What Matters Are The Memories—Not Deer—Taken From The Woods

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.

Want To Hunt My Land? Here’s How…

Today’s blog post was inspired by a Facebook status from a husband/wife team who are hardcore hunters.   I mean, this duo basically lives, eats and breaths mostly deer hunting, however occasionally other species make their bucket list.   What captured my attention is a series of pictures they posted…and seeing them got me thinking just how this couple is a class outdoor act.

Perhaps you think it was the pictures themselves that were awe inspiring.   Nope!   It was simply sharing a snapshot of what is happening in life—you know, telling Facebook friends the mundane things about what you are currently doing—that struck a deep chord with me.

This couple was out farming.   He was driving a tractor pulling a chisel plow.   She was riding another tractor discing a different field.   Together, they were helping out a farmer who was getting a bit behind in his work.   It’s the kind of assistance neighbors often give neighbors in the rural areas, but this hunting duo hails from the big city.   They aren’t true country folk.   They are hunters visiting for the day from a metropolitan area.

Long ago they realized how gaining access onto new hunting lands is about building personal relationships.   It’s not just finding out the landowner’s first name and schmoozing for a few minutes each fall, instead it’s about discovering much more pertaining to his life.   It’s learning his name, his wife’s name, the names of all the children, what hobbies he has, his favorite foods…I think you get the picture.   Over the years they took the time first to build a friendship, and second to enter into a handshake agreement that includes access to his land seeking wildlife.

So, this couple rises and shines early in the morning like most deer hunters do.   They hunt for several prime morning hours…then they ditch their Scent Lok for their coveralls.   They become the sort of hired-hand to the farmer he most certainly doesn’t expect, but over the years has grown to dearly appreciate.   For those five or six hours mid-day when this husband and wife could be hunting, instead they are solidifying a relationship that promises to last for many years.

Don’t think for a moment the farmer and his family don’t recognize this special act.   In fact, it might have started out as the hunters feeling indebted to the landowner for initially granting them permission to hunt, but this has morphed into something much bigger.   These days, it is the farmer feeling somewhat obligated to the hunters for all their hard work.

How do you think the farmer is apt to satiate this feeling of indebtedness?   I’ll tell you…he realizes that no other hunter prior to this couple has ever been so gracious in their helpful actions.   Oh, sure, he knows this is sort of a quid pro quo relationship where each party is getting something of value, but this farmer offers the couple even more.   And quite deservingly so.

Because no other hunter has ever taken the time to first become friends with the farmer and then to work their butts off (a trait most farmers and rural folks quickly appreciate and use to evaluate people), these hunters get a special reward.   Yup, they get exclusive hunting rights on the landowner’s property.   Now, what value do you place on that?

You see, when dealing with landowners in rural America your handshakes, your token gifts of appreciation, your consideration shown while on the property is all important.   Yet, if you want something more than most hunters get a person needs to be prepared to give something more than most hunters are willing to give.

Time, friendship, some occasional sweat equity…these all leave deep impressions on those folks who are the gatekeepers to the property you want to hunt.   If you want to be treated better than just some “ordinary” hunter, you need to do the things that set you apart from all others.   That’s who I want hunting on my land when given the choice.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.