Friday, December 30, 2011

Today's "Hunter"...

    Spoiler alert, Spoiler alert! I can be opinionated. I’ve been known to stick my foot in my mouth on several occasions! Even both feet at times! I’ve been described as a lot of things, but wishy-washy isn’t one of ‘em. When it comes to hunting, I’ve got some fairly strong opinions about that as well…

     In my years as a hunter, I’ve seen a huge change in the whole “hunting” culture. For my generation and generations before, hunting was a way of life in rural parts of our country and every fall the tradition continued. Hunting as it stands today is evolving into something that doesn’t even resemble the hunting I knew growing up as a product of the 70’s and 80’s. Hunting now is an “industry”…An industry?

     It has become a multi-billion dollar business. You can see it everywhere you look. The “industry” is being driven by money and some shrewd marketing. Just go down the sporting goods aisle of Wal-Mart or look at the number of Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain stores that have sprung up over the last decade. Now I’ll be the first to admit, I love shopping in those places and looking at the new line up of camo this and scent eliminator that. But I know that those products aren’t what hunting is about and they damn sure don’t make someone a hunter. The way I see it, hunting was never intended to be easy. It’s not about shortcuts. In today’s hunting world, it all seems to be about getting an “un-natural” advantage over your quarry, in particular deer. There is even a machine out there that produces some kind of ozone to block your human odor!!! Come on!?

     Hunting is supposed to be about woodsmanship and bushcraft. It’s about knowing how to sight in your gun and shoot your bow. It’s about reading animal sign in the woods. It’s about watching the wind direction and knowing what phase the moon is in and how it affects animal’s movement. It’s about being able to sharpen your knife or your arrow’s broadhead to razor’s edge. It’s about being able to make a fire in a damp woods if needed. It’s about knowing how to field dress a deer or skin a rabbit and getting your hands bloody. It’s knowing where to place your treestand or blind and knowing how to slip through the woods undetected. It’s about becoming part of the woods and not just an occasional visitor. It’s about knowing when to shoot and not shoot. It’s about paying your dues as young hunter. It’s about frozen toes and bug bites, it’s about poison oak rashes and stinging nettles.

     The hunting industry today would have you believe that each year, you need to rush out and buy the latest and greatest bow capable of making a 70 yard shot with ease. That you need to buy the newest version of Mossy Oak or Realtree camouflage and that somehow the camo you got for Christmas 2 years ago is no longer any good! For good ness sake, they are evening marketing bottled water and energy drinks geared to hunters by wrapping them in a camouflage bottle! One scent elimination company even has a marketing slogan that says “Forget the wind and hunt”…What a load of @#$%


     The hunting world is a microcosm of the rest of our society today. It’s all about instant gratification and technology. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the direction hunting seems to be going. Maybe I’m just getting grumpy and showing my age. I seem to be turning into my father! For someone who is passionate about hunting and the outdoors in general, it just makes me sad to see the older ways being tossed aside in the name of money and big business. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Flip on your Dish Network or Direct TV and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The Outdoor Channel, Pursuit and the Sportsman Channel all have programs on them 24 hours a day geared to outdoorsman. Most of them touting the latest and greatest in the hunting industry being pushed or hocked by hunting “celebrities”…It’s all about endorsements and getting you up and off the couch to buy their products.

    I’m not opposed to outdoor stores and shows or people making an honest living in the hunting “industry” or clever marketing or any of that. I just think the direction we have taken as “today’s” hunters is a little cheap, with a few too many shortcuts and almost dirty in a sense. Being a hunter used to mean you were a provider, something honorable, something to hang you hat on. Not so sure that’s the case today as I see ads for hunting products with wording such as “it’s a food plot in a bag” or “put ‘em down” or “whack ‘em and stack ‘em”…wonder what guys like Theodore Roosevelt, Ishi or Fred Bear would think about today’s “hunter”.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Late Season

     I stand in the cut cornfield, peering into the edge of the trees for any signs of life. My ears struggle against the breeze and my eyes scan back and forth. My mind tells me all clear and I make my entrance into the woods. I try to slip in undetected, but the carpet of fallen leaves makes it an impossibility as I shuffle along with all the stealthiness of a heard of rhinos. Once tethered in, I sit back with a sigh and fight off a shiver...As I glance down from up here, I can't help but think how different my late December woods looks.

