Saturday, June 1, 2024

    My First Hunt: The One that Got me Hooked

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    “The deep connection to our natural environment and chance to harvest truly sustainable protein is an amazing opportunity.”

    I grew up around hunting.  My stepfather was an avid deer hunter.  Often there would be dressed out deer hanging from gambrel hooks in his front yard.  In the summer we would travel to his families hunting cabin with moose, deer, bear, and elk mounts in the living room, for family vacations.

    I did not begin hunting myself, however, until I was 32.  My stepfather had passed away unexpectedly about a year prior.  I began hunting as a way to connect with him even though he was no longer around.

    That year, I had been sport shooting heavily.  I was spending a lot of time and money at the range shooting everything from revolvers to sporting rifles.  Around October, while I was at work, I was introduced to a gentleman who was described to me as a big hunter.  He had been hunting for 35 years and owned about 80 acres of property near my house.  After chatting for a bit, he invited me to come out to his property and hunt deer with him.  I tentatively accepted.  I enjoy shooting and love eating venison, so I figured it would be a natural progression.

    About a month later I received a voicemail.  A gruff voice said, “Hey this is Frank.  Come on out Wednesday If you want to go hunting.”  It was Monday.  I spent the next day or two driving around trying to pick up everything I figured I would need.  I grabbed a cheap pair of camouflage coveralls from Dunham’s.  I picked up the Ruger American rifle in .450 bushmaster and had a cheap Bushnell scope mounted on top of it.  Stopping at Cabela’s I grabbed my tags, a cheap blaze orange hat, some camo gloves, a face mask, and a knife.  I was ready to hunt.

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    When Wednesday rolled around I got ready and drove over to my friend’s place at about noon.  I was blown away by the collection of skull cap mounts adorning the ceiling of his porch.  He asked me, “You have binoculars?”  Embarrassed that I’d forgotten something, I shook my head.  I was handed a pair of plastic binoculars with a rudimentary harness attached to it.  With some direction I got the harness on, grabbed my pack, and we headed out to the woods.

    After about a 10 minute walk, we arrived at a large clearing surrounded by tall trees on every side.  Over to the right of the clearing stood a 15-foot tower made of 2x4s.  On top of this makeshift tower was a thick plastic water tank blind.  We climbed up the rickety wooden ladder and through the open submarine-style door of the tank.  Inside were two old chairs, some rotting carpet, a couple of slots cut in some wood for a gun holder, and two windows looking out on the clearing.

    The cold November afternoon was in full swing and I could feel the wind rip through my coveralls.  Frank had warned me before about being as quiet as possible and not moving any more than I had to.  I sat shivering quietly while using my binoculars to look out onto the clearing.

    After about an hour had passed, Frank sat up and suddenly whispered “deer.”  I strained to look and see where it was.  Picking up my rifle, I pointed it out the window, and took the safety off.  Peering through the scope I couldn’t see anything yet.  “Where?” I asked.  “I can’t see anything.”  “Through those trees about 150 yards to the left,” Frank said.  “How far can you shoot that thing?” he asked me.  I shrugged and replied “50 yards?  I know I can shoot something at 50 yards.”

    Putting my rifle back on safety I placed it back in the gun holder.  Using my binoculars to scan the field I spotted the deer at about 100yds.  Two mid-sized does had just turned, and flipping up their white tails, sprinted away.  My heart was pounding.

    After several uneventful hours of scanning the field, dusk was just beginning to set in.  I spotted something brown coming down from a hill and heading toward us in the clearing.  “I think I got one, over there!”  I raised my rifle once more and tried to settle on it with my crosshairs.  I kept my trigger finger glued to the side of the gun.

    Frank watched it with me as it moved closer.  “I think its a button buck,” he said.  “We should probably let that one go.”  Looking through my scope I watched as it moved to within 25 yards of us.  As I tried to make out its features, the approaching dusk was making it hard to see anything.  Sensing my desire to tag my first deer, Frank asked If I could see it clearly.  “It’s too dark out,” I replied.  Frank sat upright.  “Well,” he said, “that means its time to call it a day.”

    The rest of that fall and winter I returned to the woods every chance I got.  Hiking around Franks property when I could, and heading to the local public land, I spent every day possible walking around the woods trying to kill my first deer.  When not in the woods I was target shooting with my hunting rifle, practicing archery, and researching better gear to buy.  By the end of that season I would fill my tag on my first deer.  I got it on Frank’s property after a long stealthy ground stalk up a hill covered in dry leaves.

    Three years later, I stand before you a shameless and unapologetic hunting fanatic.  I have spent every day possible in the field since then hunting, fishing, or scouting.  Squirrel, waterfowl, deer, turkeys, black bear, and ruffed grouse are all animals I have pursued.

    All this is to say, that like you, I think hunting is the finest thing a person can do.  The deep connection to our natural environment and chance to harvest truly sustainable protein is an amazing opportunity.  The freedom we have to utilize public lands open to everyone and to pursue game, a public resource, is a chance that many people in the world are not lucky enough to have.

    Over the next weeks, months, and years (or as long as you follow along) I am going to share my passion for hunting with you and discuss what I am learning along the way.  I will let you in on tips I pick up that work, the ones that didn’t work, and share the gear that is making it easier for me to stay in the field and hunt.  Well talk preparing for the coming season, making the most of it when its here, and reflecting on what we can improve for the following year.

    Thank you for liking our page, reading our articles, and giving us this platform to discuss our favorite thing: hunting.  See you out in the field.


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