School daze: Hunting around the homework
With the arrival of fall, some hunters head west. Some hunters stay here in New York to tend to their local whitetails and hunt geese or chase salmon. Parents spend a few stressful days getting their kids to accept the fate of the new school year. But some hunters are students. Middle school through college, the new school year brings adds responsibilities you’d rather not have, but tough luck, more work is what we are all faced with even though we just want to hunt. Being a student hunter is a responsibility. Much like being a student athlete balancing the passion for the pursuit with studies, there are plenty of dedicated student hunters working a delicately orchestrated schedule in order to obey both the calls of the classroom and that of the wild. Being a student hunter was fun; pure, uncut fun. The late nights, the unorthodox study habits and pursuit is something I will always cherish from the days of high school and college. To help students as they settle in and look to hunting season, here are a few tips I learned the hard way.
Balance: Balancing takes the form of scheduling and being disciplined enough to stick to the schedule. If you want to maximize your study time and hunting time, start by cutting videos and games out of your diet like junk food. Your class schedule is the unwavering structure to your week. Sit down with your class times and look to see where you have open gaps of daylight hours before or after class to take advantage of. Study every extra second you can and do not delay projects. Late nights are a storied part of any college experience, and for the student hunter you will find out God made coffee for this reason. Once during finals, a friend and I studied straight through the night, drinking three pots of coffee in order to reach the appropriate amount of study time and be awake to leave for the turkey woods at 3 a.m. Make a plan and stick to the plan. If you say you want to hunt Wednesday afternoon, work the hunt into your daily routine, figuring out what other times you will need to work on that paper or read those chapters. What I found was my body began to naturally adapt to working my studies around the times I would want to hunt. One of the best ways to do that was to set a date several days in advance to get work done appropriately. Also, use hunts as a reward for getting school work done. This small mental game helped me stay on task many late nights.
I don’t have a place to hunt: I’m calling your bluff on this. One of the most beautiful things about America is public land. Sure, public land hunting can be a little scary. Yet during the bow season especially, I quickly realized the gold mines of hunting opportunity on nearby public land if I was willing to put in a little bit of extra effort. Some of the best hunts my hunting partners and I had in college were on public land. Scouting public lands via Google Maps became a nightly ritual for me and my hunting partner Austin Groff. If you understand how to read a topographical map, start finding public land online and pinpoint saddles, field corners and funnels to start. Then, when you can put boot tread to the dirt and go for a hike you will be amazed at some of the untouched areas you can find with just a little bit of effort.
Have a game plan for dealing with a downed animal: If you plan on pursuing something big like deer, have a game plan for dealing with the meat before hand. For me and Austin Groff, our game plan revolved around breaking down our deer in the woods and packaging the meat in the kitchen of our dorm or apartment – an activity which caused our school to ban meat packing from the dorm kitchens after our RA found us grinding up meat into hamburger. If you don’t have a place to process, ask around. You meet some great people while asking for help and you don’t get the sale unless you ask. I found many people were willing to help out in exchange for a venison meal. It was funny how we would become popular for a few days after downing an animal. If you have the extra cash, a butcher is always a good bet. Fast, simple and no extra mess on your hands.
Hunting while attending high school and college isn’t for everyone. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion and balancing your school work takes discipline and a burning desire to see what is around the next ridge. Don’t let people tell you you have to totally give up what you love just because of school, because you don’t. I can guarantee you the middle of the semester and the rut may not be the most fun you ever have. But I can tell you, looking back, it will be the most memorable.
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