Hunting & Heritage  |  02/01/2024

The Next Chapter


A look forward as the season comes to a close

By Casey Sill

I’ve measured my hunting season this year as a series of “lasts.” 

I’m not dying or anything — nothing that dramatic. But when I walked out of the grouse woods on the evening of January 7, the final day of the season, in a way it was the end of a chapter. 

You see, when the season picks back up next September, I’ll be a father.

I’ve always thought of my own father’s life as being separated into two distinct parts. The time before he had children, and his life since. I’m not sure why I’ve always broken it down like that, but now that I’m about to cross the threshold myself I’ve been looking at my own life through the same lens. So this fall I took note of my “lasts” — last duck hunt before I become a father, last grouse hunt, so on and so forth. 

I marked the end of this chapter mostly because I’m so excited to start the next. My son is due at the end of April, and among the chaos of preparing for a baby, I can’t help but look forward a few years to a time when I’ll be able to share this world with him. All the “lasts” I experienced this year will be replaced by “firsts.” His first morning in a duck blind, the first time he sees a dog point and a pheasant flush. The possibilities are endless, and wonderful to contemplate. 

Most likely too early to size him for hunting boots.

I was too young to remember most of those firsts when I was a kid. I was six-weeks-old the first time mom and dad drug me along on a fishing trip to Long Pine, Nebraska. But I now understand how much those moments must’ve meant to my dad — and I can only hope to live up to his example. 

When I was young I spent a lot of time wondering what dad was like before I was born. I used to pour over old photos of him and imagine who he was in his twenties and early thirties. He seemed to be good at everything, a trait he’s maintained well into his late 60s. Dad was cool, composed and infuriatingly photogenic. 

Dad in the early 1980s, contemplating his future as an LL Bean model.

By contrast, I’m not particularly adept at anything, am perennially nervous and almost cartoonishly accident prone. Hunting trips with dad always seemed so perfect, and idyllic. But my son will have to get used to watching me miss roosters, fall through the ice, rip holes in my waders and cast endlessly to nonexistent trout (apologies in advance, kiddo). 

The reality of course is those trips with dad weren’t actually perfect. They felt so storybook at the time simply because I was with my dad. We could’ve been digging ditches alongside the highway and I would’ve been just as excited.

Hell, they still seem perfect. My last grouse hunt of the year was spent with dad and my brother Dan. We worked all afternoon, racing against the fading, featureless light of mid-January Wisconsin. Dad, naturally, folded a bird that was beelining toward the nearest stand of aspen at around 45 yards. Meanwhile I fell face-first into an only partially frozen swamp, whiffed on one difficult shot, and missed a gimme at about 15 yards. 

But the day was perfect, and beautiful — because we were with dad. 

Casey Sill is the senior public relations specialist at Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at