     At first take, the winter woods seems almost dead. Most of the hardwoods have shaken their leaves except for a few die hards hanging on the pin oaks, rattling in the wind. There are a few birds flitting back and forth and in the distance, a squirrel is barking out his displeasure over something. Everything is dormant and gray, including the deer! It's cold and damp, mid 30's and a stiff West wind makes it feel more like 20, but the sun is shining on my cheek and mentally warms me up. From my view, I can see several hundred yards to another ridge through the now open woods. I cast my stare that direction towards a winter wheat field hoping to spot a deer craving some greens. Minus the wind, all is quiet out here in late December.

     In October, my deer woods is vibrant and full of life. The trees are just starting to be painted in every shade and hue of orange, yellow and red with still green all around. The woods are thick, trails almost invisible in the undergrowth and the scrub is downright nasty with hidden briars and multi-floral rose bushes. The squirrels are leisurely grinding away on acorns, walnuts and hickories. The constant gnawing and litter falling from high in the trees leave evidence of their meals. The songbirds are everywhere...nuthatches titmouses, sparrows and wrens of all sorts. Woodpeckers too...downy, hairy, redheaded, even a couple of the giant sized pileated types beating their heads against the hollow trees like a jackhammer. The deer are in their transition...Their coats are now shiny and sleek. The bucks' neck is muscled from his bouts against the arm sized cedars he used to peel his velvet. The does have switched from their summer orange to their fall grays and tans. The deer are regularly coming to the white oaks to eat their favorite treat as the acorns rain down. Life is good for the whitetail in October...

     November looks different from my nest up here...It's a brown month and the leaves are proof of it. There is a chill in the air and the days are short. The woods are opening up and those once hidden trails look more like cow paths through an over grazed pasture. Less daylight and a few frosty mornings have the bucks throwing caution to the wind. Love is in the air and they've forsaken meals and sparring with their cohorts in search of it! The normally wary, mature patriarchs are on the daytime prowl. The bucks are like a well trained athlete in their prime. Not by coincidence, this is a bowhunter's time too. Your best chance at catching the buck when he slips up in the name of procreation! It's good to be in my tree...But November isn't all's orange too! Bright, ugly, fluorescent orange. The woods are now under attack as firearms opens up and lead flies! Now don't get me wrong, I not against gun hunting at all, no sir! I still pack my .44mag into the woods from time to time and lifelong memories have been made toting a gun into my stand. But, I am a bowhunter, I've seen the deer, natural and undisturbed for the past 6 weeks before the stink of gun season enters the wood. A weekend of pot shots in the deer's bedroom and he has become un-natural. He has gone covert. He is underground. Nervous and nocturnal in November...

     And back to my December stand...Evening is setting in and my breath is becoming more visible. I can feel the temperature dropping as the sun sinks and night time will be crashing in soon. A few crows kaw,kaw far away. A distant crunching in the leaves gives up the doe's location, but she is yards away and won't cover the distance in time. She vanishes behind a ridge, not to be seen or heard again from up here. The breeze dies down and all is silent, save for a bird or two. Stillness...Yep, the late season woods appears dead, but I've never felt more alive.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Little Less BOO-YAH! Please...

     Now, all you have to do is ask anyone that lives in the Hewitt household and they can tell you that I watch too much of the outdoor and hunting programs. The Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel are a staple in my surfing routine and the "Clicker" buttons are worn to those channels. I actually enjoy a handful of the shows but, most of them are nothing more than half hour informercials that I get sucked into watching. Much the same way that we gawk and rubberneck at horrible car crashes! I want to see the carnage...

