That year was the start of a tradition I hoped would last forever. When the volcano erupted 5 years later most of the area that we hunted was closed due to its close proximity to the mountain. It would be another ten years before dad and I hunted together again. For the last 20 years beginning in mid October until mid November dad and I have spent all of our free time in the woods together. It is our time.
My dad turned 72 this year. He is diabetic and needs a double knee replacement. It has become difficult for him to get out of the truck. The last two years my success has been compromised by the fact that I am basically hunting alone. It hasn't bothered me though. Getting an elk or a buck was always seen as a bonus. The true reward has always been time with dad. This year will be my first year of hunting without him. Weyerhaeuser decided to charge $150.00 per person to access their lands this year. For dad, it was the last straw. He didn't even buy a license and tag. It is the end of an era.
For 50 years my family has hunted the same valley. My grandfather used to ride the rails on a hand car long before logging roads were built to hunt the mountains and canyons we affectionately refer to as the hole. Our camp never moved more than a half mile from its original location. Ten years ago, citing illegal dumping and vandalism, Weyco put a stop to camping on the tree farm. Elk camp was over. We could have camped elsewhere but we knew the area. We knew the trails. Baird mountain was our home. Hunting somewhere else was out of the question so each morning we would rise before the butt-crack of dawn and drive 20 miles of logging roads to hunt the only place we had ever known. When we lost our elk camp we lost much of the fun that went along with it. There were no more campfires and card games and countless hours telling stories. There were no more pancake breakfasts or drunken celebrations of success if we got an elk. We hunted because it was what we always did but it was never the same.
This year I will once again camp. It will be in an area unfamiliar to me with a group of guys I have never hunted with. My son will not be home from the eastcoast in time to hunt. My daughter is moving to Pensacola so she will not be hunting either. I refuse to pay Weyerhaeuser Corp. a single dime to enter the tree farm. The company recieves huge tax breaks because they have always allowed the public access to the forests of Washington State. Now they appear to be getting their cake and eating it too. A way of life is once again changing due to the greed of a large cooperation. How sad!!
This year as I walk through the forests my dad will be in my thoughts. Todd