Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I've Hunted So Far

So far this hunting season has not produced a single ounce of venison for the table. I was given the gift of several chances to take some beautiful deer, but my inexperience, hesitation, and general clumsiness had a way of trumping any celestial opportunities granted. So I haven't been able to bag a deer and maybe I won't. It seems like the deer have caught on to our shenanigans and places once crawling with cervine activity are now barren as the harvested corn fields around Washington County. Well, barren of corn. Seems like every harvested corn field in the county is crawling with deer I can't legally shoot. Deer are like men. You see them everywhere you can't have them.

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

23 Comments:

Blogger LazyG said...

I have hunted bunnies and birds, mostly pheasant, dove and chucker. What I have found is when you are not thinking about it, they appear. When you reach that relaxed point, where you are paying attention, but not thinking about the hunt, that's when your game walks in front of your path. (Except pheasant - you need a good dog for that.) It's like they sense intent and it makes them more alert. That's my experience, which is admittedly slim. Good luck!

November 27, 2012 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger kaelak said...

I ADORE Kahlil Gibran. Beautiful passage from on of my favorite books, in a beautiful post that allowed me to be out there with you, learning to understand the hunt in a deeper, more primal way. Thank you.

November 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

I started this particular entry at the quote and read through the end. Right before that I thought to myself, "I may have to take a break from reading until after hunting season is over."

My mind may have changed a bit - or become more open. This entry helped ease my whatever feelings they are about hunting - you were eloquent and forthright in your convictions - and so yeah, I guess you opened my mind up. Thanks.

November 27, 2012 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I love the blessing you give to the animals. I always thank every hen that lays an egg, every chicken that graces my table, I never want to take a life without purpose. I'm going to have to memorize that saying now!

You will get your deer!!!!

November 27, 2012 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger SusieQT said...

Very well said. Having spent many hours in the tree stand myself (unsuccessfully as well, recently) it is so true that I am there because I enjoy being there- not to put pressure on myself to "get something".

November 27, 2012 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Tracy P said...

Beautiful post. All of it true. This time of year, hunting takes over my thoughts, my time, and often my dreams. I often wonder how I can be so tired when I've just been sitting in a treestand for hours, but it's exactly like you said - meditation on the edge. Thanks for sharing this.

November 27, 2012 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger LeaningDuckFarm said...

*Please, no need to post*
That's a beautiful prayer for before animal slaughter. I make a similar but not so eloquent prayer for the animal's forgiveness, thanks to the god that provided me the animal and an ack' that we're all travelers here, none with more right than another to exist. Thanks for helping me to feel a little less corny about my own practices.

November 27, 2012 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

If I shoot a doe, the ol geezers say I should have waited for a buck. I just smile and say that my manhood won't be diminished if I manage only a doe (sarcasm . .. .I'm female). Some won't shoot anything less than an 8 point, blah blah blah.

I, too, am pleased with a grocery sack of meat in the freezer that I have harvested by my own hand. Its quite a feeling when you let off that safety (or release an arrow) and hope you have done your job well, ethically and mercifully.

I prefer a Ted Nugent saying, "The beast is dead, long live the beast."

Doesn't look like luck for rifle, but muzzleloader is in a week or so. (You might enjoy that particular weapon Jenna, its definitely a bit old school) We've also got a late doe season, rifle.

November 27, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Gosh, that's beautiful!

November 27, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

I come from a family of avid hunters. I have found from years of listening to them share hunting stories, that they were more aware and in tune with the animals than people who were not hunters. You have to know your prey. You have to spend hours in the woods quietly watching and listening to all the animals, not just your prey. It's not just going out and killing an animal. It becomes almost a meditation. Being still, listening, calming the mind (and hands)and being totally aware of all that's around you. And sometimes you get blessed with food for the table. Have patience Jenna. I know you will succeed.

November 28, 2012 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

I come from a family of avid hunters. I have found from years of listening to them share hunting stories, that they were more aware and in tune with the animals than people who were not hunters. You have to know your prey. You have to spend hours in the woods quietly watching and listening to all the animals, not just your prey. It's not just going out and killing an animal. It becomes almost a meditation. Being still, listening, calming the mind (and hands)and being totally aware of all that's around you. And sometimes you get blessed with food for the table. Have patience Jenna. I know you will succeed.

