2016 marks one of the most significant changes in my life.

Over the years my hunting partner and I have sat around for days goose hunting, destroyed our boat moose hunting and had adventures that all the money in the world could never pay for.

When you talk to hunters, anglers and outdoorsmen the one thing they will say is: always take someone you trust. Things will go wrong and when they do, you want to be sure that you can take care of your partner and they can take care of you.

My hunting partner has been the best I could ever ask for and I know that in the future we will head out on more adventures together, but it may be a while. Hayley is graduating this year and heading east to law school.

Almost 18 years ago I was blessed with a little red headed hunting partner.

When she was two we would drive around with her in the back of our car looking for ptarmigan on gravel roads that were not made for our Chrysler Neon.

When she was three Grandma Debbie had made her a complete hunting get up, but she had to wear her pink rubber boots. She always jumped out of bed ready for the next trip to the goose blind. After a few hours on one trip she entertained herself by playing Barbie geese. I have yet to meet or hear of another child that plays with the dead snow geese to keep from getting bored – and I don’t hear of many people taking their three year old girls out bird hunting.

As she grew up we had many more adventures and she has never said she can’t come. A few years ago on a moose-hunting trip she wasn’t feeling well and went home with Chris. As soon as she got home and realized she left me in the bush alone she started crying. My wife Heather called and told me what was going on very shortly after (it was the one trip our camp was close enough to a town to get cell service). The next day Heather, Hayley and Janessa drove five hours to come stay the night at our hunting camp. Hayley could not bear the fact that I was out there alone and stayed the rest of the week even though she wasn’t feeling well.

She has been there for all three moose I have used my tag on in the Yukon, even though she doesn’t help with field dressing the animal, she has always been a great partner.

Her new adventure to university will be a different one, but, like her, I am worried about her being out there alone. I’m sure if she makes the call I will want to jump on a plane to come help however I can. Just like she convinced her mom to bring her back to camp.

The end of a song that seems like it was written for me is coming to an end soon. Kenny Chesney wrote about a young man who thought his life was over when his girlfriend got pregnant. At 19 years old I was scared “I’m to young for this, I’m just a kid myself, how am I going to raise one. There goes my life, there goes my future, my everything, might as well kiss it all goodbye; there goes my life”.

Being a young father causes you to grow up a little quicker than your friends around you.

In the song, as his daughter grows her pictures fill up the refrigerator, and again like the song I watched and as she fumbled up the stairs holding her teddy bear and he sings, “There goes my future, my everything; there goes my life.”  

As I blink I can replay her entire life in a moment. I never thought the last verse of the song would come so quick: “She had that Honda loaded down, with her Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes, and his American Express. He checked the oil and slammed the hood, said, ‘You’re good to go.’ She hugged them both, and headed off to the west coast.”

As I write this I sing the words in my head with tears in my eyes. “And he cried, there goes my life; there goes my future, my everything, I love you baby, goodbye….there goes my life.”