Thursday, October 26, 2017

Deer Hunting 2017

As I've written in previous autumns, I didn't grow up hunting. My dad and I fished (a lot! some of my favorite memories are of my dad picking me up from school before lunchtime so we could fish the Stanislaus River below Beardsley Reservoir). But we didn't hunt.

We did eat venison on the rare occasions that a friend would bring us some - and we all loved it. Just over five years ago, I decided to enroll in a local hunter safety course and get my first hunting license. I purchased a deer rifle - and a deer tag. The next year, I purchased another rifle (guns, for me, are tools rather than rights). I hunted for several years without getting a buck (I won't say without success - I learned something every time I hunted). In 2014, while hunting with my brother-in-law Adrian near Carson Pass, I got my first buck. Hunting by myself in 2015, I got another - and hunting again with Adrian (this time on the north coast of California), I got my third buck in 2017.

I'm a type-A personality (big shock to my friends, I'm sure). I like to be good at the things I enjoy doing. From a hunting perspective, I've come to realize that I truly enjoy the physical skills involved. I've enjoyed learning to be quiet. I've enjoyed learning to think about where deer might be at particular times of the year or time of day. I've enjoyed learning to shoot accurately. And (thankfully) I've enjoyed learning how to field-dress a deer.

This year, some long-time friends in Humboldt County, California, graciously invited Adrian and I to hunt on their ranch. Several Saturdays ago, we were both successful (Adrian in the morning; me in the evening). While I filled my B-zone tag, I decided I wanted to try to get a second buck in my local D3-5 zone. I told my oldest daughter, Lara, that I felt a little bad about being greedy - after all, I'd already had a successful hunt. She said, "Yeah, but you use all of the meat - you're not just hunting for a trophy." My youngest daughter, Emma, reinforced this sentiment. She told me, "I love venison, and I want to do something with the deerskin, too." For a father who has tried to instill respect for the animals that feed and clothe us, these ideas made me incredibly proud!

And so this weekend - the last weekend of deer season on our part of California - I'll be out in the woods trying to harvest one more buck. As my girls know, I won't be looking for a trophy - I'll be looking to put meat in our freezer. And if I'm not successful, I won't be disappointed - any day spent alone, quiet, and paying attention, in our mountains, is a good day. That's why I hunt....

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