What I've Hunted So Far
I have been writing about hunting a lot, and that's because I am doing a lot of it. If I am not taking care of the farm or running errands I am in the forest or a tree stand. The Hunt has taken on a mythical veil to me, it's something more than just aiming a gun at a buck. It is hours and hours of silent meditation, but meditation on the edge. Kind of like sitting in the lotus position on the edge of your roof. Probably nothing will happen, but if it does you better be ready, safe, fast, and wolf-quick in your decisions. It's exhausting and frustrating and exhilarating at the same time.
I have also been getting lots of emails and comments with advice. Some say to leave the bucks to the breeding stock and aim for a small doe. Some say get the largest animal you can for your tag, ensuring more meat in the freezer. I read all these comments and emails and smile, because these are tips for people who have the luxury of choice! Darling, I will be lucky as a duck to even get a *chance* to shoot a deer this season and it won't matter to me if it's a ten-point buck or a graying doe on the lam from another hunter. I will take the animal chance, luck, and a good quick death offers (if I am lucky enough to have one). If I do manage to shoot, kill, and gut a deer it will be thanked. It will be professionally butchered. It will feed myself and friends over storied meals of how the beast went down. And it might inspire other women to take up the good sport, too.
I think that attitude is what makes me a hunter, not the actual taking of a life. To approach the hunt with respect, patience (working on this one), and wonder. I saw those poachers shooting at cheap hits from the road and they may have a garage full of deer at their homes, but they aren't hunters. They are killers. Out for the easiest path to results, regardless of law, other people, or safety. To me a hunter is someone who takes life for the table, not the wall mount. It takes it with humility and the understanding that we too will die someday. The words of Kahil Gibran:
When you kill a beast say to him in your heart, "By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."
So I have not managed to take a deer into the mightier hand. I have no antlered meat in the freezer. But I have been hunting and here is what I have tucked away in a game bag close to my heart:
I have sat for hours in the forest and remembered again what a joy it is to simply sit still. I have snuck up on a great blue heron, and looked at its offended eyes before it flew away in wildly loud flaps of its wings. I have shared a tree stand with a chickadee, singing inches from my ears. I know what the sound of a flock of geese sounds like overhead, when its not honking. Their wing strokes are sirens at sunset. I have seen bucks trot, antlers raised to attention, and does coyly avoid my virginal hands as they take aim. I've sat through snowflakes, and sunrises, and watched a baby fawn cry for its mother as it ran across a field in the blue cold dawn. I laughed with crows. I studied owl songs. I stared at tracks, and blood sign, and heard stories of a dozen hunters and their hunts. I have done this, all this, and it is just half a season gone.
I am joining a sisterhood and brotherhood of people who have reconnected with a primal urge, and I am not talking about killing wildlife. I mean the urge to provide for their loved ones and family in the most basic way possible: deeply nutritious food. It is a sport not of death, not really. It's a sport for the survivors. The brave. The patient. The storytellers. And the poacher chasers.
It is timeless.
It is satisfying.
And it is mine.
Art by Rajewel