........and more specificly, why do I deer hunt?
After reading a lot on here lately, I had to slide my computer chair back, clasp my hands behind my head, and lean way back into the chair to the point where I was staring up at the ceiling. I took in a huge breath, held it in for a few seconds, then let it out slowly.........and started to think.
Many talk and discuss about a multitude of things. Turkeys, pheasants, ducks, geese, coyotes, guns, bows, hunting dogs and a variety of other subjects get mentioned in great detail..........but the biggest topic by a landslide is always about deer. Big bucks, little bucks, button bucks, does, deer hunting strategies, and certainly the number of deer seems to dominate the hunting forums. I'm not going to get into the deer numbers game in this post. I'll just say that I think we have areas with lots, areas with few, and lots of areas that probably fall somewhere in between and just leave it at that.
A common theme seems to be how the "new" deer program and regulations have ruined the traditions of the earlier years and how difficult it will be to keep the youngsters interested in hunting.....especially deer hunting. A question always puzzles me when I read topics dealing with this, and that's....... How in the world did they make hunters out of youngsters in the old old days, when even seeing a deer track was a big deal back in the early 20th century. Somehow the youth still became hunters.....even deer hunters.
Why do I hunt?
It started to make me think of why I long for the old days myself sometimes.........
I wish I could go back in time(the late 70s/early 80s) when we had a camp in the Kinzua area of McKean county. My dad, my brothers, and friends from back home all up for deer season. The laughs, the stories, the teasing of the young guys, the card playing of the older guys, and the electrifying feeling the night before the opener. What a wonderful time it was. But it's all gone now........and it wasn't because of the deer situation.
Some of the old guys got even older. Many that came were one day hunters(or even half day) and it was the only day they hunted all year. They just stopped coming up for whatever reason. My brothers scattered to parts all over. One south of Pittsburgh, one in Wyoming, and one in New Hampshire. The camp was sold shortly after all of us "boys" went off to college. This was all prior to 1990. We would have 20 or so hunters at camp, but we rarely took more than 1 buck. I never remember some of those "one day" guys ever shooting a buck. It was usually one of my brothers or even myself shooting a buck and that was it(we were the only serious hunters and dad was always with one of us).....and it was never more than 2 for the whole camp. This was during the mid-70s to late 80s......the so called "glory days" of deer hunting. It didn't matter, they all had a good time........but time has a terrible habit of never staying in the present.
I have my own family now and I take my two oldest hunting(but separately since one's 10 and the others 12). Some days we see deer. Many days we don't see any. I never say things like,"when I use to hunt we'd see 50 deer in one day." I don't do the negative stuff. They hunt and still enjoy it because I try to make it enjoyable. I also try to stay positive. They've had success but mostly by being out as much as possible(you wouldn't believe how many days my son and I were out two years ago in archery and then in rifle season before he shot his 1st buck-which was the last day of rifle). They've never said "that was a terrible hunt" because we didn't see anything. I enjoy being with them and I hope they enjoy being with me. We talk about lots of stuff. Some woods stuff, some hunting stuff, and sometimes just stuff that doesn't have anything to do with hunting. Sometimes we just sit and watch and don't say anything at all. We just watch the woods. Partly because we're hunting, and partly because we're just thinking to ourselves, even though we're right next to each other.
My tradition use to be still hunting the ridges of the ANF. Then I got married, and my tradition changed. I left my gun behind on the 1st day of rifle for the 1st time since I was 12, and hunted with my wife on the 1st day....with a lot more "sit and hunt" hunting than I was use to. That tradition also changed when my kids became ready to hunt. I use to bow hunt almost everyday. Last year, it was about 3 times(the only times I was by myself without one of my kids). I still haven't picked that rifle up for the 1st day of rifle season for the last 14 years.........and I don't regret it for a second.
Why do I hunt?
We are all looking to be successful when we hunt. Myself included. But if being successful is only measured by the kill, then we've lost a big part of what makes hunting about the hunt.
The spirit of the hunt and the tradition of hunting are still there. The way, the where, and the how we hunted, when we were younger, many times change......unfortunately. My brothers and I didn't stay at that magical age when I was in grade school and they were in high school. We all got older and time moved on. With the pressure of a job, bills, and raising a family.....being 13 again wouldn't be such a bad thing, and it has nothing to to with the way deer hunting use to be(I'm much more successful now that I was back then). It has everything to do with being close to my dad, my brothers, and my best childhood friends again......that I just took for granted at the time. I'm still close with my brothers, but it's never as close as when we all lived under the same roof. That's the hunting tradition I miss the most, and I'd give back all the bucks I've taken since then if I could just hit rewind and live that time over and over again.
Yes, it's unfortunate that traditions change and time moves on. But life is to short to be negative or to try and live in the past(no matter how bad we'd love to do it) and sometimes chasing and killing that monster buck isn't really the most important thing in our life after all.
Why do I hunt?
I hunt for the memories that I've made in the past, the memories I made this year, and the memories yet to come with my children and maybe someday.......my grandchildren.
P.S.- and if you read this whole thing, you have the patience to be a master deer hunter!