Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Enjoy the journey of your hunting pursuits over the harvest

Although harvesting fish or game like this mature buck is the ultimate goal for most hunters and anglers, Vogel believes the journey leading up to the harvest is equally important. He believes new, younger hunters and anglers sometimes forget to appreciate the challenging pathway to success. (Photo by Linda Arndt)

There are many great initiatives dedicated to introducing kids to hunting and angling. Youth deer and waterfowl seasons, free fishing weekends, youth pheasant hunts, and hunter safety programs are a few examples.

Dedicated people volunteer to be hunting, trapping, and fishing mentors to kids. But are we teaching the proper message to our would-be hunters, trappers, and anglers?

Kids love visual forms of communication. If they watch a hunting video, they begin to believe that 10 minutes after you sit down a 160-inch whitetail will walk in and stand broadside at 15 yards. They’ll watch as an angler catches five or more 6-pound largemouth bass in a half hour. Moose, elk, bear, and salmon become easy prey. The harvest is quick and expected. They see little of the journey required to be successful in the field.

All gray beards know this is a necessary lesson we must teach. We know it is the journey to the harvest, the experiences along the journey, that keep us attached to our passion.

From the time you see your prey or feel a tug on your line, the final act takes only a few moments. The journey leading there may last for weeks, months, or a lifetime.

As a bowhunter, my journey begins each year in the spring. I check my area for game trails and deer sign left during the winter. I fertilize the clover and prep it for the first cutting. I check stands to see how they faired through winter. I make repairs and move stands to oversee new deer patterns. I spend time at the cabin making repairs and freshen paint. I work on the ATV in hopes it will soon be needed to transport deer and winch them up to the buck pole.

In July I begin dreaming of whitetails. This is a phenomenon that has happened every year since I began hunting. (This year the dreams came earlier. I had my first in early June.) I place game cameras in prime areas to see what deer are in the area, and when they are passing through the vicinity. I do the second cut on the clover.

Throughout the summer I check cameras. On summer evenings I drive the dirt roads surrounding my hunting area looking for deer. I mentally record their location and summer patterns. I begin receiving information from friends and other hunters. Pictures from their game cameras start showing up in text messages and emails. Neighbors call with sightings like, “I saw a shooter in the beans north of your stand on the alfalfa field,” or “the big 10 we had on camera last year made it through the winter.”

In September, the soybeans begin to turn yellow, and the corn starts to turn brown. The air is cooler, and daylight comes a little later each morning. All are sign the hunting season is approaching. There is a different feel in the air as we transition from summer to Autumn.

I mentor my grandson. We stay in the hunting cabin, and he experiences some of the adventures, the journey. I begin gathering my hunting clothes, arranging gear in my backpack, and shooting my bow. I begin making needed purchases (and some not needed but wanted). I read information in deer hunting publications about deer populations and expected success rates.

Learning about your quarry through preseason and in-season scouting allows you to pinpoint licking branches, scrapes, deer trails, and other sign, which is part of the journey that leads up to the hunt. Photo by Linda Arndt

As opening day draws nearer my pulse quickens.

At this point I have not seen an animal, let alone harvested one. That’s my point.

Hunting, to me, is not about the harvest of an animal. It is about the journey leading to that ending.

When opening day finally arrives, I am prepared to finish my journey. It’s time to hunt.

On the opening day of a recent archery season, I chose to hunt a stand overlooking a clover field. The wind was in my favor (a rare east wind). I saw nothing for the first two hours.

With 30 minutes of daylight remaining a doe with two fawns entered the food plot. She was nervous, the fawns were not. She walked around the plot on alert.

The fawns fed without worry.

She lifted her head and tasted the air trying to pick up scent. She couldn’t locate me, but the sixth sense a matriarch doe possesses told her something was wrong.

She stomped her foot; the fawns paid no attention. She hurried off the food plot back to the staging area; the fawns paid no attention.

She came back to her fawns and began to settle down. I watched as they fed. Suddenly all three deer were on alert and staring into the staging area. I knew this meant another deer was coming so I readied my bow.

A mature buck had watched the whole show the doe had performed and was assured there was no danger in the area. He entered the food plot and began to browse. I was ready. Following my shot, he ran toward the staging area (the last place he felt safe). He didn’t make it 20 yards.

As I walked toward my deer I thought about the journey. All the work, all the planning, all the adventures for the few moments it took to finish the journey.

Yes, hunting is about the journey more than the harvest.

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