I Came Here to Have Fun

 In Hunt, Waterfowl, Whitetail
I

am thankful there is no barrier to the outdoors apart from desire. If I were measured against any other benchmark, I would come up short. I am no great hunter. I’m not a giant in the field of conservation. I can’t track the faintest blood trail or find the smallest sign. I can’t make the longest shot. I can’t sound the most realistic call or train the best retriever…but I can want it. I can desire to be outside in the woods. I can day dream about about sitting in a duck marsh while I’m sitting at my desk avoiding work. I can ache with a desire from the very core of my being to escape to the wild places and fortunately for me, that’s all she asks.

I

don’t want you to think I’m making her out to be something she isn’t, she’s not offering a free lunch. There are no handouts in the great outdoors – just an equal opportunity to earn our keep. In our present society that cries for equality, nature is the ultimate equalizer. In our modern world that groans for justice, the outdoors are an unassailable judge.  Are you fat? She’ll let you know. Wrong gear? You’ll feel it. Too loud? Ill prepared? Weak willed? Your answer will be born on the back of the results that you seek. I can tell you exactly how many times I went out looking for ducks last year and I can tell you how many times I came back empty handed, but as you probably know, that’s not the whole answer!

S

uccess for me is not measured by a heavy strap of birds around my neck or a grip and grin photo taken from the perfect angle to make that buck look like a monster. I’m not here for a pile pic. I’m not here for a trophy. I did not come to count my worth on the abacus of of limits or the scale of the Boone and Crockett club’s rubric. Yes, I came to my measure myself, but with a different currency. The coin that carries weight in my pocket are hours sat without moving, meals skipped, freezing mornings watching the sky catch fire as the world wakes up, numb fingers, stories shared over terrible coffee in the predawn hours at the family deer cabin, meat in the freezer.

D

on’t get me wrong, if you could create scenario in which two bucks of equal mass are standing right next two each other and, all other things being equal, one is a dink and one has beautiful, tall, wide twelve point rack, I’m gonna pick the sooner. If you gave me the option to walk out of the marsh with four mallards and two cans on the strap, or come up empty handed, you know the answer.  What I’m trying to illustrate is that the BBD moment or the pile pic is a result that does not quantify the sum total of the experience that is hunting.

W

hat’s so incredible about our urge as hunters to tell the world how good we did – what mighty nimrods we are, is that we just aren’t. Even the best of us – a small club that I don’t aspire to join, and wouldn’t be admitted to if I applied – don’t compare to the wilds and the game we pursue. When you pit yourself against nature, sometimes you lose and sometimes you don’t lose. You never win. Nature, in the full scope of time, is undefeated. Man might believe he has triumphed over her, but those blips are just a point conceded in a game we’re losing by a landslide. It is not a victory.

I

imagine a world in which deer post to Instagram trophy photos of hunters asleep at the base of a tree or ducks sharing photos on Facebook of waterfowlers trudging out of the marsh, heavy laden with guns, decoys, and calls, conspicuously lacking any dead birds. I know for every trophy photo I posses, there are are probably five or ten more outings that would produce the opposite kind of photo.

T

hat’s probably because I’m a bad hunter. It could be because I’m as happy smashing the shutter on my camera as I am smashing birds. Or maybe because, when the freezer is already full, and I’m tired from a long day and I choose to pass on shooting, field dressing and butchering that doe, in favor of watching her graze on the edge of a bean field. That might make a more hardcore hunter think less of me, but my identity is not found in the kill count. I’m not here to prove anything to anyone else. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even come here to prove something to myself. I came here to enjoy the beauty of creation. To keep alive the traditions of my father, grandfather, and his father before him. To turn off and drop out – even for a few hours. To put food on the table. I came here to have fun.

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