For the first time in over a decade, I did not hunt from a tree stand on the opening day of firearms deer season. Why, you ask? Do I have COVID, am I sick, is someone in my family in need of attention? Nope, it was raining. The weather does not always cooperate. It is not uncommon to experience sideways rain, sleet, blizzards, sub-zero temperatures, and even extreme heat. I have endured my fair share. Not this year however.
Why didn’t I brave the weather on opening day 2020? I didn’t feel like it. Tags are filled almost every year for as long as I have been hunting. This year getting wet was not on the agenda. As my hunting partner said, “Deer don’t like wet feet and neither do I”. I still woke up at 3AM to drive the 50 miles to the hunting property. After a short wait for the rest of my party, we watched little rivers run off the truck, and counted intervals between the thunder and lightening. At least I am still dry.
Hunting has a new meaning, as I am blessed by more and more birthdays. I am no longer anxious if a dear does not end up in the freezer. Instead, I prefer to relax in the tree stand and watch nature unfold around me as the sun peeks over the horizon. Watching through binoculars as the trees cast long shadows on the leaves below. I struggle to discern a deer from the leaves, sticks, and squirrels scampering all around. I fight my tired eyes, as the wind sways the tree stand and lulls my sleep deprived body to sleep.
Nature is outstanding. My family and friends question my desire to wake up in the early hours and travel the long distances to the hollowed hunting grounds. “Why do you get up at 3AM to sit in a tree for 12+ hours a day”, they ask me? To sit so still, a squirrel walks across my tree stand. To see an owl, who landed on a branch 5’ away, turn its head 180 degrees and stare back at me. To watch the mating rituals of rutting deer chasing through the woods until they can barely move another inch.
It is no longer about the kill. It’s about experiencing nature. Why do I hunt? Because I eat meat AND the animals need our help to maintain a proper balance. Our impact on the animal kingdom is not always positive. Eliminating habitat, global warming, reduction in food supply by more efficient farming practices, and urbanization require us to intervene. Keeping the proper balance of animals, food, habitat and human living space is a delicate process managed by our conservation departments. They can’t do it alone, hunters and science play a critical role in this circle of life. I eat meat, so I choose to be a part of the solution by helping where ever necessary.