That trip happened for us, as most of them do, the result of reading a fantastic magazine story interspersed with phenomenal photos of a shoot that sounded and looked magical; aka, definitely like something we’d want to add to our portfolio of experiences. And like many of our shooting trips, Joe booked his place on the line of guns at Port Patrick without knowing another soul in the party, confident we’d meet and make new friends as we always do; and equally confident that his “shotgun wife” would happily accompany him so long as he arranged the best room in the house and possible a new shooting hat or bag for the trip. So on that particular trip we met Toby and Liz, Tom and Dorothy, Bob and Barbara, Ed and others….all of whom we’ve hunted with again on other trips and seen at our own Joshua Creek Ranch and elsewhere.
The first weekend of December we visited our friends Tony and Claire at their Ocean Reef home in the Florida Keys. Tony was a shooter in a hunting party at Joshua Creek Ranch in the early 1990’s and brought his family back for a New Year’s hunting holiday. We became great friends and have hunted together in Argentina, cruised Europe together and shared visits at their New York and Florida homes and our Colorado home and Texas ranch.
Hunting and fishing has been the means by which we’ve acquired so many of our friends. We don’t have to look far at all to keep naming good and long-time friends that have been significant in our lives. Why just Christmas Eve, we met our friends Dick and Red and their 25-year-old son, Jason, for our traditional family dinner together, something we’ve done since our children were toddlers. How did we meet? You guessed it….Joe, Dick and other buddies hunted dove and quail together in South Texas, Mexico, and Argentina even before these guys were married. Dick and Red were the couple who insisted we join them on our first trip to Scotland for driven pheasant shooting back in 1988 and we’ve made that trek together with them several times since then.
These friendships span decades and continents. I love the story of the couple our family met in 1996 when we took our seven- and nine-year-old sons with us for duck hunting in Argentina. We arrived mid-afternoon at the remote estancia where we were staying. Only one other couple whom we had never met was staying at this lodge. When we entered, you could sense their silent desperate cry, “You’ve got to be kidding, they brought their kids!” Well, before the trip was over, Harry and Taffy, who were from the Bahamas, were like adopted grandparents to our sons. Harry told them mesmerizing hunting stories and Taffy played cards and board games with them in the evenings. We exchanged Christmas cards and correspondence for years after that. Then one day when Joe and I were on a driven pheasant shoot in Scotland with a group of Texans, we were in a sitting room at the Roxborough Hotel (The old Sunlaws Estate) when we heard familiar voices from a nearby library bar. “That sounds like Harry and Taffy,” I said to Joe. We walked into the next room, and there they were after 10-plus years. What a wonderful unplanned reunion we had with these dear friends we’d made years before and maintained by correspondence.
Even my best friend of 35 years has been affected by our association with hunters and shotgun shooters. A couple of years ago, a widower named John came to Joshua Creek Ranch for a Thanksgiving hunt with his son and daughter. Joe and I happened to be at the lodge that evening, and met this family while having appetizers around the patio fire pit before dinner. Our visit with them continued into the evening and we enjoyed John so much that Joe called him a few weeks later and invited him to come out for a quail hunt. When John arrived for the hunt, he was carrying a bouquet of flowers for me. What a guy, I thought! Then we received written thanks as well. It’s not too often that gentlemen of this caliber cross my path, and although I’m not usually into match-making, I couldn’t help thinking of my best friend, Linda, who most certainly deserved such debonair companionship. So introductions were made, and they’ve since enjoyed lots of time together. Not only that, they’ve both bought new shotguns and are into clay shooting together.
Even my business has been positively impacted by friends made while on shooting trips. Almost all of those beautiful photos on the Joshua Creek Ranch website were taken by Terry Allen, renowned outdoor photographer who we met while on a shoot in England in 2009. And of course, many of the folks we’ve met while on hunting trips have since come to Joshua Creek Ranch as one of their own hunting destinations.
The stories of making friends via hunting and shooting are countless and can be shared enthusiastically time and again. And the fact that those friends remain in our lives after we’ve met and shared hunting experiences is an added blessing year after year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.