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My Favorite Thing about Hunting
To put into words my favorite thing about hunting is a very daunting task. The sights and sounds of a spring sunrise will always be at the top of the list of my favorite things about hunting. There is nothing like hearing a thundering gobble at daybreak and seeing a full fan appear on the ridge in front of you. The falling leaves and acorns of a fall evening bow hunt are pretty special also. Few things are more exciting than the sound of four legs walking in the leaves and the sight of my white fletchings disappearing behind its front shoulder. The long cold waits of winter in a tree stand with my Remington rifle is something I also look forward to every year. The sound of a grunting buck chasing a doe in the thick brush will make your heart race and when he finally steps into view it is all you can do to regain your composure to make that fatal shot. These types of analogies go through my mind when I think of my favorite things about hunting.
As we look into this topic I would like to explore a few ideas that I think all of us enjoy about this cherished past time. The comradery shared with our hunting family and friends is one that I think all of us enjoy. Being able to share those hunts of a lifetime with others is always special. The pageantry of God’s creation is another thing that ranks high among my favorite things about hunting. The awe of nature is always an awesome thing to witness year to year. The expectancy of harvesting that trophy of a lifetime seems to bring us back to the woods year after year. Few things keep us glued to our stands like the anticipation of a giant stepping out into range. The journey of the hunt and the harvest itself is a significant thing as well. The adventures that we go through on a particular hunt or during a particular year are where memories are forever forged into our hearts and minds. The joy of harvesting an animal is one of the obvious moments that all of us love about hunting. Nothing brings us hunters more enjoyment and pleasure than putting our hands on our kill.
The Comradery of Hunting with Family and Friends
When I look back on my rookie years in the hunting world one of the things I remember very vividly is the fellowship shared among hunters. Our deer camp was just a half a mile from my house, but when groups of hunters would come in I would beg my dad to stay with them. The stories told around the fireplace and the skinning rack was always a fun and special time. Many of those stories are still being repeated and relived today. There is just something special about sharing our hunting experiences with friends and family.
I think this idea is best summed up in some quotes from a few of my articles written this past year. “It did not take long to find ourselves in my Kemper County cabin high-fiving, fist-pumping, laughing, and talking a lot of smack. That’s the magic of taking a kid hunting.” (Hunting the Dream: The Importance of Taking Kids Hunting) “I remember my dad telling me, ‘You got him, you got him!’ I will never forget that picturesque moment in time as we walked back up that old logging road to the truck with my long bearded gobbler on one shoulder and my dad’s arm around the other.” (Approaching 150 and Twenty Years of Turkey Hunting: Part 1) “As we shouldered our gobblers a ‘Thank you Lord!’ and a ‘Praise Him!’ was shouted out before we crossed back over the fence and headed to the truck. The Lord definitely saved the best hunt for last. But most of all we just enjoyed being able to be together as friends and take pleasure in the two common dominators we all shared: The love of hunting turkeys and the love of Christ.” (Approaching 150 and Twenty Years of Turkey Hunting: Part 3, Go West Young Man: Chapter 2)
The Pageantry of Hunting in God’s Creation
There is not a single time that I have ever been hunting when the activities of nature didn’t factor into the hunt. These activities include both good and bad experiences. Distracting actions: such as, squirrels chasing each other from log to log to a Pileated Woodpecker hammering on a tree. Depressing actions: such as, coyotes or cows running through a flock of turkeys just before they came into shotgun range to a herd of wild hogs spooking that buck of a lifetime. Delightful actions: such as, a shooter whitetail buck appearing out of no where in the dense fog to the appearance of a strutting gobbler with the rising sun behind him. Captivating actions: such as, the pretty pink skyline of the setting sun on a successful hunt. Chilly actions: such as, the sight of smoke blowing out of an elk’s mouth as he bugles on a cold snow covered mountain side. Chilling actions: such as, the spine-tingling sounds of a gobbler spitting and drumming just a few yards behind you. I could go on and on about the sights and sounds of God’s marvelous creation. These noises and nuances of nature are what bring me back to the woods each and every year.
