Member's Hunt: A Second Chance

posted on March 15, 2024
MH A Second Chance Lead

By Dave Marr, Idaho Falls, Idaho

We have all said, “If only I had a second chance.” Maybe at love, likely at life, certainly at hunting. Sometimes, sometimes … second chances do happen.

He was Dugger, and over the course of nearly 20 years, he became Papa Doug. I was Dave, and over that time I became Son. 

He was a Vietnam veteran, retired Marine gunny sergeant, now working in the Department of Forestry Management and in his late 50s—almost the same age as my dad would have been. I was in my early 20s, fresh out of college, a kid running full throttle through the world who bounced into the same office and related profession, and roughly the same age as his biological son. 

I lost my father at an early age after only a handful of impressionable years with him, while Papa Doug was in the long process of patching a relationship with his biological son after having lost the years of opportunity to pass along many life lessons. Tragically, that time was cut short when his son passed away unexpectedly.

I don’t exactly remember how or when we became so close—a nearly inseparable pair. I do have countless memories of our other adventures. He taught me how to bass fish in Shasta Lake, how to fly fish numerous streams and rivers in pursuit of everything from pan-fry rainbows to salmon, and how to hunt deer, antelope and elk in amazing places across Oregon and Montana. At one point, we made a commitment to fish a different stream every month.

The pinnacle of our hunts was a guided deer and elk hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness that we committed to after a season of being cold and wet with nothing to show for it but unpunched tags. That hunt was where I harvested my first bull elk with a rifle he let me borrow and we doubled up on a set of nice muley bucks.

From him I learned how to drive a bass boat with a trolling motor, oar a drift boat, and care for a rifle and my feet after hunting all day in the snow and rain. I learned that if the hunting season was 10 days long, I had better let the boss know I would be gone for all 10 days. He taught me that even if we were hunting out of camp, we still had to get up two hours before sunrise. He often gave me the choice of going left or right in any given hunting spot. I begrudgingly learned it didn’t matter, as he would move slow and methodical all too frequently resulting in a single gunshot, then a crackle on the radio confirming what I already knew, “Hey, Dave I got one down.” 

Somewhere along these years, his wonderful wife felt pity on me and introduced me to a beautiful young lady that became my wife, resulting in Pappa Doug being a groomsman at my wedding and later, two boys that were also “adopted” as grandsons. Each grandson received his first fly rod and box of flies from Papa Doug and later, a handful of pocketknives, a bow and a rifle.

I liken it to how, over time, owners look like their pets or how an old couple look similar; many people didn’t know we weren’t related, by blood, at least. We were related by need, it turned out. I doubt either of us was looking for a second chance in this aspect of our lives, but the man upstairs had it planned, for which I am truly grateful. Our last hunt together turned out to be our last time together, which leaves me with a desire for a second chance to hold that departing hug from our campsite a little longer. Why is it our nature to desire a second chance at something we didn’t deserve in the first place?

Do you have an exciting, unusual or humorous hunting experience to share? 
Send your story (800 words or less) to [email protected] or to American Hunter, Dept. MH, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA, 22030-9400. Please include your NRA ID number. Good quality photos are welcome. Make sure you have permission to use the material. Authors will not be paid, and manuscripts and photos will not be returned. All material becomes the property of NRA.


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