Don’t let anyone fool you…deer hunting is much more about creating memories than it is about the act of killing deer.
It’s a time for reflection about your life and there is simply no better place to do that than sitting out in the woods, nose dripping from the frigid cold, back stiff from a rock hard seat, churning stomach from a combination of jerky and candy bars, and who can forget the urge to pee when it’s often most inconvenient to do so.
One of my very first hunting partners, Gary Urness, still hunts with me in spirit each fall even after passing away from ALS almost 10 years ago.
Yet, most hunters who spend time out in the woods overcome all the discomforts and get hooked on deer hunting for life. Admittedly, for some hard core hunting souls they are driven by the almost insatiable urge to hang bone (antlers) on the wall. Others are motivated by the deep desire to put venison in the freezer for the many upcoming culinary delights. Then, I contend, there is a good number of hunters, like me, who simply revel in the fact the good Lord has granted us one more opportunity in the woods to experience some of the best times possible spent in nature.
When you are a young hunter it is necessary to prove your predatory prowess to family and friends. Bagging a deer makes or breaks the hunt during this stage of hunter development. The thought of an unfilled deer tag sends a shiver up the young spine. But for many hunters as they mature they develop a more sophisticated satisfaction from the deer hunting experience. Oh, sure, don’t get me wrong as a deer hunter the goal of killing a deer is always in your mind. But the truly mature and content hunter is the one who enters the woods knowing full well no matter what happens on any given day it will be a successful deer hunting experience.
When you get right down to it deer hunting is a peculiar pastime. A person sits and waits for hours and if the hunter is lucky they might see deer for a few split seconds. The majority of the time spent stand hunting is concentrating, looking, patiently waiting and wondering when that moment of sheer excitement will finally arrive.
Suddenly you hear a twig snap! Your heart starts to pound as the natural adrenalin kicks in with a large bolus of energy to your bloodstream. Ahhh! Dang! Disappointment soon overtakes you as you painfully discover it’s only a fox squirrel scampering around on a downed log behind your stand.
Then there are those long idle moments when nothing seems to be happening. Actually, in the woods if you look closely there is always some sort of action taking place. Maybe it’s a woodpecker scouring the tree looking for a meal…or maybe a tree finally losing its leaves at a rapid pace. The deer woods is constantly evolving and changing before our eyes.
My cousin, Howard Braaten, passed away from Leukemia far too many years ago, but I still feel his lasting presence in the deer stand each fall as we continue to share special moments together in nature.
I sometimes chuckle when I hear a deer hunter describe they didn’t see anything. Of course, what they mean is they didn’t see a deer. But the truth is a person would have to be asleep not to be in the deer woods soaking up the total experience.
For me, deer hunting is also largely about memories of hunters no longer with us in body, but certainly still present in the spiritual sense. I’ve said this before how I may be physically sitting in the tree by myself, but I am never feeling truly alone. At no other time during the year do I feel closer to pals who have moved on to higher hunting grounds than I do during deer hunting season.
Young hunters just can’t understand this until later in life, but its the memories a deer hunter holds so dear that connects a person to this sport for a lifetime. And when I talk about memories I am not just talking about deer, but also the memories of people you once shared those special moments with in the woods.
Indeed, the rest of the world might measure the true success of a deer hunter by the tangible venison and antlers he has to show for his efforts after the hunt. What a terrible mistake. As many deer hunters grow to realize over a lifetime, it’s the many intangible memories a person takes from the deer woods that truly matters after the hunt.
©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.