Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp 2010, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.
Ryan Klesko played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Atlanta Braves, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. A first baseman, Klesko had a career batting average of .279 and was an All-Star in 2001. He retired from baseball in 2008 and founded the Blue Rhino Foundation, recently receiving the Legends of the Outdoors top outdoorsman honor in 2010.
I've had several great experiences growing up. Hunting and fishing came to me at an early age, but I think my first deer hunt was probably not until the early 90s, about 18 years ago.
But I grew up fishing, hunting for pheasant, bird hunting and all the other stuff. My dad was in big environment clubs and stuff, so I have childhood memories of learning how to hunt. At that time, picking up game and retrieving game for my father before I was old enough to shoot a gun was probably the best experience for me.
I remember long trips on the weekends to deer camp, which back in California was blacktail deer. I didn't take my first buck until I was older. Finally being old enough to get my first shotgun to go bird hunting was awesome because it took me several years of chasing wounded birds around, quail and stuff like that, to earn my stripes.
My first deer hunt actually happened when I was playing for the Atlanta Braves. We went out and at the time, I didn't really know what I was doing for whitetail deer. I learned a lot from a still really good friend of mine, Jeff Banks, and took a nice 8-point buck. I got a bunch of stickers and stuff on it and got the buck fever bad.
The first day I saw him I couldn't breathe and couldn't hold the gun still enough to shoot. That was an awesome experience. I had to go back the next day.
In the off-season, I worked to train my breathing, try to get to where I could shoot a gun with seeing the reaction. Back in the day, especially where we were hunting, there weren't a lot of bucks around. There were a lot more doe than anything.
Those were just great experiences in the field; The first time going out where I got a shotgun for Christmas and was old enough to shoot a shotgun to go out quail hunting and dove hunting with my dad. There are a lot of great memories there of first hunts.
After that, I always stayed involved, elk hunting during the season, I took several nice elk. Actually, playing with the Colorado Rockies, we had off days because they were in our same division, and there were a few instances where we would have an off day traveling to Colorado and I actually had a day or a half of a day to hunt.
In back-to-back years, I took elk with my bow while we were playing the Rockies, so that was a real memorable experience of going down there and doing that where I had only a full day to hunt.
I remember taking David Wells and Jake Peavy on a hunt after a day game. We hauled butt about an hour and a half outside of the city, had a half an hour to 45 minutes to call a bull in and actually got it done and called it in and down there not too far from Estes Park.
I've had some great, great experiences of hunting with other ball players and teaching a lot of ball players about the outdoors — guys like Barry Bonds.
I taught Barry a lot about hunting and the outdoors. Barry had never shot a gun. He had shot a bow at an early age but had never been hunting until we started watching DVDs together on the plane. He said, "Man, that looks fun. Looks like a chance to get away." From there on, Barry has been hunting hard for three years.
It's nice to be able to get back in the outdoor industry with the TV show and my charity, the Blue Rhino Foundation. It's a chance to give back what the sport has given to me, which is having a lot of fun in the outdoors, meeting a lot of great people in the outdoors and keeping me out of trouble when I was younger.