I hated hunting as a child. There were few things that I despised more than lurching about the woods trying to track down an elusive whitetail deer. The entire process was boring and tiring, and I wanted no part of it. A typical day of hunting began with my father, and often an uncle, ripping the sheets and blankets from my bed at 4:30 in the morning. Not a good start. I would then get dressed in layers upon layers of uncomfortable clothing. Long underwear, turtlenecks, and a wool jackets were not my attire of choice.
I would fall asleep on the drive down a long dirt road, but the nap was never quite long enough. Out of the truck and into the cold and unforgiving woods we went. And for some cruel reason, the morning always started off with an incredibly steep uphill climb. Every single time.
When we finally settled in, I would be gasping for air and sweating profusely. In mere moments, I would be half-asleep and freezing. I could not figure out what the attraction was to this “sport”. Everything about hunting was painstaking, and an unsuccessful hunt was the normality. I can remember arriving home at the end of the day to my mother asking, “What did you kill?” I usually responded with a one-word answer.time. I just didn’t think the juice was worth the squeeze.
Fast forward to the present. Oh how things have changed. I look back on those days and laugh. While I still do not enjoy waking up in the early morning, I do love hunting. This is the first October, and therefore, hunting season, that I have spent in Vermont since my senior year of high school in 2004. I have been hunting quite a bit and bagged nothing. But I’ve loved every minute of it.
I find myself reminiscing of my earlier hunting days as I sit in the woods. I can remember sitting on the cold ground and thinking that I would rather be anywhere else in the world. On Friday night I went hunting, and as a doe grazed a patch of ground about 100 yards from me (too far to shoot a bow and arrow), I watched intently and thought that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but in that tree stand.
As a kid I liked watching all of the squirrels in the woods. It didn’t seem like any deer ever came around, so the squirrels were my only company. Today, however, I want to kill them all. They shuffle through the dry leaves taunting me as I look erratically in every direction, always thinking the noise might be a deer. The squirrels have me paranoid.
The uphill climb over tough terrain that I once detested so much is now good exercise. The cold air is refreshing. The silence of the woods that once bored me is now peaceful and meditative. There is no such thing as an unsuccessful hunt anymore. I either come home with a deer or a pocket full of humility. A little humble pie is good for everyone once in a while.
I now see hunting as a true sport. It is a sport that requires a certain amount of both physical endurance and intuitiveness. It is not just a hobby for rednecks, but a sport for anyone looking to tap into their primitive roots. Try it sometime. Even if the deer escapes you, it’s a great way to kill a little time.