Some folks like to lie on the beach for relaxation. Others prefer to visit the Grand Canyon, or take a trip to Venice or some other foreign city, to wander the streets and gaze in awe at all the ancient stuff before them, or maybe head to glittering Las Vegas to gamble or watch the shows. Some folks like that kind of thing.
Other folks hunt deer.
Most of the aforementioned folks don't realize what it's like out there in the deer woods. They don't know the pleasure we hunters derive from primitive camps in the boonies. From tree stands on icy mornings. From shivering uncontrollably with cold and adrenaline, yet feeling a flush of warmth inside while watching deer do their thing - in the wild - unaware of our presence.
Bummer for them.
Deer hunting, for some, is simply a mechanical exercise that hopefully results in venison in their freezer. That, of course, is part of what all deer hunters are out there for - but most of us find something more out there in the woods where we do our hunting.
Putting that into words is the challenging part. Is it about pitting ourselves against a quarry that is well-known for its elusiveness and incredibly acute senses? Is it about the camaraderie we feel when camping and hunting with good friends and well-loved family members? Is it about the elation of making a kill? Is it about watching a doe with her young offspring, knowing that we will not shoot but experiencing a rush just the same? Is it about all the other wildlife we see while hunting?
The answer is yes.
It is also about freezing on a stump or in a tree stand. Realizing that you left your ammo or release in the truck. Eating freeze-dried-whatever around a too-smoky campfire made with wet wood. Broken lanterns. Stuck vehicles. Flat tires. Forgetting your compass and walking a few miles in the wrong direction.
Dropping your rifle; breaking your scope. Missing a big buck. Finding another hunter already in "your" spot. Having a deer in your sights when your rifle fails to fire (dammit). Sweating under clothing that was not quite enough on stand, but is too much for a hike - or for dragging a deer.
Getting stranded up a tree when you drop the bottom half of your climbing stand. 'Coons in the groceries. Fearless bears that keep you looking over your shoulder. Slipping while crossing a creek on a log.
Sounds like a lot of negatives, doesn't it? I guess it would, to the unseasoned or uninitiated. But the positives of deer hunting outweigh the negatives, without a doubt.
Deer hunting is not for everyone - not by a long shot. But for those who try it and like it, it is the best medicine around. Time spent hunting deer is good for learning, introspection, meeting new people, returning to our ancient hunting roots... and yes, for stocking the freezer with venison for the coming year.
Deer hunting gives us new stories to tell, new memories to savor, new peace within ourselves. And I never feel closer to God than I do when I'm out in the woods hunting.
If that's not good for the soul, I don't know what is.
- Russ Chastain