     So, I'm gonna use my tree stand as a soapbox if you'll indulge me...I've noticed a distinct trend in the hunting shows today and it's nothing short of disgusting and I find myself being embarrassed for the hunters on camera! Recently, I had the displeasure of watching a show where one of the guys, all painted up like a Native warrior going into battle, shot a very nice buck and then turned to the camera and shouted BOO-YAH! along with some other incoherent rambling. What does that even mean??? Is that a word? The guy on screen came across as a total tool and left more than a bad taste in my mouth. BOO-YAH! Really??? Yet another "outdoor celebrity" on a different show shoots a 170" class whitetail buck, on some managed 1000 acre parcel in Iowa that most everyday hunters can only dream about, looks square into the camera lens and in a voice just short of shouting blurts out "That's what I'm talkin' about"...Okay? Who were you talking too and just what was it you were talking about? I don't understand...Still another "pro staffer" will skip about and scream like a little school girl after arrowing a deer. Seriously?

     Don't get me wrong. Hunting and the fruits of it should be celebrated. The memories made, the meals provided, the trophy for the wall, all equally important parts. I guess what I'd like to see is the celebration tempered with some humanity. 

     Let's call it what it is. The end of a complete hunt results in an animal being killed. No plainer way to describe it, we as hunters kill animals. Sure I can clean it up with the words "take" or "harvest", but in the end it's still the same. When you see some guy on TV dancing around and fist pumping like he just quarterbacked the super bowl, it's embarrassing. What I don't see in most of today's TV hunters is remorse. That's right...remorse. I think every hunter worth his salt ought to feel a tinge of remorse at taking a life. Now I'm not saying that it over shadows the excitement of a successful hunt or that we have to go into mourning, but that fleeting moment of remorse should be automatic for a hunter. I'm a carnivore and a predator, but I'm human. The remorse is what separates me from a wolf, a coyote or a bear. They kill prey, I hunt prey.

     And while we're on it, how about a hint of gratitude? Gratitude to your Maker or whomever or whatever you believe in. Gratitude to the fallen animal wouldn't hurt. Now some guys will publicly thank the Lord for their good fortune, but honestly at times, it seems like fluff for the camera. A simple, silent prayer or a sincere thank you would be a nice change to see. 

     Oh, and one more thing! A little humbleness would be nice! Too often, it's the chest pounding and self accolades and "awesome" shot, and I did this and I did that...Humility could go a long, long way in bringing non-hunters into the hunting fold and into our tent and maybe, just maybe change the view of some anti hunters.

     If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a fairly opinionated cuss. I'm passionate about the outdoor world and I know my place in it as a hunter. I think our way of life will be a memory in just a few generations and if we don't change the opinion of non-hunters when it comes to their thoughts of us and our lifestyle, we are sunk. So, with that, I will put my soap box up and climb down from my tree er, a my high horse.

Old Doe...

     I had just settled in for my evening ritual on stand. As the stress of the day left me, I began to get caught up in the noises of the woods. The birds chirping about and a couple of chipmunks skittering through the leaves. I started to think about past hunts and missed opportunities. The breeze blowing warm in my face  and I started to get that calm, relaxed feeling. I was fixed in a trance. I leaned back in my tree seat, felt my eyes get heavy. My breathing got a little deeper and then, zzzzzzzz.....I jerked awake, startled. Not sure how long I dozed off, but based on the fact that my contact lenses had nearly welded my eyes shut, I must have been out for more than a few minutes. 

     As I rolled my shoulders and arched my back to breathe life back into me, I glanced to my left and there she was. An old, horse headed doe looking straight at me from less than 10 yards away! How did she sneak in on me? She was playing that head bob game that deer do, but I was sly to that trick and I froze in place. She eyed me up and down, trying to figure out just exactly what was in the tree. Her tail was flared and the hair between her shoulders bristled. The old gal was definitely on high alert. I could see her nostrils expand and contract with each breath as she tried to get a whiff of me.

     We played the cat and mouse game for what seemed like forever. I remained perfectly still. My chin was tucked deep in my chest and I had my hat pulled low to my brow. Every now and then, I'd peer out from under my bill to check on her. Don't make eye contact, DON'T make eye contact with her! I kept telling myself. The game continued and my knees and shoulders started to complain at the lack of movement and circulation.

