Hunting Strengthens Family Bond
Deer hunting firearms season began Monday morning across the Mountain State.
Temperatures this week will range from the upper 40s to the mid 60s and it looks to be a sunny, dry year – no rain.
“I’m ready to start the season,” said Rob Wells of Middlebourne. “Weather permitting, it should be a good year.”
It’s a time when families bond together.
Wells said this week, he plans to hunt with his 93-year-old grandfather, Paul Buck, who lives outside Middlebourne.
“He loves to hunt – he got me into it,” he said. “The best part of hunting is being outside. I enjoy hunting with my grandfather – I always have.”
“We’ve hunted together for years,” Buck added. “We’ve always had a good time hunting. I was probably the first person he ever went hunting with. Over the years, we’ve gotten quite a few deer.”
Mike Rokles and his daughter Rana will be bonding with their rifles in the woods this week deep in Wetzel County.
“I love hunting with my daughter – this week will be special,” he said. “We always enjoy the time we’re together.”
Rana Rokles added, “I can’t wait to hunt with my father. That means a lot to me, absolutely. He’s the one that taught me to love hunting. I’ve been a ‘daddy’s girl’ all my life. When we go hunting this time, Dad told me that the rifle he sited for me can hit a quarter at a hundred yards. If I miss, it’s my fault. Tough love at its finest.”
Hunting is not a “man” sport, she said, but one that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of gender.
“Some people look at everything in life as gender specific guy sports or guy activities but to me there’s not a line between guys and girls. I like to hunt too,” Rana Rokles said.
Some people’s eyes get wide when she tell them what her plans are this week.
“I get that surprised look all the time, but to me the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced came from a ‘guy’ activity when I shot that deer,” she said.
Gender equality aside, Mike Rokles, a hunting instructor for more than 23 years in Tyler and Wetzel counties, offers some advice to those people who will be in the woods dressed in blaze orange this week.
“Wear a minimum of 400 square inches of blaze orange,” he said. “Realize that when you are in the woods, you may be wearing 400 inches but they may only see six inches. And don’t wear brown or white in layers of clothing when you are hunting or you could make yourself a target.”
Mike Rokles said the main causes of hunting incidents include making mistakes for the game/failure to positively identify a target and what is beyond; careless gun handling; and falls from tree stands, which are responsible for a third of all hunting incidents.
If you were born after Jan. 1, 1975, he said, a potential hunter is required to take a hunter education class.
“Think about that for a moment,” Mike Rokles said. “The majority of hunters over the age of 40 have not taken one of these classes. The average age of a shooter involved in a hunting incident is 45. That’s a national statistic. If you’re over the age of 40 and you haven’t taken a class, I urge you to do so. You’ll learn more than just gun handling.”
Hunter safety goes hand in glove with these experiences these families will be sharing this week.
“I remember when dad taught me the rules be quiet, take off all the girl things like jewelry, no perfumes, no hair product,” said Rana Rokles, 34, who learned to hunt when she was in her 20s. “There’s those times he calls in the game and how to be there. I love being with the person who taught me everything.”
Rana Rokles remembers bagging her first buck a couple years ago.
“Dad went back to the car to get something,” she said. “I told him not to go, but he went. The next thing he heard was a gun shot. He yelled, ‘Did you get it?’ That was my first buck.”
There were tears, but that happens to almost everyone when after they take the shot that changes everything.
“I can’t say I didn’t cry the first time I killed a deer and I was in my 20s but you get over it and you go hunting again,” Rana Rokles said. “I realize it’s necessary to control the deer population. I’d rather harvest it and eat the meat than a deer be on the side of a road because it can’t find food or it hits somebody’s car and maybe causes an accident.”
Wells said his biggest catch was a 10-point buck that he shot last year.
“I used the all the animal. The tenderloin is the best part,” said Wells, 42, who has been hunting since he was 8 or 9 years old.
Mike Rokles tells the story of a phone call between himself and his daughter, while she was attending West Liberty. He told her that he shot a turkey which tastes “night and day” better than the frozen birds sold in grocery stores.
“She loves to shoot, deer jerky, turkey we hunt for the food,” he said. “One year when she was at school, I told her I got a turkey and I’ve cleaned it. She asked, ‘you got one? Well I’ll be coming home for dinner then!”
Buck said sharing these moments with Wells is one of the best parts of being grandfather.
“We always have a good time and that’s what makes hunting fun for both us,” he said. “No matter what we do, whether we get a deer or not, we have a good time. That’s why we keep hunting together.”