Author’s note: Twenty-nine-year-old Jon Lester from Washington State was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2002 at only age 18, spent four years in the minor leagues and then went to the big leagues in 2006. Lester is currently one of the best left-handed pitchers in the sport of baseball, is starting for the Boston Red Sox and has the best record in baseball for 2013. Lester also is a hunter, a cancer survivor, and a family man.

I grew up in Washington State, and fishing was my first outdoor love. My parents didn’t really hunt, but we all fished. However, as a professional baseball player, my work required me to be on the mound playing baseball during the spring and summer fishing months. One of the advantages of being a professional baseball player is that you meet a lot of people from all over the world. I met Chad Spann while playing minor-league baseball when we were assigned to be roommates. Later, he became the best man at my wedding and my best friend. Chad always talked about hunting and how much he loved the sport. We were both playing Class A ball in Augusta, Georgia right after we signed to play pro-baseball. Since Chad was from Georgia, when we had an off-day, he took me home with him. I went on my first turkey hunt with Chad, and instantly became hooked on hunting.

When I signed with a new agent, the company that this agent worked with knew a lot of people, and they reached out to Tim Anderson, head of Mossy Oak’s Pro Staff. Tim and I talked over the telephone and developed a friendship. Tim asked me to be involved with Mossy Oak and to go whitetail hunting with him in South Dakota. We had a great time together and both took nice bucks. This hunt was a spot-and-stalk rifle hunt. After that, we became good friends, and this friendship helped me develop relationships with Mossy Oak and the Mossy Oak staff. I’ve learned that hunting is less about taking the animals and more about the people you’re with, the time you share together, and the memories and relationships that come out of a hunt. In 2010, Tim and I went on anther hunt together in Alabama. Once again I was able to spend time with my friend Tim Anderson, meet more Mossy Oak people, and become more involved in the company.

The thing I enjoy most about hunting is waking up early in the morning before daylight, getting into the woods while they’re still dark, and experiencing all the animals waking up. I love to sit in my treestand and watch the wild world come to life. Plenty of times when I’m bowhunting on my farm in Georgia, I’ll have a doe walk out in front of me and present an easy bow shot. I know we have to harvest a certain number of does off my property to keep the herd healthy. But instead of taking the shot, I’ll often just say to myself, “I want to watch that doe and see what I can learn from her.” Maybe a buck will come behind her, and I’ll get a chance to take a buck, or maybe I’ll see something in the woods that I’ve never seen. For example, this year, I saw and heard some things in the woods I had never experienced before. I saw two bucks fighting. I heard a buck grunt and saw a buck do a snort/wheeze. I watched a buck walk into a field, spot a doe at the other end of the field and flat-out run to get to her. Yes, I like to take a big buck like any hunter, but that isn’t what I am looking forward to when I hunt.

In the next few years, I’m looking forward to taking my son hunting with me. I want to teach him the importance of hunting and being a steward of the land and protecting the animals that live on the land. I want to teach him gun safety and how to properly carry a gun in the woods. I want him to learn about the good people in this world who come from families that hunt and fish together. I want him to have the kind of outdoor experience that I had with my family. I think that hunting, fishing, and being in the outdoors helps individuals become better people, and that’s why I hunt.

For more information on Jon Lester, visit http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=452657.

Image courtesy John E. Philips

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