David Lawrence grew up as a ball-sports kid. He matured with the fond memory of batting a home run and an unfulfilled curiosity about hunting.
He excelled in skiing and running whitewater rivers and combined those passions into his career. A master outdoorsman, he’s been the owner of Pangea River Rafting based in Superior, Montana, and the snowsports director at Lookout Pass Ski Area.
Last season, at age 39, Lawrence fulfilled hunter education requirements, brushed up on the basics of deer hunting and scored his first buck with one shot at 50 yards.
“I don’t profess to be a great hunter,” he said. “It wasn’t even far from home.”
A hard-bodied nordic specialist, Lawrence could probably run a deer to exhaustion if he were desperate for a meal. Instead, he did it in model sportsman style.
“When I decided to get a hunting license for the first time since moving out West 19 years ago, Dad sent me the rifle,” he said.
The Marlin lever-action .30-30 is nothing fancy: open sights, acquired by his father about 60 years ago.
“Dad is 77 and he shot his first whitetail with that rifle in Virginia. He liked the idea that I wanted to hunt with his gun.”
Nobody dragged Lawrence out in pursuit of game. He wasn’t guided. He just went, for a lot of reasons.
“It has something to do with the primal wiring inside me,” he said. “I wanted to take a large animal down and feed my family with it. It felt right. It was something I wanted to experience.
“Hunting makes you intimate with the animal from the start to finish. It helps you process how the world works.”
In Montana, hunting isn’t a sport, he said. “It’s part of the culture. I wanted to be part of that culture.”
Taking aim when the deer presented his opportunity was instinctive, he said. “There was no buck fever, but there was a surge of testosterone. All of my senses were sharper, clearer.”
Even the hard part after the shot was something to thoughtfully savor.
“I was impressed with how intimate the moment is with an animal as you dress it alone in the field and remove the skin. It’s out of the New and Old Testament when it was part of everyday life. It’s a moment lost to most people since industrialization.
“I felt a connection with ancestors, and a connection with the animal.”
The biggest revelation from the hunt was that shooting an animal becomes a community event, he said. “My neighbors turned out; friends came over. People wanted to celebrate, not like a party, but they wanted to congratulate, hear the story, help and be involved.”
He brought the heart and liver home separately in a bag as he remembered his dad doing.
Then he took his child out turkey hunting – an experience that eluded him as a kid.
“I’ll probably never be half the hunter my 4-year-old will be in the future,” Lawrence said. “Doing something when you’re growing up lays a foundation I didn’t have. I realize that, and I’m glad I have one now.”
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