     Under my breath, I kept pleading with the old hag to move, just put your head down, please! I tried to subliminally will her to luck. Finally, our battle of wills looked like it was coming to an end. A squirrel became an unlikely allie and as he darted through, the doe was distracted for a moment, giving me my first chance to move my longbow into position. The bow was canted and just the slightest pressure tensed the bowstring.The doe looked back my direction and seemed a little more casual. Apparently, her run in with the squirrel had softened her mood and she seemed satisfied that the lump in the tree was nothing to fear. She put her head down to snatch a fallen acorn. As she chewed her prize, she turned just slightly to quartering away. Her ribs were exposed as I burned a hole through her with my focus and imagined where her off shoulder would be. Her hide was stretched tight over her gaunt body and as she went for another morsel, I repeated my mantra...Pick a spot, lift your bow, draw and let go...I could smell the leather of my shooting glove as I drew the string to the anchor point of my nose and cheek. Slow motion sets in, heart rate skyrocketing...I don't recall the release, but in an instant, the arrow buried itself behind her ribs. She bucked with a mule kick and I knew her race would be short. 

     I stood and watched her disappear into the cedars, and then all was quiet. I set for a while to gather my gear along with my thoughts and emotions. I made the decent from my perch and then the short walk to where she had last stood. I knew that there was no need to take up the trail as I looked ahead and saw her white belly not more than 50 yards away. Regardless, I followed the crimson trail she had left behind to see that the broadhead had done its job. It never ceases to amaze how lethal a sharped piece of steel launched from a bent stick can be.

     I knelt down by the old roman nosed doe and ran my hand along her course hair. I was struck at the prominence of her ribs, clearly visible under her thin leather. I looked skyward and whispered a thank you above and then gave the old gal a pat on the side and thanked her for a battle well fought. I rolled the her onto her back and prepared for the ugly side of making your own meat. It was obvious that the old gal was dry and hadn't mothered in a long, long time. I went to her head and opened her jaw only to see that her teeth were nearly gone from a lifetime of grinding corn, soybeans and acorns. I'm not a wildlife biologist, but even to my untrained eye, it was clear that the matriarch wouldn't have seen another spring.

     As I finished up the task at hand, I couldn't help but wonder how many seasons the old gal had seen and what experiences she's had in our woods.I was curious if we had ever crossed paths before and I was grateful to part of her world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

From a Hunter's eyes

     Some of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had have been while in the woods. The kind of memories that are etched into your brain. The type that you hope you’ll never forget. When I sit back and think of all the things I’ve witnessed while spending countless hours among the trees, I smile a smile of gratitude. Then I think how sad it is that most people will never get to see or hear what I’ve seen or heard. It’s hard to even describe all the things I’ve witnessed…

     Early one morning, as I sat in my treestand, a blue jay squawked and made all sorts of racket just a few feet from me. He was doing his best to harass all the songbirds and doing a pretty fair job of pestering me as well. Just as I was thinking how nice it would be to have a slingshot and a marble with the blue jay’s name on it, he exploded into a cloud of blue feathers as a coopers hawk swooped out of nowhere, snatched him from his perch and took him to another limb and preceded to make breakfast out of Mr. Blue Jay. You could almost hear the glee in the voices of the sparrows and nuthatches as they sang their songs! Never seen anything like it before or since…I’ve seen a chipmunk’s cheeks stretched beyond reason as it continued to stuff its face full of seeds and nuts. I’ve watched a squirrel in a panic, scurrying about, filling his winter cache with acorns thinking he was safe for the cold months ahead, only to have another thieving squirrel sneak in and rob from his larder and dart off with the efforts of his hard work. I’ve seen a coyote trotting through a snow covered field stop on a dime, cock his head to listen, and then pounce on a mouse or vole buried  8” under the crusty snow. I’ve listened to barred owls calling that distinctive, eerie “who cooks for you, who cooks for you” call back and forth across the holler as evening settles into the woods. I’ve seen two grey foxes climb a tree higher than any canine species should ever climb. I’ve shared my treestands with several ‘coons and opossums over the years, never at my request! I’ve heard the clicking of a squirrel’s toenails against the side of hickory bark as it climbed mere inches from my face. I’ve seen the business end of an owl as she flew in mistaking my darting eyes or the movement of my camouflaged face or hands as an easy meal, only to flare at the last second leaving both of us frazzled. I’ve seen does standing on their hind legs, sparring with one another like two boxing kangaroos! I’ve witnessed a buck dogging a doe all over a hillside until she finally relents to his pressure and they did what animals do to ensure the next generation. I’ve watched two bucks fight and push and destroy a small section of woods, snapping saplings and dead snags, plowing up the ground with their feet, leaving blood and hair behind as a testament to the seriousness of their battle. I’ve heard the piercing, shrill scream of a red fox as I snuck out of the dark woods, realizing I had left my flashlight in the truck. Hair raised on the back of my neck and my pace quickened.

