Our Inspiration: onX Celebrates the Fathers of the Hunt

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As hunters, many of our first memories in the field are moments with our fathers. Dad was with us the first time we felt the kick of a shotgun, the first time we trembled uncontrollably from buck fever and the first time our arrow met its mark. The tradition of hunting would not be what it is today without the patience and support of fathers. To celebrate this day of dads, onX reached out to team members and staff to share some of our most important memories of being in the field with our best hunting buddies.

These are for you, dad.

onX pro-staffer Jana Waller and her dad posing with freshly harvested 8 point whitetail buck.

Jana Waller – Skull Bound

The bond my father and I have today is a direct result of spending time in the great outdoors together. When I was twelve I graduated hunter’s safety which, in 1983, was rare for young girls. Shortly after that, we took a road trip together from Wisconsin to South Dakota for a pheasant hunt. It was the beginning of our hunting adventures together.

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Bird hunting was the catalyst for our father-daughter hunting bond, but bowhunting whitetails was the super glue that gave us the connection to one another and the outdoors. When I was a freshman in college, just 20 minutes from my parent’s home, I got a phone call from Dad one evening. “Hey what are you doing in the morning?” he asked. “I shot a nice buck who disappeared into the cornfield and I can’t find him. Want to come help me look?” The next morning I met him at his tree stand and we retraced his steps from the previous evening. We split up in the corn after we lost the blood trail and minutes later I shouted “I found him! I found him!” Watching my Dad jump up and down with excitement is a memory I will never forget. It’s the moment that inspired me to pick up bowhunting because of the sheer elation we shared together.

In similar fashion, he was there with me when I recovered my first Pope & Young whitetail, a favor he was more than happy to repay. Not many women consider their dads to be one of their best friends, but I do. And it’s because of hunting.

onX pro-staffer Brian B-Mac McElrea bird hunting with his dad at age 9.

Brian McElrea – Hushin

I vividly remember joining my dad on his archery elk and deer hunt in the Blues Mountain Range of Eastern, Oregon. I was probably 9 years old and it was my first big game hunt that I was lucky enough to join him on. We saw some animals but I’m certain I was a total liability to be toting around. What resonates with me to this day is how hunting camp changed the dynamic of our relationship in such an amazing way.

Back home life was good, but up at hunting camp life was great. My dad is a man of great character, ethics and had a passion for his career before he retired and his family. He worked really hard to support us and it was oftentimes a stressful balance many people face dealing with a job we may not love, but one that we need.

When we drove that final stake into the ground and camp was officially set you could feel the stress melt away. My dad absolutely loved being at hunting camp and I could feel it. I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed seeing my dad in his element.

Those early days of hunting with my dad shaped who I have become today. Happy Father’s Day pops…I love you!

onX pro-staffer Aaron Warbritton turkey hunting with his dad in Missouri.

Aaron Warbritton – The Hunting Public

My old man got me into hunting when I was 5 or 6 years old. At the time, we didn’t know the first thing about shooting turkeys. Most hunts consisted of a quick setup close to the truck and Dad squawking on his old mouth call until the woods went quiet. Then we’d head to town for donuts. Dad tried to make it fun for me in those days and sacrificed his own success in doing so.

Eventually, we figured it out and started to harvest a few turkeys. My favorite hunt was one from spring 2014 on our family farm in Missouri. I’d struck out early and headed to the house with tail tucked between my legs. By the time I got there, Dad had just woken up (this is 10 a.m. mind you) and asked if we could go hunting for a spell. We walked to the back of our property calling sparingly in an attempt to strike a lonely gobbler. Around 11:30 I hit my slate call and two toms hammered less than 100 yards away. The old man and I crashed into the first available bush and within minutes the longbeards were at 15 steps. Dad shot one of the toms with my grandpa’s old model 12 Winchester pump and the other gobbler flew off. Thirty minutes later as we’re celebrating, the other tom started gobbling again. Closing time was approaching so I had to move fast (you’ve got to quit at 1 p.m. in Missouri). I grabbed my gun and closed the gap on the gobbling bird. At 12:58 the bird strolled into range and Dad and I had our first double. Guess sleeping in wasn’t a bad idea after all.

onX pro-staffer Shawn Luchtel turkey punting with his dad.

Shawn Luchtel – Heartland Bowhunter

My fondest memory of hunting with my father came at 10 years old. My father let me begin bowhunting when I could draw 35 lbs. The first deer that stepped into range was going to be fair game.

