Sixth-grader Seth Kile has the hunting bug, and he came by it naturally.
During a poetry unit that my 8th grade English class at Boyet Jr. High in Slidell was dissecting, we came across a poem about legacies. My students easily identified the extended metaphor comparing a mother’s courage to a granite hill. Identifying the imagery and sound devices was a piece of cake. It wasn’t until I queried them about legacies that I got 21 blank faces.
Eventually one of them blurted out from the back, “It’s something you get from your daddy!” This simple reply spurred the minds of others, and the blank faces started changing to knowing smiles.
“It’s like when a dead aunt left you a ring or some money,” another piped up.
“I’m a legacy at a sorority,” said a blond cheerleader from the front row.
One of the better students finally asked if he could grab a dictionary. After a little research, he proudly announced the definition of legacy to his classmates.
“Legacy,” he said. “In a will, a gift of property, especially personal property, as money … anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”
I knew I could count on him.
Now that they knew exactly what it was, hands started shooting up all over the room from students eager to tell me about the legacies they had received. Everything from a Rolex to a rabbit’s foot was mentioned. Then I dropped the bomb.
“Does a legacy have to be something you can see, something you can touch, something you can feel?” I asked.
They came to realize that the speaker in the poem that received the legacy of her mother’s broach, something that could be seen, actually would have rather received the legacy of her courage, something that could not be seen.
“A legacy is kind of like a family tradition,” said one of my quiet kids that rarely speaks up. “But you’ve got to be willing to accept it for it to be passed down.”
It was one of those moments that validate the decision to become a teacher.
There are some families that believe there is no greater legacy than that of hunting. Ask any kid who’s interested in hunting how he got started, and the immediate response will invariably be, “My dad.”
I don’t have to tell you dad’s answer to the same question. Hunting is a legacy, but only if a young successor is willing to accept it.
Take Seth Kile for example. This 12-year-old sixth-grader at Woodlawn Elementary School in Ouachita Parish knows what his legacy is. Sure, he does all the things kids like to do. He plays football for the Warriors. He loves spending time with his friends. Ask him to describe himself, though, and you’ll get a pithy response.
“I’m a hunter,” he’ll say.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, Seth’s future was already written in stone the day he came home from the hospital adorned in camouflage footed pajamas. It wasn’t long after that he saw his first box stand.
“I made a six-by-six box stand large enough to put a bed in when our daughter Summer was 2 years old,” said Seth’s dad Doug Kile. “That stand has actually been all over ESPN because Jimmy Houston shot a turkey right in front of it while filming one of his shows. I changed many a diaper in that stand.”
Rather than run from his family’s hunting legacy, Seth embraced it. While other kids were watching cartoons and eating cereal, Seth was outside learning how to shoot his .22 rifle.
Kile gave his son a modified .22 that would fit his short arms and small hands when he was just 4 years old. Under Kile’s close supervision, Seth shot thousands of bullets through that gun without realizing what his dad was trying to accomplish. He just thought it was fun to plink around with his rifle.
“I never once let him shoot with a hunting rifle until he actually went hunting,” said Kile. “I’m convinced he’s as good a shot as he is now because of it. Some of my nephews started shooting with their hunting rifles, and they’re almost ruined because they flinch every time they pull the trigger.”
All those .22 rounds eventually paid off when Seth was just 6. After spending numerous hours in the box stand with his dad, he finally got to shoot his hunting rifle, a .243.
“I killed my first deer when I was 6,” Seth recalled. “It was a spike, and I dropped it at 220 yards. All I had ever shot before that shot was my .22 rifle. I wound up hitting the deer in its ear … it didn’t even take one step.”
Since that small spike, Seth has killed 10 more bucks. His most recent was a 7-point beauty that fell on the first day of the new gun season. Hunting from the big box stand with the bed in it, Seth and his dad discussed the deer for several minutes before Seth decided to shoot it.
“I don’t believe in going back and killing a smaller buck than what you’ve already killed,” Seth said. “I killed a 6-point a while back, and I was looking for something bigger. We couldn’t tell if it was a 4 or a 6 for a while, but we finally decided it was a 6. The only thing I got off my other 6 was the horns because we couldn’t find the deer until the next day, so I decided to make the shot.”
This deer buckled and ran off in the woods after Seth pulled the trigger, so there was a little legwork to do before he finally got to see exactly what he killed. They found the deer about 40 yards from where he shot it. Both were surprised to find a kicker on the very end big enough for Seth to claim a 7-point.
