The lessons live on for those willing to teach them
My grandfather and uncles began teaching me to hunt and fish when I was 12. Out of all of them, I can recall much of my early memories being with my Uncle Jake (Cox) who frequently took me fishing for walleye on Norris Lake. (It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized he took me fishing so he could catch more fish with me in the boat!) When I was old enough, Uncle Jake and I eventually started hunting together, during a time when simply seeing a deer or turkey in Tennessee was a big deal. We spent countless hours among the trees, as the greatest tradition in Tennessee passed from one generation to the next.
This past spring, my two cousins and I were fortunate to be able to show our gratitude to Uncle Jake by taking him on a Cabela’s Signature Event turkey hunt near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where we stayed at Cabela’s Lodge with host Josh Workman stewarding our experience, and Dusan Smetana—one of the world’s most sought after sporting photographers—capturing it. It was a tough three days of hunting due to rain and high winds, but the time with Uncle Jake was something I’ll ever forget.
We bagged a couple of Old Toms during the trip, but perhaps most notable were the moments spent in the lodge recounting stories of deer and turkey hunts spanning 50 years. As we told our tales, there was a common thread among all of them: Uncle Jake. His profound influence on our shared experiences hunting and fishing together was evident as each tale unfolded, elements of our early lessons with him woven into just about every story we told.
Tennessee is rooted in tradition in so many ways. But none are quite as impactful as the ones passed down outdoors. We then take those lessons—preparation, patience, resilience, understanding—and without even realizing, apply them to all other areas of our lives. Eventually, it’s our turn to pass those lessons on to the next generation, and so the cycle continues. Tennessee tradition lives on, and for me, that’s all thanks to Uncle Jake.