Ambassador - Don Wilson
My hunting began as a 10-year old on the family farm in Wolfe County, Kentucky. It's the same farm my father started hunting at around age 10. It's also where my two daughters started hunting at 10 years old.
I grew up gun hunting with Dad, but as I got older, my passion for hunting and my drive for challenge turned to bowhunting whitetail deer. I bought a compound, shot all summer, and set out after my first whitetail with a bow. The first day of bow season came and I found myself 20 feet up in a tree staring at a small doe at 15 yards. I drew, let the arrow fly, watched it hit its mark, and saw the arrow stick in the ground on the opposite side of the doe. I was a bowhunter from that moment forward.
Although Dad and I shared a love of the outdoors and hunting, he was not a bowhunter. I couldn't look to him for advice and had to teach myself. I grabbed anything and everything I could find on bowhunting ... books, magazines, videos ... anything. The challenge of learning how to hunt with a bow drove me like nothing ever had.
I bowhunted a fair bit with friends but eventually missed the time in the woods with my father, so I began teaching him what I had learned. We shot 3D archery shoots and soon began bowhunting together, spending many days chasing whitetail and nights afterward reliving our hunts over the fire. Dad embraced the challenge like I had, and he was a quick learner. A new chapter in our hunting story began; I had created a bowhunter.
At this point, I knew enough to become a whitetail guide under an Ohio outfitter. I thought I would enjoy the challenge of trying to put other hunters on whitetail, but I quickly learned that when you guide hunters it doesn't leave much time to hunt yourself. After not hunting for two years, I decided guiding was not for me and left the job.
I returned to the woods the next season, bow in hand. I soon found myself 20 feet up in a tree drawing on a deer again, but this time it was a 200-inch whitetail buck that changed my life forever. I let the arrow go and took my first Boone and Crocket whitetail with a bow. Although I have taken other trophy-class whitetail, I am still chasing that feeling to this day.
Now, after many years of learning and guiding, I'm proud to say I'm teaching my two most important students: my daughters Amanda and Tricia. This year, we started turkey hunting together on the same hilltop where my father took me on my first squirrel hunt and nearly 70 years after Dad’s first hunt. My oldest daughter will start bowhunting this year, and in a few years, my youngest will follow.
It's hard to describe the joy and satisfaction of being in the middle of this family tradition with all of us having such an intimate connection to this land and the animals that live here. I look forward to the challenge of teaching my two new students the one thing that has driven me like nothing else and passing on the knowledge and skills I've learned in these woods over the years.
Amanda and Tricia may have a ways to go as hunters, but they have already taught me some of the most important lessons a hunter can learn: Be patient. Don't always be so serious, and always enjoy just being out there.
Don Wilson and his daughter Tricia return from a spring turkey hunt.
“They’ve both made me a more balanced and present hunter,” Wilson says of his daughters. “They're patient, listen well and learn quickly. I’ve learned a lot from both of them already, especially to just enjoy the experience and the time spent together.”
Donald Wilson and his granddaughters after a successful spring turkey hunt.
“I have so many great memories hunting here with Dad,” Don Wilson says. “Now that he and I are hunting here with the girls, I think we’re having more fun than ever. Seeing it through their eyes has given us a fresh perspective."
Tricia Wilson harvests her first turkey.
A note written by Tricia and left on her father’s pillow before her first turkey hunt.