There are those, mostly non-hunters, who have the mistaken belief that hunting is all about killing something.
That may be the case for young hunters. It is no different than thinking baseball is all about hitting homeruns or that only long, bomb touchdown passes matter in football.
Eventually most hunters grow beyond that and learn there is a lot more to it no matter what is being hunted. It is the traditions, the stories and the people around for a hunt that makes them special.
Tyler's Joanna Thiele has been hunting for 35 of her 42 years on family ranches in Breckenridge and Albany. The two Holland ranches, both two sections total in size, go back five generations in her family and now belong to her father, retired Rusk lawyer Bill Holland, and her aunt.
"My father's mother was born in Albany. Her father was a practicing physician in Albany," Thiele said.
Although their Shackelford County ranch pales in comparison to others in the county such as the Nail, Lambshead, the Hendrick and Stasney-Cook, it is still their heritage.
Her grandfather died when her father was in law school, so it was up to her father to indoctrinate Thiele, her brother and sister into hunting.
"It has always been my father. He carried on the hunting tradition. He loved to dove hunt, but he doesn't go so much anymore. He made sure all of us had hunter safety classes and learned to shoot," Thiele said.
She said her grandmother, who had moved to Conroe, wasn't able to make the hunts, but was always there in spirit calling out to see how the hunting trip was going.
It is a tradition she is now passing down to her two sons, William, 15, and Lawrence, 12, and her young daughter, Olivia, who made her first trip to the ranch when she was just a month or so old.
The hunting season starts early in the fall when the feeders are filled for the first time and the stands are readied for hunting. Thiele's sons old enough to be expected to help the older hunters with the work.
Hunting spots on the ranch are so traditional they have earned names through the years like The Pond Stand, Buck Ridge, Buck Draw, The Corner and No Man's Land. Keeping the hunting stories alive, the hunters sign their names in the stand each hunt and what they shot out of it.
"We always gather (at our spot) after the morning and afternoon hunts to recount who saw what at each deer stand, reminisce, toast to the kill, and cookout with steaks over mesquite on a roaring fire," Thiele said.
This year the Tyler school teacher took a nice buck scoring a respectable 135 on the Breckenridge ranch opening weekend.
"I shot my 8-point buck with a rifle that belongs to my father. After I killed the buck and was then riding around in the truck with my dad to retrieve the buck, I turned and I asked him, ‘What is the story on this gun?'"
Thiele said her father told her the .270 Winchester was a gift from his parents when he was 14, 61 years ago.
"He said, ‘Congratulations daughter. With that family heirloom rifle, you killed the biggest 8-point buck that has, in my lifetime, been killed on this ranch,'" she said.
"There is so much rich family history in my hunting experiences with my family when we head west. The land speaks to me and will forever echo daddy's voice, his life lessons and his words of wisdom. Hunting provides me with a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle, and when I do, I truly appreciate the natural beauty of the outdoors and the captivating wildlife. It is my ultimate paradise," Thiele said.
Most hunters don't have a family tie to the land like Thiele, and for various reasons they often don't stay on a lease as long as they used to. That doesn't mean the traditions die. They just come with new faces and new scenery. And those traditions will be passed to the next generation.
"I want my children to take their kids there someday. There is just too much of a legacy," Thiele said.
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