When Randy Larson’s son, Jesse, approached him with an interest in hunting, the former Plant City mayor took it upon himself to teach Jesse each animal is God's creation.
The hunting trophies are mounted and labeled on the office walls in Randy Larson’s Franklin Street home.
There’s a European stag and a wildebeest; blesbok and nyala antelopes; kudu, a woodland antelope.
“They’re mine and my son’s,” Larson, a former Plant City mayor, said.
Larson’s son, Jesse, is now an adult. When he was 11, he expressed an interest in hunting to his father.
But the duo didn’t immediately pack their bags for a weekend in the woods. Instead, Larson brought his son to Tampa-based Arrowhead Archery. Jesse would practice two to three times per week. Larson also insisted his son go through the proper hunter education training. If Jesse could pass the state-approved written test, Larson would take him hunting.
“He passed the test,” Larson said. “So now I had to live up to my promises. It started as a way for me to spend time with my son.”
Like Father, Like Son
Even after Jesse passed his written exam, he still had to follow Larson’s rules when the duo went hunting.
They were only allowed to take one animal per person per hunt. Above that, they only hunted an animal if they intended on eating it.
“It’s God’s creation,” Larson said. “We wanted it to be respected. We learned what game was available ahead of time.”
On one of Jesse’s first hunting trips, Larson brought his son to a farm that was overrun with does near Lake City. When Jesse successfully hunted his first doe on the trip, he was taught to harvest the animal. While doing so, he discovered the doe may have been pregnant.
“He was in amazement,” Larson said. “He understood the meaning of life. That was probably the best life lesson for him ... him understanding what the responsibility of the hunter was and the reason for the game laws. Every year he got more knowledgeable about what we were trying to do and how to do it.”
One Clean Shot
Together, the father-son team took about one hunting trip every year. They primarily went to Texas, where they hunted different types of exotic game.
“Most all are antelopes,” Larson said. “Most of the animals originated out of Africa. We liked the exotics because of how they interact in nature, their natural camouflage. We wanted to do something different every year.”
When they hunted, Larson and Jesse sought out the older animals in a given pack. They were able to determine the age by the size of an antelope’s antlers or the points on a deer’s antlers.
“You don’t want to take the youngest male,” Larson said. “You take the oldest to improve the herd. When the
young males come up, the older males sometimes fight and kill the younger ones. The older males are very dominant.”
On their trips, the duo could spend up to three days hunting a specific animal. When they got close enough to it, they did their best to take down the animal with one clean shot.
“It’s more humane,” Larson said. “It means you’ve planned your hunt. When we take the shot, we make sure we’ve got a clear view of the kill shot.”
The shot would usually be between the heart and the lungs, but organ locations varied by animal.
“If you wound them, they run off,” Larson said. “If we’re going to hunt, we’re going to hunt as humanely as we can. If we hunt it ... we’re going to eat it.”
For the Larsons, hunting was never about quantity. When they were invited to a hog hunt in Texas, they declined going. Though the state allows hogs to be hunted all year long, the Larsons decided to decline the hunt because they would be encouraged to hunt as many hogs as possible and leave them in the fields, something that went against their hunting principles.
“We are conservation hunters,” Larson said. “We respect God’s gift of an animal giving its life for our sustainability.”
Ultimately, Larson said, hunting was a way of teaching his son about the respect for both the hunting weapons used and other living things.
“There’s a lot of shootings and killings on the streets,” Larson said. “When a person pulls that trigger, something or someone’s not going to be living anymore. (Hunting) made Jesse more personally responsible as he became a teenager. It gave him an appreciation for the responsibility that comes with owning a firearm. It was a religious experience for us in a lot of ways.”
Contact Emily Topper at [email protected].