Growing Up Hunting – The Glory Days
I come from a typical hunting family. I’m sure it was a natural lifestyle for my great, great grandfather to pick up hunting. His son, my great grandfather Merl Wittwer, kept the tradition going by taking my grandpa, Harold Wittwer hunting when he was a kid. Grandpa still tells stories about growing up hunting and the desperation to bring home wild game meat when he was a kid. His hunting trips with my great grandpa weren’t about a trophy, 30” buck, or a social media post. It was about meat. They had to bring home meat to make the trip and gas money worthwhile.
My Grandpa was the first person in my family to make hunting more than just a weekend event. Grandpa Wittwer loved hunting. However, like a lot of hunters, he wasn’t interested in quitting his full time career as a High School teacher to pursue a living in the world of hunting. He did, however, love it more than most. So, around year 1975, my grandpa started the guiding business Southern Utah & Nevada Outfitters. Grandpa says he needed something to do with hunting to occupy the remaining 49 weeks in the year he wasn’t hunting. A guiding business was the perfect excuse. He looked forward to the constant phone calls with questions about upcoming hunts, explaining the size of mule deer his clients could expect, how the application process worked, and everything else that comes with running a guiding business.
Grandpa has always been a “spender.” The guiding business was his excuse to buy all the hunting gear he wanted so that Grandma Wittwer could not argue against. Along those same lines, grandpa could own a herd of horses, used for the guiding business, and justify the feed and expense. Nothing made Grandpa Wittwer smile more than sitting around a campfire, after the sun had set, and recounting a story from the day’s hike and hunt. Those same stories would make their way home and be told to our family at what seemed like every get together or party. I was barely old enough to remember when Grandpa shut down the family guiding business. In fact, I was just coming of age to start hunting myself, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It didn’t matter though. The stories from those previous 20 years of guiding hunts built my interest in hunting.
My dad was a big part of the guiding business. He enjoyed guiding, but it ended because he had 3 kids about to turn legal hunting age. Hunting with his kids was his true passion. I remember tracking behind my dad for miles through the backcountry in search of a big buck, and he would usually find one. The process was simple. We expected to hike more miles through more country than the next hunter. Then make the shot when it was presented. It worked for years and still works today.
In those days, many hunters did not worry about or know the Boone and Crockett scoring system. We were after 30” bucks. Of course, if a buck was very light horned or noticeably young that was not ideal. But, in general, a 30” buck was so rare it was the true measure of a trophy mule deer. To this day, I still secretly envy a 30” buck. At the time of writing this, I have killed one buck that broke the magical mark. The buck was a velvet stag I killed with a rifle in Utah.
My dad taught me the fundamentals of hunting. His groundwork of skills and tactics are the entire foundation of my hunting experience and success. Growing up hunting I learned how to track a mule deer. I learned how to quickly and effectively position myself for an off-hand shot. He taught me the proper techniques of field dressing, skinning, and deboning a mule deer. I learned what areas looked “bucky” and which areas did not. To this day, I still enjoy hunting with my dad the “old school” way. I am and always will be a backpack, backcountry hunter but sometimes it’s nice to camp in a trailer, get up well before sunlight, hike through amazing buck country all day with my dad, then end the day gathered around the campfire telling all the hunting stories and enjoying a well cooked dinner.