When my colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians learn my passion for stories was inspired by deer hunting, they often appear surprised.
Some of my earliest memories consist of walking into the camp house at my grandparents’ ranch after a morning or evening of hunting. The camp house was an old mobile home with wood paneled walls and dim tungsten lighting. The adults were circled around the kitchen table and took turns telling stories about what they’d seen while out hunting that day. I enjoyed my grandfather’s hunting stories the most, because he’d use his hands and make sound effects. My grandmother would smile and shake her head.
The picture above shows my grandfather on the left, my father in the middle using his hands telling a hunting story, and my mother on the right. Hunting is the most sacred tradition in our family. When the Haby family came to Texas from Alsace they hunted and provided meat for the other families in the Castro Colonies. We still make our own deer sausage today, and it’s fresher and more organic than anything you’ll find in Whole Foods.
For those who have never been hunting, they malign the practice as killing. For me, I never feel more connected to life, nature, and God than when I’m out there observing it all at work while hunting. When people find out I’ve been hunting they ask me what all I shot that day. I sometimes go an entire year without shooting anything. That was the case this year. But I did shoot some pictures with my StoryKeeping B Cam that I’m going to share with you here.
This doe is my buddy. She’s practically tame and has two fawns that she keeps close by the area that I hunt. If I make a loud noise she’ll look up at me as if to say, “Hey, keep it down up there if you expect any of my friends to stick around. I’ll forgive you this time, but seriously, stop being such an amateur.”
This is one of her fawns sprinting across an opening. Her sister had gone across before her at lightning speed, so I already had the lens focused the right distance. If my shutter speed hadn’t been so fast she’d have been a blur. Instead, I got this cool shot of a bucking fawn.
Sitting in silence for hours is a great opportunity to reflect on stresses and let them go. Occasionally the real world will break the peace to remind you of the rest of mankind. Because my blind is near a creek bed, later in the evening I’ll sometimes hear the sound of a boat. The lake is miles away but the creek channels the sound straight to my ears. A small, single-prop plane passes overhead on occasion as well.
I’m proud of this photo because it was difficult to get. I had the ISO and shutter speeds drastically different a few seconds before as I was tracking this buck through the shadows. My camera is incredible at low light photography and video, but if I’d changed nothing this deer would look like a white ghost. I saw the ray of sunlight break through where the deer was headed and was able to roll down the ISO and ramp up the shutter speed just in time to get this shot off.
I love the different color temperatures you experience in such a short amount of time. From blue hour to the golden hour to daylight all happens so fast, and the feel of your photos will change right along with those temperatures. This photo was taken into the sun just as it started to peak over the trees, and created a beautiful rim light on the deer headed my way.
It’s like an incredible game of hide and seek where you’re hopefully never discovered. This photo was taken at an effective focal length of 320mm and required me to almost hang out the window of the blind to get the telephoto lens to point down that far.
Family traditions are passed down through teaching and repetition. Some generational habits are instinct. I smiled to myself when I noticed my father and grandfather sitting at the table the same way. Some people tell me I walk the same way as my dad. What traits have you unknowingly picked up from your parents?
If we’re fortunate our parents and grandparents have told us about our family story. If we’re really lucky we have some stories about our ancestors in writing. These days oral history is growing in popularity as digital media becomes accessible in all corners of the planet. What will our descendants have to learn from when we’re gone? Will they take the time to scroll through our Facebook account history looking for clues? Do we even want them to do that? 🙂
When people look to ancestry websites and DNA tests to learn about who they are, they are literally barking up the wrong tree. Who we are is most impacted by the last three generations of our family. That means we’re most impacted by our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — the people we were most likely to know as we grew up, and those who most-impacted them.
Family traditions institutionalize who we are and who our descendants will become. What family traditions do you intend to pass down?