To hear Seth discuss not wanting to take small bucks is to hear his legacy come to life. The most important thing Kile feels a parent can pass along to a young hunter is a sense of conservation. The last thing he wants his son doing is abusing what he has. While the Kiles don’t have any set rules on their little deer lease, they do instill a strong sense of buck management.
“I haven’t killed a buck on our place in I don’t know how many years,” Kile said. “We let the kids kill the bucks, and we want them to realize that we have some good deer around here. Seth has blown a few chances at killing a big buck, but he knows that managing the deer that we do have will only increase his chances of taking a really big deer in the future.”
“We focus a lot on letting the little bucks walk,” Seth interjected. “We have the potential to have some big bucks on our land, but that will never happen if we shoot all the little ones. It’s nice shooting a big buck, and we don’t want just a bunch of spikes walking around. Since this was a 7-point, I’m now looking for my next buck to be at least an 8-point.”
Kile quickly verified that his son has let more small deer pass than they could count. In fact, this quality is one of the things that most impresses him about his son. It’s difficult to take a kid hunting and expect him not to want to shoot something.
So when Seth watches a spike or 4-point walking around without shooting it, even though he readily admits he wouldn’t mind shooting it, Kile realizes that his message is getting through.
In fact, Kile’s message, not just about conservation, but about safety and responsibility, has gotten through to Seth enough that Kile started allowing him to hunt some on his own last season. Any parent of a young hunter knows this is one of the most difficult of all the hunting decisions.
“Parents have to make that decision for themselves,” Kile insisted. “All I can say is that when the time came for me to let him go, I knew it. I don’t let him go by himself all the time, and I don’t let him hunt out of a climbing stand on his own, but he has proven to me that he can handle hunting on his own.”
Kile advised other parents to constantly watch their kids while they are out hunting together. Watch how they handle their guns. Watch what they do with their safeties. Watch them getting in and out of the stand. When they do everything right without knowing that you’re watching them, then you might want to consider giving them a little freedom.
“A lot of it will depend on how much a kid hunts,” said Seth. “I hunt so much that it almost becomes second nature. But I’ve got some older cousins that are 17 and 18 that still hunt with their dad’s because they just don’t hunt as often. And if you really want to know if you’re kid’s ready to hunt by himself, watch him. Don’t just ask him.”
While the hunting gene was dominant in Seth, he understands that there is more to hunting than just killing an animal. One of the things he likes most about hunting is being able to relax and enjoy nature and watching animals. He enjoys riding the ATVs and spending time with his kinfolk.
“It’s just a good chance to get away from home,” he said. “Not that home is a bad place to be. I’m talking about the opportunity to be outside and do something other than sit in front of a TV for half your life. There’s nothing like getting out in the woods and having to rely on yourself. We have a generator at the camp, but we leave it off most of the time. To me, that’s as fun as anything you can do in your house.”
As much as he loves deer hunting, that isn’t the only thing that captures Seth’s interest. He and his dad spend a lot of time together in a duck blind at the back of Stowe Creek on Lake D’Arbonne. And he’s been terrorizing the local squirrel and rabbit populations for as long as he can remember.
Growing up in Ouachita Parish means that many of Seth’s friends hunt just as much as he does. Two of his best friends, Austin Sims and Spencer Hemphill, hunt at their own deer camp. However, realizing that all his buddies from school don’t have the same hunting opportunities as he does, Seth sometimes invites his friends to go along with his dad and him.
“I tell them they’ve got to at least try it once,” Seth said. “I guarantee them they’ll have just as much fun as I do, and I tell them about a typical hunt before they go. We get on the stands before daylight and hunt until about 10:30 or 11. We go back to the camp for lunch and to rest or clean deer. We go back to the stands at 3:30 and hunt until dark. At night, we go up to the high pipeline and watch the stars. What’s not to like about that?”
Seth is only in the sixth grade now, but he already has his sights set on one day working a job that allows him to be outside and around hunting. He suggested he might like to work for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Other than that, he would like to work around animals — maybe a veterinarian.
“The one thing I know I’m going to do, though,” Seth asserted, “is make sure I pass down what my dad passed on to me. I want my kids to have the same opportunities I had, and I’ll make sure that they do. I came home from the hospital in camo, and my kids will come home from the hospital in camo. It’s our family tradition.”
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