Deer hunting means something different to everyone
Believe it or not, I wasn’t born into deer hunting. My family didn’t hunt at all. When I was a small child we used to spend summers in the country with my grandmother. It was there that I discovered my love of the outdoors. We would fish and camp, but we never hunted. The local boys would always talk about hunting. It always sounded like a religious experience when they talked about it. I was always fascinated by their stories and the mounts that hung in their houses. In my late teens, we moved to the country in the same area where I spent my summers, just a few miles from my grandmothers house. The boys that were my summer friends were now my classmates and it didn’t take long for them to take me under their wings and invite me to go hunting. I remember one of my first hunting trips. I was wearing a jean jacket and steel toed boots. As I stood near a tree trying not to move, visions of a huge buck coming right to me played over and over in my mind. I was so cold and my toes were frozen, but mostly I was worried about finding my way home. I realized that I didn’t know much, but I did know one thing, that I loved being in the woods. As the years went by, my buddies taught me what they knew, and not just about hunting. They taught me the names of trees, features of the land, and how to walk quietly. Hunting with your buddies is a unique experience. It’s like being in the locker room but without the sweat. I was so fortunate to be invited to their farms or into clubs they were in. It is a great feeling to stand over your buck surrounded by your friends. It’s simply genuine happiness.
As the years went on, my sons began to hunt. I taught them what I learned. It gave them a huge advantage because by the time they were old enough to drive, they could shoot a deer, gut it, skin it and butcher it. As great as harvesting a deer is for me, it’s even better when it’s your child’s harvest. It is funny how I’ve evolved as a hunter. It used to be all about competing with my buddies. When they would send you a picture of their deer you be happy, but also you would feel pressure to get your buck if you didn’t have one. It was always a nice buck (under your breath you would say, “you bastard” hahaha). It then evolved into taking my sons and teaching them, which actually took more patience. My older son was a lot like me, he would find a spot and hunt it, putting in the time in hopes one would come by. My younger son is always trying something new, a new spot, or even a new arrow. I definitely let him make his own mistakes. Such as when he would try to creep up on bucks in fields with his bow. I knew it would not work, but I actually think this made him a better hunter. He learned by trial and error and nowadays I ask his advice.
We always have hunter for meat first and antlers second. I believe this is a healthy way to look at it especially for children. The last thing I wanted was a child who just liked to kill for no reason other than sport. Hunting is taking a life, and not letting that life go to waste is the most important part. It should not be taken lightly.
Soon there will be another generation to teach. I look forward to the times spent in the stand explaining things, eating snacks and telling them to be quiet. One of my favorite things is to see is a little guy dressed in camo and orange toting his dads oversized gun into the woods it makes me smile every time. Hunting for me has been the one place in my life where I have matured. Gone are the days of stomping up some mountain with a steel stand just to realize I have walked right where the deer come from. Today I spend a lot more time trying to refine what I know about a piece of land. Trying to find just the right spot or planting food plots, which I may enjoy more than hunting. I sure do miss my younger days, but sitting in a blind with some coffee and a heater isn’t all bad. I always wondered why the old-timers did it and now I know that they were just smarter than me. Much like homesteading, hunting is different for everyone. Some go out once a year. Some like me spend months at it. Some travel all over the country to hunt, but we all have one thing in common, we love the woods just like I learned on that first day. Don’t get me wrong, we also love the animals and a full freezer. So next time you are hunting think about your journey and think about what got you to this spot in the woods. Think of all the people who helped you along the way, the friendships made, and the time spent with family and friends. And if you are lucky enough to harvest an animal, always remember to give thanks.