Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Passion for the outdoors proves to be in the blood of the Sparano family

Thirty years ago, Vin T. Sparano took his son, Matt, on a Colorado elk hunt.

Did my son Matt see the deer? If it was a buck, was he ready to accept what he was about to do? Was age 15 too young to be on a deer stand alone? Then I heard the shot.

When I reached Matt, he was standing over his first deer, a 4-point buck. At first, Matt was quiet. I knew every thought coursing through his mind. Words can never adequately describe the seriousness and sensitivity of what you have just done. Then comes the elation and the acceptance of your deer as a gift from whoever it is you choose to believe in.

I had taught Matt all I knew about deer hunting. I explained the rut and showed him rubs and scrapes. I had told him about scents and tree stands. But I never really believed that I could prepare him for his first big-game hunt.

It was back in 1992 that I found myself sitting a few yards behind Matt as he rested his .300 Winchester Magnum on my shooting stick and put his crosshairs on a bull elk in a New Mexico meadow about 250 yards away. I watched with my hunting buddy, Jim Zumbo, as Matt dropped that huge bull elk with one shot.

That elk hunt was a wedding gift for Matt…probably the best gift I will ever give Matt in my lifetime. That elk hunt was with my son 30 years ago.

Many years have passed and now age has taken away my gait. My elk hunting in our Western mountains is now a memory for me. But hunting is still very much in Matt’s life and now his elk hunting buddy is Steven, his young son and my grandson…as it was with me and Matt so many years ago.

Yes, hunting is very much in our blood and this was never more true than this past fall when Matt took his son, Steven, on his first elk hunt in Colorado. But this hunt was going to be a lot tougher than the one I remember with Matt.

Matt and Steven decided to hunt on their own. No guides would lead them to an elk. If they got an elk, they would have to quarter the animal and pack it out to a trailhead. I gave them all my old equipment, including the very same shooting stick that Steven would ultimately use.

This past fall, Matt’s son, Steven, (above) killed his first elk, in Colorado. (Photos by Vin and Steven Sparano)

They arranged to hunt a private ranch, but all they had to guide them was a map. Someone up there must have been listening to me. On the last day of a five-day hunt, Steven got his elk.

He dropped it at about 200 yards, resting his rifle on the very same shooting stick Matt used 30 years ago.

Matt and Steven field dressed and quartered that bull and packed it out. It took them five hours and all that elk meat will get home safely to New Jersey. There’s an interesting sidebar to this story. When Matt got his elk 30 years ago, our guide got ready to field dress the bull. My son stopped him. Matt wanted to dress out his elk, which he did under the headlights of a truck. Zumbo and I just watched my son. That elk was a lot bigger than his first four-pointer.

We have all heard that a man’s entire life can race through his mind when he is experiencing something extremely intense. This must be true, because as I now sat in intense silence in that New Mexico meadow, vivid memories flooded through my mind.

Like the time when one of our Ojibway guides on a Canada fishing trip was struck in the head with a loose ax head. Matt and I had to bandage him with duct tape and our shirts to keep him from bleeding to death.

The guide had no radio, so we put him in a boat with another guide for a nine-hour trip to a base camp. Matt and I stayed behind in a trapper’s cabin to wait for our plane, which didn’t show up for three days because of bad weather.

We fished, ate walleyes, drank water from the lake and at night listened to the baby-like cry of a Canada lynx behind our cabin. Deciding at last that we were no threat, the lynx came right out and stared at us.

There were other trips that went sour. We were once forced down on a weather station air strip when our DC-10 sprung an oil leak and killed one of the engines. On another trip to a remote Quebec lake, I took a fish hook out of Matt’s finger. The next day, he caught a 25-pound pike. Fishing in a New Jersey tournament many years ago, Matt and I broke down in my 24-foot boat 20 miles off the coast of New Jersey. With no other boats in sight, I called in a Mayday. The Coast Guard found us just before dark after we fired nearly a dozen aerial flares. This was in the days before GPS.

As the years pass, I have been more and more convinced that hunting and fishing becomes a strong family tradition more than any other activity. Matt had already guided my grandson Steven to his first whitetail, a fork-horn buck, as I did with Matt.

For my 80th Birthday, Steven gave me a photo album of our many family trips together. As I did with my son Matt, I took Steven fishing for everything from bluegills to sailfish.

I showed him how to shoot safely in the field and on a skeet range. Engraved on the wood cover of the photo album, was Steven’s birthday message to me. I’ll share only a portion of it with you:

“You have taught me skills and ways in which many people do not know. We have shared so many memories which I will never forget. You have made me respect the woods and waters as I should and I will continue for as long as I live. Everything I do is to make sure in some way you will be proud. Thank you, Grandpa, for the outdoor life I will forever cherish. “

There’s no doubt in my mind that I have passed along a strong outdoor tradition to my children. I have to confess that my job was easy. It’s in the blood!

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