The Expectancy in Hunting
The expectations that we have in killing that buck of a lifetime or draping that giant long beard over our shoulder are a feeling all in its own. It is not the kill, but the hopes, dreams, and mere chances of a harvest that draws hunters back to the outdoor world year after year. Every time a deer hunter steps into his stand a vision of a giant buck stepping into sight plays through his mind. Each time a turkey hunter sets up on a gobbling bird a vision of a strutting long beard walking into range plays through his mind. Each time a duck hunter puts out his set of decoys visions of cupped green heads goes through his mind. There is just something unexplainable about the anticipation of opening day and everyday after that during hunting season. These anticipations and expectations are important to us hunters because one never knows which day spent hunting will be that special day all our hopes and dreams a field will finally come true.
The Journey of the Hunt
The adventure itself of a specific hunt, hunting season, or even the multiple years spent pursuing a particular animal or species of animal is special. It is not the kill, but the journey along the way, filled with challenges and obstacles that have been overcome is the true trophy here. I think about the specific challenges that each of my hunts has presented and what I had to do to overcome or be overwhelmed in those challenges. I think about specific turkeys that I have hunted that took multiple hunts and some multiple years to harvest. There was a turkey we called Crazy that many of us hunted for three years before I was fortunate enough to kill him. However, when I look at his fan mount in my living room, I don’t see just a kill, but all those memories spent chasing him. For some it was the journey to harvest their first buck or even their first Boone and Crocket buck. Whatever the case our hunting adventures, good or bad, seem to be the stories that are told year after year and passed down from generation to generation. These journeys are what bring us back to the woods year after year.
The Joy of the Harvest
This idea is most likely the easiest to explain. The feeling of joy that runs through ones body after harvesting a trophy is electrifying; the harvested trophy being in the eyes of the beholder. I think the best way to illustrate this feeling of bliss is by sharing with you the emotions of a little seven-year-old girl and her dad that I recently took hunting. As two young bucks walked out directly in front of the shoot house the nervous little girl and an even more nervous dad struggled to get on one of the bucks. However, since the deer were so close she could not get her gun lowered enough out of the shoot house window even with her standing on her tiptoes. The deer finally spooked and ran out a lane to the left of our Tecomate food plot and stopped about 100 yards from us. Her dad crawling around the shoot house trying to get his little girl into position was a sight to see. Leighton’s dad was telling her to shoot, Shoot, SHOOT! Finally she squeezed off a Remington Managed Recoil round out of her 7mm-08 and dropped him in his tracks. YOU GOT HIM!! The hugging and high-fiving began. The excitement and joy in that shoot house was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. The smiles and laughter that was all over these duo’s faces explain best the joy experienced in a harvest. I believe for most hunters this is the feeling that brings us back to the woods year after year. Moreover, if this feeling were ever extinguished, hunting would lose its appeal forever.
The Victory in the Harvest
Hunting with friends and family is great, but I can do without it. Observing God’s creation is always a spectacle to marvel at, but this is not what truly draws me to the hunting woods. It also takes more than just a mere chance or the hope in killing an animal to bring me back to the outdoors. I have had many memorial journeys and adventures, but even as great as they were they do not stand out the most for me. The joy and happiness is definitely something I look foreword to year after year, but there is just something more that I strive for with my hunting endeavors.
For me it is the feeling of triumph that only comes with killing a particular animal. It is the adrenalin rush that can only be felt completely with a harvest. It is the feeling that professional athletes talk about after winning the Super Bowl or the World Series. The sense of accomplishment that overwhelms me when I put my hands on a giant whitetail rack or drape that long spurred long beard over my back is a one-of-a-kind feeling I can’t explain. I have always had a competitive nature as long as I can remember. When a knee injury put me out of competitive sports I applied that spirited nature to hunting, and you can ask any of my friends, I play to win. So when my Reconyx game camera shows me a shooter buck living in a particular area, its game on. Plans are formulated, stands are placed, wind direction is checked, and lots of time is invested in a tree. Then it all comes together, that shooter buck (named Freak Show) walks out into range and shortly after is taking a ride in the back of my truck. I win, game over!! Until next time…
Until next time...God Bless and Happy Hunting.