Following a meeting of outdoor representatives, a group of us stood around swapping stories of hunts gone by. That’s when one young man asked “John, what are some of the things hunting has personally taught you?” That’s a great question, and to be honest, one that caught me off guard. Standing silent for a few moments my mind drifted, thinking back to my impressionable years when I first began taking to the woods in search of game.
One thing came to mind almost immediately was how important it is to have a mentor. For me it was my dad. Although he was not an avid hunter he still took my brothers and I. He recognized it was an avenue to spend quality time with his sons. What I learned was how important family was whether taking game or not. Although dad is no longer around, the times spent with my brother, sons, son-in-law and nephew are always cherished.
Hunting also has a way of teaching patience, discipline and humility. Face it, it takes all three to sit in a cold deer stand all day, only to leave empty handed. No day spent in the woods is considered wasted, whether we see game or not.
Hunting also helps develop perseverance and there is a reward for that tenacity. After taking that first deer you realize hard work eventually pays off. I gained a huge respect for big game and also the habitat that sustains it. A deep appreciation for all life began to evolve and a moral obligation to help conserve and become a steward of the land.
One of the most important things I have learned from hunting is compassion. I know this may sound hypocritical since hunting does include taking a life, but taking game provides a transformative experience. Life feeds on life. That’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it will always be. Taking an animal’s life is always met with a moment of soft contemplation and also makes me think of my own mortality.
Hunting also nurtures courage and self-reliance. I’ll never forget those times when I was young headed out into the woods, alone, well before daylight. For me it was somewhat intimidating and after overcoming that fear I became comfortable on what I could do alone.
Another thing learned was that nothing comes easy. In today’s society many of us look for the quickest and easiest way to reach a goal. We want instant gratification. We have all heard of the beginner hunter who encounters success on their inaugural outing. I am a firm believer in beginners luck but for most, taking a whitetail deer involves a good amount of practice, scouting and countless hours in the woods. Then when success does finally come, a feeling of accomplishment overwhelms us, one that’s hard to equal.
Hunting also teaches its ok to fail. Let’s face it. As a deer hunter we know the majority of the time we will return home empty handed. And when the seasons come to a close we have to wait a full year before having the chance to redeem ourselves. We learn to move forward regardless, past our failures, and continue to strive for success.
In a world overrun with advanced technologies and social media we sometimes forget just how beautiful our local, natural world really is. Watching a morning sunrise over woods ablaze with colors is spiritual. I think it helps us gain a better understanding of what is really important. Physical proof there is a being far greater than man.
Hunting is the oldest of traditions. With that come stories that are passed down from generation to generation. Up until my own father’s passing we would share memories of past hunts together that will never be forgotten. I think experiences like this need to be passed down from generation to generation. They too help teach lessons.
Those first outings for rabbit and quail have been one of the greatest things my father could have ever introduced me to and underscores the importance of having a mentor. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when in the woods with gun or bow. It is truly my happy place and always makes me feel so thankful and appreciative that I have the opportunity to enjoy it.