Filed under: Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, Preparation & Readiness
Hunting and Camping go together like Bacon and Eggs.
For some, I am sure, the mention of deer hunting as Santa is readying his sleigh for his Christmas journey is in poor taste. But, rest assured, Rudolph and the other eight reindeer are perfectly safe in their indoor, heated stalls at the North Pole. Besides, Santa retired the reindeer in favor of rocket engines fused to his sleigh’s runners years ago as the world population began to explode.
I grew up with what has come to be known in my family as the “Bambi Syndrome”. This was largely fueled by my dear mother that preferred to impose upon my impressionable young mind the belief that those poor, defenseless, big brown-eyed critters that ravaged local apple orchards when their food supplies became low should not be harmed. Thus, I never hunted as a youth.
It was in 1968 – right after graduation from college – that I moved to a rural south-western community in Virginia and began teaching in the public schools. I had never experienced the fanatic energy that virtually all of my students – both male and female – exhibited when opening day for the deer-hunting season began. My typical class of twenty-five students would dwindle to as few as five for the entire week. Once their Buck was felled, student-hunters would return to the classroom – often with a “rack” of antlers displayed in the back of their pick-up truck along with their gun rack and rifle in plain view. All of this took place in a school parking lot with the only concern being the possibility of someone stealing the rack and rifle. Can you imagine what would happen if a student brought a rifle into a school parking lot today?
During this first week of hunting season camping trailers that had been sitting idle all summer would find their way to a community camp somewhere in the woods. There, hunter-campers would gather around a roaring campfire after sunset, dine on fresh venison, potatoes, beans and hearth baked sourdough rolls. Hunting tales would abound with a fellowship that only occurred at this special time of the year.
Yea, I got caught up in the synergy. I would join the hunter-campers after the end of the school day, get up the next morning before sunrise, and take my position in a tree stand in hopes of making my kill. Several hours later, I would descend from the tree stand without my Buck and amble into my nearly empty classroom.
I remember well a cold November morning; I was sitting quietly in my tree stand when a magnificent buck with huge antlers wandered into view. He stopped to drink from the small creek just upwind from my position. I lifted my rifle and sighted in just below the shoulder of the creature. The shot would be lethal and I was sure that the deer would drop within a few feet of my stand. But, I did not pull the trigger. I slowly set my rifle down and continued to watch the creature move around my stand sensing my presence but unable to fix my position. It was then that I realized that the only reason I was “hunting” was to have an excuse for getting out of a warm bed, venturing into the cold darkness, positioning myself discretely into the woods, and watching the world around me wake up. Truthfully, if I were to do this without the excuse of hunting my peers would have considered me crazy.
The comrade back at camp, the stories, jokes, and food were priceless experiences that will never be forgotten. Hunting was my initiation into a community where I started as an outsider – a stranger to a culture that was foreign to my upbringing. I was now an accepted member of this society.
I have never shot a deer – thou the opportunities have been there on several occasions. I now prefer to “hunt” with a camera rather than a gun. But either way, it is a good excuse to go camping and find a place sitting high in a tree!