For the Shaw family of Labrador City, hunting and fishing has been a way of life from generation to generation.
It started in Tweed, Ont., where Gary and Carol hunted and fished with their respective family members, so it was only natural when their children Sara and Gary Junior were born, fishing rods were on the Christmas gift list.
Fishing and hunting, with the extended family, was a way to get together, enjoy the outdoors, and learn to respect and appreciate their natural environment.
For Gary and Carol their life included running camps and guiding. It was a trip to Labrador in March 1994, to write for a hunting and fishing magazine, that opened a new chapter in life for the Shaw family.
“It didn’t take long to realize that there was something magical about Labrador,” Gary Shaw told the Aurora.
The next year, Gary, Carol, Sara - who was 15 at the time- and Gary junior, 13, moved to the big land.
“It was a kind of scary idea at first,” explained Sara. “At that age leaving your friends, your school and the familiar surroundings can be a little unnerving, but once I got to Labrador I knew it was going to be fabulous. In the first little while I saw caribou, wolves, bears, loons and more.”
Gary senior sums it up easily: “Labrador called, and we answered.”
One of the first jobs for Gary and Carol was to operate a lodge about 100 miles North of Labrador City.
“The children spent their summers there, helping out, and getting used to a very different environment than Ontario,” Gary Explained.
Carol says one of the most noticeable things was the silence - “so silent, at times it was almost deafening. You heard the guests, maybe a boat motor or an airplane,” but the rest was the sound of nature in its purest form - a river, rain, wind, or an animal.
Gary junior recalls it was a big learning curve.
“At home if something broke, you ran to the store to get something to fix it. In the Labrador wilderness you have to be creative with all aspects of living, and you have to plan well; there is no hardware store a 10-minute drive away, and you don’t just run down the street for a jug of milk.”
With a slight grin on his face, he explains “you have to learn a lot, and soon realize just how much can be done with vice grips, wd40, duct tape and white lightning.”
For the Shaws, those years at the lodge were magical. They met people from all over the world. They weren’t guests, they were like family, and to this day we still manage to stay in touch with many of them. Out there what you do, who you are or how much money you have or don’t have, doesn’t matter, out there everybody is equal, they said.
Some people don’t embrace the fishing and hunting lifestyle, this family understands that, but they are adamant it has to be carried out in a sustainable manner. Respect for the animals, fish and environment is like an extra commandment in the Shaw household.
Gary senior explains, “when we fish, we only take what we will need for a meal when we hunt, every part of the animal that can be used is used.”
All agree, that is most important. They learned those lessons from their parents, passed them on to their children and now grandchildren, Lucas and Molly, the fourth generation.
At one point they helped move new rocks to a river to help the fish spawn, helped with fish counts and obtaining specimens.
“We have to take responsibility to protect all that for future generations, so now Lucas and Molly can enjoy the same thing their parents and grandparents enjoy and hopefully they will pass those same values on to their children,” Gary senior said.
“Take what you need, catch and release the rest, try to become educators … people have to know how valuable it is to be able to hunt and fish, but to do it so the resources are sustainable.”
It seems the message hasn’t been wasted. Grandson Lucas, who is an avid fisherman and plans to hunt as soon as regulations permit, thinks being a conservation officer might be a good career choice. His sister Molly has learned the practice of catch and release when she joins her parents on a family fishing day.
For the Shaws, all generations, a day fishing or hunting is as normal a family activity as movie night. Sitting around Gary and Carole’s Recreation room, we are surrounded by deer, a bear, ptarmigan and more – items, they said, are traditions; not trophies.
And there are stories attached to each and every one of them. When asked to recall some of their favourite hunting memories, for Carol it was the day she got her deer, while her dad, husband, and kids accompanied her.
For Gary junior, it was deer number three, at the family farm in Ontario, a place where family members for generations did the exact same thing; it was a moment of feeling a connection.
For Sara, memories are shared between the first caribou when she used her dad’s gun, and her first moose - a Labrador Moose at that - last October near Ossak, a couple of hours outside Labrador City.
For Gary, it was being with Carol when she got her deer, with Gary when he got his buck, and with Sara when she got her first caribou.
The family tradition continues. Gary junior still hunts and fishes, his wife Kathy Lynn fishes and loves tagging along for a hunt. Daughter Sara, her husband Kevin Stagg and their children Lucas and Molly enjoy it all. Gary senior and Carol still enjoy the hunting and fishing as well, and love it when they all get together. You can be sure there are a few fish tales and stories of the one that got away, but most of all there is a good meal, around a table full of family and friends.
The family is also appreciate of how the community has embraced them.
“People have welcomed us with open arms, shared their wealth of knowledge, kindness, and friendship with us, this is our home. We are happy that we are part of our community and that in some ways can give back and repay the kindness we were shown,” said Gary.
And finally, the Aurora is happy to inform its readers that with such an immense knowledge of the outdoors, nature, and the desire to preserve, Gary Shaw will be sharing some of that knowledge in articles he will write for this newspaper. Shaw has written for several publications in the past, and has written two books about his and his family’s life experiences. We welcome him.