November 28, 2012 at 6:43 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

I come from a family of avid hunters. I have found from years of listening to them share hunting stories, that they were more aware and in tune with the animals than people who were not hunters. You have to know your prey. You have to spend hours in the woods quietly watching and listening to all the animals, not just your prey. It's not just going out and killing an animal. It becomes almost a meditation. Being still, listening, calming the mind (and hands)and being totally aware of all that's around you. And sometimes you get blessed with food for the table. Have patience Jenna. I know you will succeed. sorry if this posts twice.

November 28, 2012 at 6:45 AM  
OpenID dagnygromer said...

Hunting is not easy. A few years ago a friend of mine killed an elk, which was almost as big as a horse. She shared some meat with us. She hunted for several years before she was got one.

November 28, 2012 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Christee said...

I love listening to your stories Jenna.
I have decided to try my hand at bow hunting. I have never hunted or killed a creature in my life but I want to try it and see if it is something that fits for me. I will try my hand next fall.

My husband is a hunter and has had luck twice, once before we were together and the other in the early parts of our relationship. Two years ago he got drawn for bull elk and had a chance to draw, aim, shoot and hit his target, however, the big elk took off and he never found him. Turns out he hit him in the gutt and he never saw him. Locked the location into GPS and searched for the entire next day but no luck.

So good luck to you and your quest. You will do good!

-Christee

November 28, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Garth said...

Thank you. Beautiful quote. I'll be thinking of it the next time I'm out hunting or the next slaughter day.

November 28, 2012 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Garth said...

Thank you. That's a beautiful quote and I'll be thinking of it the next time I'm out hunting or the next animal processing day.

November 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I feel like you should watch the movie "Escanaba in da Moonlight". Its about a man who is the only one in his family to not get a buck and the wild adventures that ensue (I know that is a totally vague description, prolly you should watch the trailer on youtube). You won't be disappointed.

Carry on and Good Luck!

November 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM  
OpenID grammacello said...

What lovely writing.
The deer ( and the men )would all be lined up if they had any brains! Well, maybe not the deer.
Is there a way to subscribe to your blog?
I do not see it but maybe I am being unobservant.
There is a lot on the sidebar.....

November 28, 2012 at 2:13 PM  
OpenID grammacello said...

What lovely writing.
The deer ( and the men )would all be lined up if they had any brains! Well, maybe not the deer.
Is there a way to subscribe to your blog?
I do not see it but maybe I am being unobservant.
There is a lot on the sidebar.....

November 28, 2012 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger NANCY LEWIS said...

You must take a look at this painting of a Celtic Huntress!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rigphoto/104041467/
The stunning original is at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. If you ever go to San Francisco you have to make a pilgrimage to see it.

November 28, 2012 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

That is the most beautiful picture of a deer ... thank you.

November 28, 2012 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Knob Creek farmer said...

I think I noted this before but the moon is all wrong for hunting now - and will be for another week. At least here in Indiana.

See: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=105&month=12&year=2012&obj=moon&afl=-11&day=1

The "Meridian Passing Time" is what I call the "noon moon." That's when the moon is directly above. It's high tide for those living by the sea. The last few weeks the noon moon has been at night, hence my border collie "Tucker" going nuts all night! Starting December 6th the noon moon will start to cycle around at 6:31 am. Then 7:18 am on the 7th.

The buck I got on opening day was shot at 4:30pm. The noon moon for Nov. 17th was 4:24pm. Since then the noon moon has been later and later at night.

We'll be done with shotgun season (yes we have to hunt with shotguns here in Indiana...) then... but muzzleloader season start the next week.

By this I do not mean you'll not get a deer at other times, rather this is when all living things are so moved to be active and are the most alert. Ever wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep? Has it happened in the last week or so? Might be the moon (insert howl!).

You should never pick fruit at the noon moon because the moon's gravity has pushed up the ground water into the plants making them less sweet. Pick when the moon is rising or setting.

I find it interesting just how far from the earth, and moon, we have all become in the pursuit of modern life. I am lucky I can squeak out a living from my home in the woods. I do spend a lot of time out in the woods with my eyes closed listening and smelling.

Good luck with you quest for venison on the table.

November 29, 2012 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

Wonderful writing, thank you

November 29, 2012 at 8:46 AM  

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