NEBRASKAland December 2017

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 45 of 63

46 NEBRASKAland • DECEMBER 2017 We waited for a moment in silence. Then Haidar looked at me and raised his hands to eye level. "My hands are still shaking," he said. "Ah, it never gets old." An impressive blood trail across the bean field, through a meadow and over a small ditch led to his button buck lying a short distance into the forest. Deer hunting doesn't allow for much conversation, but now with the less delicate work of cleaning and dragging the deer out ahead of us, Haidar and I could finally talk freely. In many ways, Haidar Kazem exemplifies the average American hunter. A true locavore, a Cabela's shopaholic and an earnest outdoorsman, Haidar loves everything about hunting: the early mornings, the scouting, the opportunities to pass down knowledge to his children, and just simply being outside and watching nature at work – he doesn't care if he goes home empty-handed. Haidar's type can be found in any field, in any county, in any state, but his story is by no means ordinary. Haidar's roots began in Syria where he hunted as a boy and teenager. His experiences there and his subsequent immigration to the United States, where he would continue hunting, has given him a broad perspective on what it means to be a sportsman. See All That Game In 1999, Haidar Kazem immigrated to the United States with his parents, two sisters and one brother. His parents, originally from Iraq, escaped from Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s; three of his uncles had been previously captured and killed under Hussein's regime. "So my dad married my mom, and he said, 'We're going to have a honeymoon and we're going to Syria,' and then they never went back to Iraq," Haidar said. They left lots of family behind, who are still living there. Growing up in Syria, life "wasn't as bad as what you saw on TV." Although the political climate in the Middle East has deteriorated in the last 20 years, for most of Haidar's childhood, Syria enjoyed more freedoms than anywhere else in the Middle East. And hunting was a part of his young life, but it was different. "People hunted year-round in the Middle East, and they don't care if it's mating season or not mating season," said Haidar. Oftentimes, many of the animals that people shot did not end up on the dinner table. The story of how his family ended up in Nebraska is sitcom-worthy. After all the paperwork and formalities, U.S. immigration asked Haidar's family where they wanted to go. "We didn't know anything about the U.S., so they gave us a map and said we could pick a state," Haidar said, shaking with laughter. "And it gets better. I told my dad, 'How about Nebraska?' So my dad looked at the map and said, 'It's in the middle of the country, right?' And I said, 'Yeah, dad. It'll be great! We could go to New York in like 6 hours and go to California in about 4 hours.' You just can't picture how big the country is, even if you've read about it, until you actually live in it. So we got here and it's not even close to what we thought, and we were like, 'Oh, [crap].' "But then I saw all the game in Nebraska, and I didn't want to go anywhere else." A Hunter's Education Haidar was 18 when he came to the United States. Within two months of moving to Nebraska, he began fishing. "I didn't speak any English, so it was very difficult for me to understand the A blood trail left by the button buck that Kazem successfully shot at Pawnee Lake SRA.

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