First morning hunt of the season, on the field by 6:30am. A small river crossing in a boat in the dark, through a trail among some tall trees and 3300 feet along a bush line to a nice little blind on the corner of a field. As I sit here and watch time unfold, my senses come alive. The rich distinctive smell of fall, a freshly cultivated land, decomposing leaves, sweet and earthy. In such silence and tranquility, I hear the sound of falling leaves, one by one letting go, to fall among the tall grasses and fallen trees. Witnessing the rising sun take over the darkness, lighting up the wilderness and beauty that surrounds me, trees of bright orange, amber yellow and lime green.
Many people disagree with hunting, they associate hunting with killing. I’m absolutely against trophy hunting! Shooting just to kill goes against my morals and values. I grew up watching my family hunt and harvest animals. I admit it was sad to see the animal die, yet there was never any suffering. It brought us together and nothing ever went to waste. For me hunting is so much more than the kill. It’s providing for my family and friends, camaraderie and companionship. It’s about respecting the land and respecting the animal. Even as I sit here in the early morning light I feel like the forest has accepted me as it’s own.
Hunting animals, such as white tail deer, takes patience and skill. Pulling the trigger is the easy part; once the animal is down, that’s when the real work begins. It’s all about being at the right place, at the right time, and a bit of luck doesn’t hurt either. Processing the animal takes great knowledge and fine knife skills. It’s truly an art form. In all of my years hunting, I’ve only shot one doe, two bucks and a caribou. I have a hunting rifle called a “Mossberg 30-06”, the story of where I got that gun is quite the tale.
At the age of 18, my dad figured is was time I take the next step in becoming the owner of my very own gun. My father and a long time family friend, Wayne, heard of a retired man that was in the market to sell a gun, which happened to be Wayne’s neighbor. So off we went; two experienced hunters and myself and $550 in my pocket. The gun turned out to be a retirement gift and had never been used. As we talked, shared, and told stories, we eventually settled on a price, which happened to be the exact amount I had in my pocket. I left with a brand new gun, a hard carry case, a box of bullets, a Leupold scope, and a smile on my face. That man has long passed on now, yet his memory remains with me every time I go hunting.
This year I’ve come early in the season to try my luck. Besides, I’m overdue to spend some time in solitude, no rush, no schedule, no timeline. Just me, myself and I, and in the arms of God. At a time like this I sure wish God would push out a nice big buck into the open field before me! Sitting still and being silent takes a lot of mental fortitude, especially when you’re doing it for three to four hours at a time. Hunting is a game I’ve yet to master. Although I’ve had many tags go unfilled over the seasons, the rewards of hunting are limitless. I don’t have the gear your typical hunter does, such as a quad, wagons and heavy duty transportation to get to where you need to go. All I have is my own to feet to carry me, my gun and usually a good friend to back me up in case I need help.
If you’ve never been hunting, I suggest you give it a try. You’ll hear and see things you never imagined you would. Even just to see wild animals in their element is breathtaking, and sparks a kind of craving that makes you come back for more. So far I’ve given this blind two mornings and one full evening. I’ve seen a doe and her fawn, a red tailed hawk hunt its prey, two huge coyotes, a squirrel, a muskrat, ravens, and heard the drumming of many a grouse. There’s always something to see and something to experience, memories that last a lifetime.
As my morning hunt comes to a close and I make the long journey home, I glance at the field a few more times, take a few more sips of coffee and anticipate what the evening hunt will have in store for me tonight. I’m reminded of how wonderful it is to be alive, see the landscape change before my eyes. I’m grateful to be a part of something greater than myself. Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, it’s off to home I go…