Lessons from the Hunt

The last couple of weekends serve to mark my first official entry into what is most affectionately known around here as ‘Deer Season’.

For historical accuracy, my first trip out to the stands was actually one weekend last year with my brother, under an apprentice bow hunting license. It turned out to be an unsuccessful hunt, with my apprenticeship inadvertently spent learning how to sit in a tree, eat Snickers, and watch squirrels rather than learning to employ my bow on something other than a paper target. But experiences spent with family can never be chalked up as a loss, in the end.

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2014

This year, I exchanged the bow (sadly) for a 243 rifle to participate in rifle season with D’s family.

Let’s just rip off the Band-Aid now and confess the current (personal) standing score for deer hunting:

Whitetails – 2, Me – 0. …

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Once again, the deer remained ever elusive under my watch. However, my husband and most of the other members of the group fared much better – two bucks, two does total for the group. They have spent much of the past week processing so that our dinner tables might remain bountiful through to next season.

I suppose a true sportswoman would graciously accept her losses and applaud the team in it’s success.

I will admit, sheepishly, the most I could muster at the time was what my little sister calls a polite ‘golf clap’ and an inward pout session. We’ll let the novice card claim that behavioral display…

As my disappointment has had a chance to wane over the week, I’ve had a chance to shift my focus onto lessons that I learned from my husband and from myself on the experience. The lessons that ‘Deer Season’ is about much more that simply filling tags.

1) Reconnect with nature. 

That first weekend out, I spent more time outdoors in two days than I had in the last month. Which is startlingly sad. But it was wonderful. Obviously, the very concept of hunting forces you to immerse yourself in the outdoors and all it offers. First of all, the sunrises. A deer hunter needs to be out before first light, to establish a covert position before the deer start making their first moves. This simultaneously gives one a front row seat to what I think is nature’s most beautiful experience – sunrise.

If you haven’t truly sat in on one in a while, do it. It is worth tearing yourself from your warm, cozy bed for, I promise. Sunsets take a solid second. Then all the walking and pushing, learning the nooks and crannies of the land, kicking up other wildlife, like pheasants, watching geese pass overhead…it’s a great way to unplug.

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2) Encourage teamwork.

One of my bigger misconceptions about deer hunting was that it just involved sitting solely in a deer stand twice a day, waiting for the deer to come by, every man for himself. In fact that’s only part of it. Once the prime times of dawn and dusk have passed and have proved uneventful, it becomes necessary to actively go hunting for the deer, through a process known as ‘pushing’. The success of this relies on employing all the members of the group, strategically placing  pushers and posters to try to drive out the deer from their suspected hiding spots.

Even looking at the way different cultures hunt and have hunted in history (for some reason I kept thinking of the Plains Indians and their great buffalo hunts), it is less often an individual endeavor than a group one. Hunting has historically been a means for survival, for providing adequate sustenance for the entire family. While the true necessity for survival part has generally waned in present day, the spirit of providing for the group remains.

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3) It’s all about the comaraderie. 

D has talked of this over and over, how sometimes even more important than the hunt is getting to spend quality time with family and friends in an element that brings you closer than normal. After a long day of hunting, the group likes to retire to the hunting cabin, mix up some adult beverages, and play penny poker. Of course, I learned that they fly by the seat of their pants with their version(s) of penny poker, which was lost on me for the most part. But it is a tried and true tradition of theirs and helps make their deer camp experience, which I’m sure can be seen across the board in other deer camps.

Even D’s oldest nephew, who just turned seven, is involved in the experience. While too young to be actively involved in the hunt, he tags along with his dad at different posts and starts learning the principles and the tradition of the hunt at a young age. This is something I hope D and I will be able to do with all manner of activities for our future children. Beats setting them up in front of a gadget…

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4) Ahh…patience.

Funny how this lesson seems to pop up in every endeavor I embark on.

Hunting can be a very exciting. When you are actually seeing deer. If this is not the case, it can become a very sedate activity.

Sitting, waiting, watching.

Letting impatience get the best of you can make or break your success. Which I’m sure is where my down fall began (just after unluckiness, I still attest).

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Overall, I’m glad I got to experience what I did. I feel my love for the sport will come in time, as with any activity. And of course, hopefully next time I will get to get in more face time with my trusty bow.

Until then, I will dust myself off and buck up my spirits. The first pancake never turns out right, after all…

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