Some men teach children to swing a baseball bat. Or ride a bicycle. Or catch a fish. Their classrooms are ball fields, driveways, ponds and streams.
Grover Bagby’s classroom was a tree stand in the woods.
The 84-year-old longtime Forsyth County resident and hunting aficionado taught scores of young men and women to hunt deer.
On a recent Saturday, about 50 of Bagby’s former students gathered to swap stories and pay tribute to their teacher. Many of them brought along their best deer mounts to show Bagby the rewards of their lessons.
“He and some of my family had always wanted to get him back together with the people that he had taught to deer hunt over the years,” said Bagby’s daughter, Nancy Campbell.
“Which, in Forsyth County alone, he probably taught 150 people to deer hunt.”
The reunion was partly an effort of Second Wind Dreams, an Alpharetta-based nonprofit organization with a mission much like the Make A Wish Foundation for terminally ill children. The group seeks to fulfill the long-held dreams of seniors.
Campbell said her father has been ailing since a heart attack in August, but had long wanted to see his former students again. In fact, the reunion was “the first day he’d been out of bed in a month.”
Campbell’s brother, Lynn Bagby, said it was good for their father to meet up with and see so many faces he hadn’t seen in a while.
Their father led a hardscrabble life, Bagby explained, leaving school after the second grade to work. Throughout his life, Grover Bagby farmed, worked construction — and hunted.
Hunting in his earlier days for rabbits, squirrels and turtles was more about putting food on the table than passing the time. But it gave him a sincere appreciation for, and knowledge of, the natural world.
Bagby began deer hunting in the early 1950s, back when North Georgia’s deer population was only a fraction of what it is today. And when he taught others how to deer hunt, he taught them a whole lot more about life.
“It’s just a passion, just a love of the outdoors,” Lynn Bagby said. “It ain’t about killing something. It’s just being out there.
“He taught us all a lot of patience and a lot of respect for the outdoors. Patience and persistence. To stay at it. It made us all better people.”
Bagby said that his father’s deer hunting trips and training “had as much to do with them wanting him to teach them.”
And he never stopped learning or teaching. Bagby didn’t stop hunting until injuries he received in a car wreck two years ago sidelined him and landed him in a personal care facility.
“When he was 81 or 82, he was still climbing a tree with a portable tree stand,” his son said.
“He just had a passion for it.”