     I’ve had the pleasure to hear the baying of coon dogs a couple of ridges over on a clear, cold winter night. I’ve listened to the cry of a fat, old beagle as she ran a rabbit in a circle through a tangle of briars on a hillside. I’ve heard the honking of geese forever away, only to see them come across the horizon and finally dump into a spread of decoys in a cut cornfield. This past archery season as I watched a beautiful, mature ten pointer working over a scrape just yards away from my stand, I caught some movement to my left and saw my first Hoosier bobcat as he slinked down an old logging path, silently hop on a log, cross a ravine and then vanish into a stand of pawpaws…never, ever expected to see a wild bobcat in Indiana and don’t expect to see one again.

     Yep, there’s some amazing stuff going on out there. You just have to know where to look and I can promise you it’s not in the living room near your recliner.


Friday, December 23, 2011


     Why do we need wild places? I mean seriously, in this day and age of technology, is it really all that important to have wilderness? Debates rage on about drilling for oil in Alaska or off shore in the Gulf.  So what if it interferes with the migration of a few caribou or mucks things up for some salt water fish species, right? As advanced as we’ve become as a society, is all this “outdoors” really necessary?

     Well, for this guy, I don’t think I could survive without wild places. Sure, I’ll probably never see an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and I doubt that I’ll be heading to the Brooks Range of Alaska anytime soon, but even here in Switzerland County, I need wilderness or at least our Southern Indiana version of such…I’m nearly 43 years old, but it doesn’t take much for my mind to revert back to that of a 12 year old boy reading every article I could in Outdoor Life, Field and Stream or Sports Afield. Writers like Ted Trueblood, Homer Circle and Jim Zumbo filled my imagination with wonder when I read about their hunting and fishing adventures. I was convinced that I’d be right there in the pages of an outdoor magazine some day. But, like most of us, as I got older and the reality of life set in, those thoughts and ideas of a 12 year old boy settled into the farthest corners of my mind. They’re never forgotten, but they just rest there most of the time, hibernating as the demands of work, family, bills, and all the other adult responsibilities take their place. It’s sad when you think about how life has a way of robbing us of our youthful, innocent ideals…But, then it happens. That first cool morning in September or just a slight chill in the breeze and the poplar trees get a hint of orange and yellow in their leaves. All those adventures that I had read about come rushing back and my mind is that of a teenage boy again. I know soon that I will be in my Neverland and perched on the side of a tree with a bow in my hand overlooking a well worn trail just like I have done dozens and dozens of times over the years. In my imagination, I could just as easily be in the Rockies chasing bugling elk or in the Yukon pursuing a rutting bull moose. For the moment, I’m Jeremiah Johnson or Saxton Pope and Art Young or any number of legendary outdoors figures from the past. My ears listen intently to every sound I hear. My eyes scan the woods for any movement, for the twitch of an ear or the flick of a tail that might give the deer away. I am totally and completely caught up in my “wild” space. I am alive again! And just as I’m about to watch a heard of caribou pass by in my mind, I hear the kids playing soccer at the elementary school just across the cornfield from my tree stand and I have to laugh at myself and my boyish imagination and I’m snapped back to the reality that is.

