I recently watched a hunting show on television that made me think.
The show’s heroes were dressed in street clothes and cowboy hats. Their prey was a 2,000-pound buffalo quietly standing on what looked like a well-manicured lawn. The men walked in, talking behind an old, torn down barn and set up while two fat buffalo stood about 60 yards away.
The shooter aimed what looked like a rolling block 45-70, took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. A closeup showed the bullet hit behind the animal’s shoulder. The buffalo just stood there while the shooter pumped two more rounds in its thick hide.
Finally, the buffalo dropped, no doubt dead from the first shot. This hunt reminded me of shooting cows in a pasture – no challenge, just killing. The buffalo were not wild animals; they were just waiting for their daily meal.
Shows of this nature raise questions; what is the essence of hunting and how should it be portrayed? What image of hunting do you want youth to discover?
Hunting should never be easy. Many of us have dropped a buck five minutes into opening morning. everything was done correctly. Just a touch of human scent picked up by the buck’s sensitive nose would have ended the hunt before any shot was possible.
Most hunters get more excitement from fooling a big gobbler with their setup and adequate calling than killing the big bird. The hunt starts before daylight. Hunters quietly move through the woods occasionally pausing to make owl sounds that will make the turkey gobble from his roost. Then, when a gobbler is found, a decoy is set out – when possible.
A gobbler has the sharpest eyes and hearing in the woods. A small mistake of movement or sound ends the hunt before it starts. Sit correctly, shoot straight and the hunt will end with the important one-shot kill.
I envy future hunters who have experiences coming that have touched my heart for 50-some hunting seasons, like walking through a woodlot when it was snowing or the leaves were falling? Or have you sat in a deer stand and watched a big flock of geese fly low just over your head or a covey of quail land and start feeding just below your stand?
Have you watched a deer move across a frost-covered field when it was cold enough to see the deer’s breath exhale in a white frosty stream? Have you watched a woodlot come alive at first light when many species of birds respond to a new day? Or have you watched teal dart over your decoys when the sun just started to peek over an orange and red horizon?
My soul has absorbed these sights and many more.
Preparation for a hunt is important. This starts by planning the hunt, understanding your prey, learning skills like game calling and target practice with bow or firearm until you are good enough for the one-shot kill. Few experiences hurt more than wounding a creature to escape and suffer.
How many time have you walked out of a hunting area without a kill, and you didn’t care? There is no pressure to kill game unless it is the only means of feeding your family. Most of us love to prepare and feast on wild game, but will not starve without it. Killing is part of hunting, but not a necessity for every good day afield. Many consider killing the least part of hunting. A dead animal often ends the outing.
Hunting should never be a competitive sport and is not about who shot the most quail or other types of game. I have watched dangerous acts of carelessness made on waterfowl, quail or pheasant hunts by those who wanted bragging rights at day’s end. I would rather hunt with someone who takes his time and shoots. Human life has been taken by fast shooters who wanted to brag later.
Deer hunting has become about taking the biggest buck in your woods. Visit a magazine stand and look at the titles, “Take the Biggest Buck of Your Life,” or “Beat the Crowds to that Big Buck.”
I have heard hunters almost apologize for shooting a doe because it did not have a big rack. Many of us have antlers drawing dust, but the deer steaks were delicious. Truthfully, doe meat tends to be tastier than buck meat.
How deep is hunting in your soul? I silently thank the bird or animal for becoming part of my soul – an old Native American belief. You would be surprised how many hunters do something similar to my private ritual.
I always make a point to thank God for a safe, successful hunt even when no shots are fired. I may have watched a magnificent sunrise over a marsh or through the trees in an autumn timber. I was privileged to observe numerous species of wildlife, generally birds and squirrels, but sometimes I was rewarded with sight of a deer, bobcat, fox or other creature that lives by stealth while a cool wind chills my face – a celebration of my very existence.
So how do you want hunting to be portrayed on television, newspapers or in magazines? What will you tell future hunters? I believe the answer is to appreciate the complete experience of hunting and enjoy every minute outdoors, a lifelong feast for the soul.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.