Keeping Pace with Stephen

Union, South Carolina is a quiet little town in the upstate that flows as peaceful and unhindered as its neighbor, the Tyger River. The people of Union do not let the worries of the world today conflict with the way they live their lives. The only worry most folks have is finding a parking space at the Friday night football games. In Union, there is time for everything, and everything has its own time. They believe this is God’s country and it was made to be shared with family and friends. The folks of Union have never met a stranger. Everyone has a pace all their own that dictates their life, except maybe Stephen. The steam rolling 42-year-old employee of the United States Forest Service is wide open compared to most folks in Union. His zest for life touches more than just his everyday routine; it is rooted deep in his love for the outdoors. Being a six-time S.C. state turkey calling champion and the current S.C. State Chapter President of the National Wild Turkey Federation are just a few of the ways Stephen’s intense love of the outdoors has manifested itself. 

Stephen was born in Anderson, S.C. Six months later, Raymond Cobb, Stephen father moved his family to Carisile after getting a job with a textile mill located there. Stephen lived in Carisile until he got married and moved to Union some 23 years later. It was these years of his youth that helped mold him into the man and the outdoorsman that he is today. Stephen credits a resident of Carisile, Bill, with helping a young Stephen in focusing his ever-growing energies towards the great outdoors and turkey hunting in particular.  

The moment that probably changed his life forever was when Bill gave Stephen his first turkey call. It was with that very same turkey call that he harvested his first gobbler. Stephen was just 15 years old and did not have a driver’s license. Stephen rode his bicycle to the woods that day. His intense desire for the outdoors was prevalent even then. Hearing Stephen’s words about Billy made me think of all the countless other outdoorsmen (myself included) who too had someone to open the door to the mysteries and the adventures of the great outdoors. This is a debt that some of us forget to repay. Stephen has not forgotten and attempts to do for his own son as well as others exactly as Bill did for him all those years ago. 

It was that first turkey call that sparked a lifelong obsession with the pursuit, the understanding, and cumulatively the conservation of this the wiliest of game animals, the wild turkey. It was a natural progression for Stephen to start competing in turkey calling contests. He won his first of over 80 competitions at the age of 13. To Stephen’s credits are six S.C. Turkey Calling championships. He claims the pinnacle so far of his success at turkey calling was done this year. He was in 1st place after the first day of the competition at the Grand National championships in Nashville, TN. An unfortunate slip on the second day dropped him to 5th place just a mere 8 points out of first. This is something that Stephen plans to remedy in the future. 

Stephen also has a job tailor made for one with interests like his. He works for the United States Forest Service at the Enoree Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, which is a branch of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. As a ranger, Stephen helps in the management of the Enoree Ranger District. When talking about the U.S. Forest Service, the words, “Caring for the Land and Serving the people”, will always be foremost in the conversation. I cannot picture Stephen doing anything less. 

Stephen is not a one-dimensional person. His energies and passions spill over from his love of hunting into his home life. His lovely wife of 23 years, Elizabeth, and his 15-year-old son, Martin, will attest to that. I could tell from the short time I spent in their home that Stephen and Elizabeth were a well-matched couple. They seemed to be extensions of one another with each complimenting and supporting each other the best they can. With Stephen practicing his turkey calls for hours on end before a competition, one would have to be very understanding or at the very least deaf.  

Stephen and Martin have a relationship that is enviable in this day in time. From the time that he was able to go, Stephen had him in the woods every time he could. A bond created between a father and son while hunting lasts a lifetime. A child raised in an outdoors environment learns about self-worth and self-discipline at a young age. He or she is taught that they are responsible for their actions and the decisions that they make. Sportsmanship is probably the most important thing that is learned for it is woven throughout the learning experience. You can tell from just meeting Martin one time that he has learned his lessons well.  

Somehow, Stephen still has time to give back to the community. If he is not coaching little league, or he is serving up hash at a 4th of July celebration, I am sure you can find Stephen supporting his community in any number of other ways. He also manages to find time to play church league softball. The only thing that slows Stephen down is that there is only 24 hours in a day. 

Stephen’s accomplishments in competitive turkey calling have not gone unnoticed. He presently prostaffs for both Hunter’s Specialty and Realtree. For those of you who think that being on a prostaff for a major outdoors company would be the way to go, Stephen informs me it is not just about going on hunts and being on TV. You are a spokesperson for their business. Stephen must promote them wherever he goes. Sometimes it means giving up valuable hunting time just to go somewhere to represent them. Today’s outdoorsmen and women must be aware of the fact that hunting in the 21st century is not the same as it was when our father’s first learned of the outdoors from their fathers. Unfortunately, it has become a business. In order to keep from being washed away with the tide, today’s hunters must be intelligent as well as savvy in the ways of the business world. Stephen holds his own in this aspect. 

The upstate of South Carolina is a treasure-trove of outdoors adventures. From his home in Union, Stephen is but minutes away from a trophy buck, or a boss gobbler. In those same few minutes, he and his family can be at a little league baseball game, or tailgating before a Union High School Yellow Jackets football game, or a hash cook’n for some worthy charity event in the Union area. Stephen lives his life listening to the same song that his friends and neighbors listen to except he tends to play it a beat or two faster, and those who know him do not mind. You see, in Union, South Carolina, everyone has their own pace and that suits Stephen just fine.