     We all need wild places to go. A park, some woods, a field, a creek, wherever it is. It can be the mountains of the West, huge boreal forests in the North or even a 60 acre piece of woods along SR250 in East Enterprise. Maybe your wild place is mowing the back yard or watching birds come into your feeder just outside the kitchen window. Whatever it is, don’t ever let go of your “wilderness”.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's all a matter of perspective

     The world looks a little different when you’re sitting 20’ up the side of a red oak. Our views about life are all a matter of perspective and when I’m in a tree stand with my longbow in the autumn woods; my view becomes a little mellower. A little less negative, a little less cynical. Doesn’t matter if its 80 degrees and I’m swatting mosquitoes away from my ears and wiping sweat from my eyes in early October or I’m freezing my extremities off in single digits in late December. In fact, the world looks pretty darn good from my perch as I glance down at the fallen leaves under me.

     Over the years, I’ve solved all sorts of the world’s problems from up here. Sometimes I ponder the past, consider the future and contemplate the present. Topics from A to Z drift in and out of my mind while up here with the breeze in my face. What needs to be done at work, what projects at home are on the back burner, should I have went out for the varsity basketball team in high school??? What direction our country is heading, do I have enough money to pay for my kids’ education, what will we have for dinner tonight? Did I just hear a twig snap? Was it a deer or only a squirrel playing his tricks on me? Will I live to a ripe old age? I wonder how different my life is from my grandparents. Why do my knees ache when it’s damp out? Why are we still in Afghanistan? Maybe I will win the lottery someday…What will I have for dinner? Man, I must be hungry…                                                                                                                                                                     

     My thoughts are totally random and connected all at the same time. One idea leads to the next and so on and so on. Some thoughts are deep and meaningful while others are nothing short of ridiculous. Memories float through my head, some good, some not so good. I look down the trail and think about a buck from years ago that made the mistake of coming too close to gorge himself on some acorns and he wound up in my freezer and on my wall. I glance up the ridge and remember the doe that I missed and the arrow that whistled over her shoulder. I think about the memories I’ve made and experiences I’ve shared with my kids out here in the woods and a tear wells up in my eye. I think about the roundness of my son’s face when he was a 9 year old out here with me squirming like 9 year olds do and how he is now a fine young man and taller than his dad. I think about dragging my little girl out into the cold, her all bundled up like an Eskimo. I think about her being a crack shot and the venison she’s provided for us. I think about her graduating next year and going off to college and the tear leaves my eye and rolls down my cheek. I think of how blessed I am to have been their dad and for them to see the world from 20’ up a tree…Snap again! It’s not a squirrel! Just a couple more steps and the cedar shaft will be on its way and hopefully buried to the fletching in the buck’s sweet spot.

     Yep, the world looks pretty good from up here…If your perspective is a little off, I’d highly recommend climbing a tree. It might just clear your view.

So, we know you're a hunter, but what's the point?

     What's the point of going out and either sweating to death and being eaten alive by mosquitoes and deer flies or freezing your posterior off and suffering near frostbite when the wind chill is 10 degrees? Really, isn't there a better way to spend your fall and winter days? You really should get another pass time! How about going to the movies, attending a ballgame or shopping...All valid points and reasonable enough questions I suppose. Of course, you have to consider the point that I'm not all together reasonable when it comes to the outdoors and can tend to be a little lopsided when it comes to this topic!

