As you may have noticed, I’ve never written an article on hunting. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a tree hugging, gun control promoting, anti-hunting hippy; I’m a tree hugging, gun-toting, ambivalent-on-hunting…guy (I shower, therefore, not a hippy). To clarify, I think we should pollute as little as possible while protecting our remaining wild places, gun control is using two hands, and hunting is something that I understand, but don’t enjoy. I’ve sat in enough dove fields and tree stands to realize I get the same amount of enjoyment in the actual hunt (not counting the fun of fire-ants gnawing on my leg or looking like a Smurf from the cold) as from watching paint dry. What I enjoy is the camaraderie, before and after, of the hunt: the swapping of stories of hunts gone by, complaining about the cold or the fire ants, and always thinking that new rifle scope will magically freeze the deer in place so you can make that perfect shot.
Stories are really what make hunting such a tradition. There are some who hunt purely for sustenance, but the majority of people hunt for stories; it’s for this same reason so many lies are told about hunting. When stories are swapped about deer hunting, nobody shares the realistic account of where they walked 200 yards from the parking lot at 6am, sat in the tree stand for 30 minutes in 55 degree temperatures, had a barely legal spike walk right in front of them and they squeezed off a shot so simple that most carnival shooting galleries offer more challenge. The deer fell over immediately, was easily moved back to the car, and after processing yielded 45lbs of deer sausage that ended up spoiling after being left in the freezer for three years. Just writing this perfectly plausible story was boring, much less reading it (for which I apologize).
The stories that are remembered are where everything goes wrong but ends up alright; Homeric tales of man fighting the elements and nature. It’s where you spent months preparing your food plot, stalked this deer like the creepiest of Twilight fans, created a natural camouflage out of the surrounding vegetation, sat perfectly still for 16 hours in freezing temperatures to see this respectable 8-point buck, and somehow made a 300 yard shot through brush and undergrowth which pierced his heart. This mighty creature, out of sheer willpower and spite, ran an additional 2 miles and threw himself down a deep gully. After throwing the deer over your shoulder and packing him out like a mountain-man, you get enough sausage to tell this story twenty times over breakfast when you cook it for your buddies in the months to come.
My hunts never end in anything that interesting. Squirrel hunts are devoid of squirrels, doves only fly on the other end of the field, and the only time I went quail hunting the one thing I carried back was the old wheezing beagle of my uncles whose method of flushing out our quarry was panting hard enough to imitate an asthmatic tiger, frightening the birds into the sky. Every attempt at hunting has never yielded results that put food on the table, or even the satisfaction of giving a smug “Yep” in response to the question of if I saw anything, much less took a shot at it.
My great-uncle, the legendary hunter in the family, gives me grief for not hunting, saying that I’ve gone soft. It isn’t that, so much as I get my trophies, my stories, in different ways than he does. All of his best stories come from hunting, while all of mine come from camping, hiking, and kayaking. Maybe one day I’ll love hunting like he does, but unless my chances improve, you can find me hunting landscapes with my camera.