On my second bow hunt, Dad let me sit in my own stand right across the field from him. As the sun began to set I noticed a doe and fawn coming through the woods towards where my stand was sitting. I stood up quietly as they approached and waited for a shot. Just as I was about to draw I noticed movement behind them. Here came the biggest buck I had ever laid eyes on. He slowly crept in and offered me a 15-20 yard shot and my arrow went right over his back. He jumped about five yards and stopped, offering me another shot. It didn’t take long for me to empty my quiver that night as I only brought three arrows. None of which made contact with a deer.

Meanwhile, my dad is across the field watching the whole thing unfold. He sees the buck trot out into the field and start heading his way. As he closes some distance toward my father another buck enters the field to begin sparring with the original buck I had missed.

As light begins to fade I begin to get scared as I had never sat in the dark alone. I start yelling for my dad and clear all the deer in the field. I might have been a little young to be bowhunting at that age, but that memory will be instilled with my father and me forever.

onX pro-staffer Sam Soholt duck hunting in South Dakota on a cold November morning.

Sam Soholt – Photographer

I grew up in South Dakota and from the age of 10, lived and breathed waterfowl hunting. After my brother went to college out West, it was just my dad and me in the duck slough together every weekend in the fall for almost a decade. We had our system dialed and barely had to speak during the morning setup. After I graduated from NDSU, I moved west and it wasn’t until four years later that I was able to get back to chase mallards with my old man. It was almost like no time had passed. We went right back into our routine and the ducks, well they played their part. There is nothing better than sharing a cattail hide with your dad on a cold November morning.

onX pro-staffer Remi Warren & son cooking sitka blacktail venison on a hot rock camp fire.

Remi Warren – Solo Hunter

“This is what it’s all about” my dad exclaims, as he turns over a piece of Sitka blacktail fat and meat sizzling on a hot rock in a fire made of driftwood. Just outside our small cluster of trees the wind and rain rips, shaking a lightweight, single pole, tarp shelter near the fire.

Semi-stranded from the weather on a small island off of Kodiak, we hang out in camp cooking the deer my dad shot the night before. He is all smiles, not just from taking his first blacktail, but the whole experience. He is having fun, enjoying the adventure, and the memories made in the moment.

The day before we spent hiking the mountain behind camp. On the way back down a big buck popped up allowing my dad a shot. Had it been any deer he would have shot, we were low on food and wanted some meat. It just turned out it was a great buck. We cut him up and packed it back to camp where we hung it well out of reach from the brown bears in the area.

It was a little of everything on this trip but the moments cooking his deer in camp really stood out. It combined everything good about hunting into that one moment, cooking the deer, surviving the elements, and most importantly getting to share the experience with my dad. It was a simple moment in a great hunt, and we were both as happy as it gets.

onX pro-staffer Jason Metzinger hunting with his dad.

Jason Matzinger – Into High Country

When I was in 6th grade I was asked to write a paper about who my hero was. A lot of kids wrote about famous actors, or athletes they dreamed to one day be like. My hero was my father Tim and still is to this day.

It’s obvious that I wouldn’t be here without my father. Not only here writing this, but living a life of passion for wild things and wild places either. We’ve shared hunting camps from Northern B.C. to Africa, before I was old enough to hunt. He taught me to respect the game and appreciate all the tiny details during the hunt. We’ve had a lot of good laughs watching squirrels while waiting for bears in Northern Saskatchewan and had to work as a team to get back to camp after getting fogged in while bowhunting moose in British Columbia.

I try to think about one story that stands out above the rest, or maybe a story I tell over and over, but it’s hard. I realize now how much I think about so many of them and how many we’ve actually shared through the years. It’s funny when I think back, because it’s not the animals we took that made such great memories.

It’s the ridiculous things that we’ve laughed and cried over. It’s the flat tires, broke down pickup trucks, and tailgate sandwiches. It’s long talks about relationships, the past, and the future. It’s watching the sunrises and sunsets without saying a word, but making sure we talk about it before calling it a night. It’s listening to football on scratchy local radio and smalltown restaurants on Thanksgiving. It’s learning that to be a good father means so many things.

Happy Father’s Day, Tim Matzinger.

Your Son, Jason

Read more about the onX ambassador lineup here.

Written by Cavan Williams