     Sure, I could stay in the house, on the couch all wrapped up in a snuggie watching an I.U. game or the Colts on any given Sunday. But here's the thing...I don't get to be part of the show. What I mean is this. When I'm out in the field or in my stand, I'm not just a spectator, I'm one of the actors. Hopefully, if everything comes together, I get to participate. Even though hunting is oftentimes a practice of patience, it's not meant to be reactive. Yes, I sit up in my tree and wait...and wait...and wait some more for the deer to pass by. But it's the anticipation of their arrival that drives me. That's the hunt! It's the pre-season planning and all the scouting that's been done ahead of time. It's finding white oaks that are raining down acorns every time the wind blows, calling deer like a dinner bell. It's studying the wind direction and trying to determine where the deer will be and what time they will be there and trying to cross paths with him. It's entering the natural world and matching wits with one of the wariest animals on earth and 99% of the time, the deer wins! It's trying to beat the deer at his own game, in his living room!

     Sometime, the stars all align and your number gets called off the bench to be part of the game. That's when it gets exciting. You've done all your homework, you've planned for this moment. You were careful in your stand placement and you've taken all the precautions to beat his defenses. You melt into the side of the tree and are hidden like a chameleon. The wind is blowing in your favor and a gnarly old buck is sneaking down the trail just as you had hoped. Your pulse quickens and your heart races. You can feel the adrenalin being dumped into your bloodstream! Your mind calculates the distance; you look ahead to your shooting lane. You're already envisioning the deer in the back of your truck and all the congratulations and back slapping that go along with it. You tell yourself to pick a spot and calm down. Your breathing is quick and ragged. One more step, pick the spot, you grunt the cagey old deer to a stop and the arrow is on its way...In one gravity defying, fluid movement, the buck ducks low and bolts into the next county as the arrow sails harmlessly over his back and buries in the soft dirt. He waves his white flag to you as he races away. You can almost hear him laughing...You slump back into your stand in a heap. You replay the shot in your head. Everything was perfect. You're dejected, even angry for a moment. But then, a wry little smile crosses your lips and you realize that your season isn't over. The hunt is still on and you get to do it all over again regardless of the heat or the cold. You're still in the game! You get to be an actor in the greatest show in the outdoors! I think you can keep your couch and blanket...I'd rather freeze.

Why hunting?

     For anyone that knows me, it's no secret that I enjoy hunting. Over the years I've been asked many times why I hunt. Fact is, I don't know if I've ever given much thought to the question. Oh sure, I hunt for the challenge, the chase and of course the food my quarry can provide and in some instance for the antlers on the wall. But, why do I really hunt? What drives me? Why not take a camera with me instead of my bow or a gun?

     As I thought about the question, it made me dig deep and try to find a good answer. Early on in my hunting life, I hunted because I wanted to kill something. I know, I know...that sounds a little morbid, but for a 10 year old boy growing up in rural Southeastern Indiana, it was the norm back then. I cut my teeth chasing squirrels around the woods within a bike ride from Rising Sun, Indiana and started to develop my passion for the outdoors at a young age. Later, I was introduced to deer hunting and another fire was lit. I hunted deer with a zest that overtook just about all my other interests. Even basketball took a backseat to my love of the hunt and being in the woods. At that stage, it was all about getting a deer, any deer. But as I matured as a hunter, the "if it's brown, it's down" mentality changed into being more about the quality of animal taken rather than the quantity of animals. Now I've never been much of a trophy hunter, but I certainly appreciate a nice buck just as much as the next guy and have been fortunate enough to take a few good ones over the years.

     So, as I sit here now, a man approaching my mid 40's with over 30 years of hunting under my belt, what is it?...Why do I hunt? Is there some deep, thought provoking answer? I lean back in my treestand and think intently and I've come to this conclusion. I hunt because I am a hunter! Plain and simple. It's part of who I am. For some reason, it's hard wired into my brain. Some people are farmers, some laborers, some gatherers. Maybe it's some sort of throw back to a more primitive time, but it's in my DNA. If I didn't have my bow or a shotgun, I'd use a rock or a sharpened stick or even my bare hands! Chief Joseph, the famous leader of the Nez Perce Indian tribe said it best..."When the last deer disappears in the morning mist, When the last elk vanishes from the hills, When the last buffalo falls from the plains, I will hunt mice, for I am a hunter and I must have my freedom." Well Chief Joseph, I couldn't have said it better myself.