuit of migrating waterfowl in the vast landscapes of the central flyway will not soon be forgotten…the aromas, sounds and visuals scorched into my mind are beyond the harvest and more about the complete experience. There is nothing like seeing the sunrise over a decoy spread on the water, hearing the whistling duck wings above you and watching intently as the natural world wakes up right in front of you… the only thing that can top such a breathtaking spectacle, is to share this feat with someone new.

Everyone has their own story of how they started hunting and when that passion was ignited, and I am extremely grateful that I played a small role in what is hopefully a lifelong journey for a new sportsman named Jarrod. As a husband and father of three young kids along with a busy career, Jarrod had a desire to spend more time outdoors with friends and regain a focus seldom offered to us in the relentless distraction we face in our daily lives… but as someone who didn't grow up in a hunting family his options were limited. When I learned of his desire to become a sportsman, a lot of thoughts came to my mind, but mostly excitement to help create a path forward in his quest for adventure and solitude.

The night before the hunt we reminisced about life over a cold beverage and then discussed the true meaning of being a hunter. I described to him that he was now accountable for being ethical, following regulations, not trespassing, leaving no trace, thanking landowners and overall taking responsibility for the wildlife he was going to pursue. As we discussed the importance of gun safety and conversed on the gear we would utilize, there was a unique point in time for me to challenge the narrative and offer a different perspective on the role hunters play in wildlife management… in that moment I gifted him with his Federal Migratory Bird Stamp and described how he was now a part of the longstanding solution to conservation funding. In the silent period that followed him thanking me, I took a deep breath and realized there is still hope for a strong future in our hunting heritage.

The morning of our first hunt I felt an anticipation that I hadn't sensed in a long time, and I will never fail to remember how anxious I was to see what sights mother nature would provide us at sunrise. We all need an outlet from the noise of the world, and I was truly grateful that Jarrod choose to connect with me, nature and the creatures that inhibit it. As the birds gracefully flew into our primary shooting range with wings tucked and feet down, Jarrod was able to successfully harvest his first wild animal. As a big smile came over my face, I could tell a sense of awe consumed Jarrod as he picked up that magnificent mallard… and I'm proud to say his journey has just begun.

Over my adult years I've built my entire lifestyle around conservation and hunting, to say that nature has given me more than I could ask for is an understatement. But on this particular day, I felt that I was able to give back a small amount of my debt by fostering another one of the greatest conservationists this earth has to offer… a hunter.