Updated: Dec 8, 2021
The majority of the following I penned nearly 5 years ago, and the truth it delivers has only grown more intense with every harvest since. I look out over the hunting landscape, and at times I'm worried for the direction we're heading. Have we ever thought that perhaps one part of why our numbers are diminishing is we forgot to respect our quarry? Are our youth sensing this disconnect and it that which drives them away? All they see or witness is greed in the pursuit of their buck or diminishing another's style...or even worse the utter disregard for common sense when blood thirst bedlam seems to take hold of a hunter in his pursuit or decisions afield.
Often times the question comes up.
It takes many different forms but the root of it is the wondering why hunting means so much to those of us that have an affliction that only hunting can cure. I mean if you think about it from another person's shoes it would seem crazy to want to sit still for countless hours, sometimes wet, sometimes freezing...walk miles, plant food plots, scout, practice...it all seems excessive to a normal person. The kicker though...is that hunting isn't something which can be described, in many ways hunting can only be felt and the harvest is no different. Sacred is perhaps one of the most fitting words to describe a harvest for me personally. The action to many is rather simple, I shot and a deer died. That however is missing the waterfall of emotions which slam into a hunters mind in the moments of it, cascading throughout us in a way only other hunters can understand.
For me, there are five main emotions of the harvest - each cutting deep and carving out space in the moment.
SADNESS...for the story is over
Now I get it, it may seem odd to have sadness on this list. However, talk with any one who has been in the woods long enough and you begin to see this heart in every hunter grows with time. This is especially true in unique circumstances. In my case with Junior, my father and I had years of history with this buck...basically his life played out before our eyes (albeit on cameras till the end)...and when it was over sadness was natural.
Sometimes a harvest has a sad memory or dedication to it. Perhaps the first harvest without a father accompanying you for the recovery...that first time the gun or bow in your hands took a deer not with its previous owner (a friend, a family member perhaps). These deer evoke sadness out of us as well and again that is natural.
As I grow as a hunter I think if at least a tiny bit of sadness doesn't creep in, you're not doing something right.
RESPECT...for the life that is no more
This is different than sadness discussed above but is rooted and natural due to the same reasons. As we hunt we grow an immense respect for the beasts we pursue, and I know I for one do not take their life for granted. This is why you will never see me make ill-advised or un-ethical shots. It is the reason why I wait for the best shot, not just a shot.
It keeps me on a blood trail and it forces me to exhaust all means for recovery.
JOY...for the journey
This my friends is why we keep hunting...the journey to a harvest sometimes is elaborate or simple, long or quick, easy or challenging. Each one though holds a special story and implant a memory into our minds of that hunt and that deer, making us smile when we think of it.
If it was not for the journey...I'm not sure I'd want to take a step in the woods. Each step is different and each one holds a memory.
THANKFULNESS...for God shining down on you
What can I say, sometimes he pours out upon us so rich a blessing all we can do is be thankful. Every hunt, every step, every harvest is a blessing to which none of us deserve...yet He gives. He is the one responsible for the sun we watch rise, the birds we hear sing and the deer we attempt to harvest.
He is the reason for the harvest, and it is only fitting we give Him thanks. HUMBLED...to have been part of it all
Humility is perhaps the biggest thing hunting teaches us. Hunt long enough and you will see failure...at times it will seem incessant. However, when it all comes together. When that blood trail finally has a happy ending and happiness surges through your body you are humbled. You know how often the journey typically results in failure so you are so grateful to have a victory.
Those are the emotions of the harvest...and perhaps if more understood this, we would garner more support and our numbers begin to grow.