Becoming a hunter changed the way I experience the wilderness.
You see, before I was a hunter I was a backpacker. And before I was a backpacker I was just an outdoorsy kid from the suburbs of Massachusetts. In my youth, the wild served as a backdrop – the set for my latest made-up adventure movie, starring me. The wild was my playground. In those early days, I saw myself as distinctly separate from the rest of the natural world.
The doe flared her nostrils, snorting into the wind. She knew I was close. Maybe she had heard the sharp noise of the twig snapping as I brushed by the desert shrubs. Maybe the swirling wind earlier in the stalk had brought her a whiff of my scent. As she again flared her nostrils, it was clear she was desperately trying to catch my scent to know whether and in which direction she should flee. But now the wind was blowing strongly in my favor. Sitting at seventy yards, hidden behind a shrub, for me things were going swimmingly. For the doe, not so much.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers protects wild lands like these for our enjoyment.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers — one of the leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations — just posted a story of Nick’s on their blog. In the story We Could Be Deer Hunters After All, he recounts the final weekend of last year’s season where he and I find a big buck but leave empty-handed. We took away only the lessons we learned from the experience (some of which I detailed in my last post). In his story Nick talks in detail about the mule deer spot and stalk and — due to some adrenaline-addled choices — the harrowing situation in which he found himself. From that day we came away with one of our most important lessons: we could be deer hunters after all.
It all started at the dinner table. Nick’s aunt and uncle’s dinner table, to be more exact. It was the summer of 2013 and we were in the midst of an epic 3 week road trip. On our travels we had the chance to visit some of Nick’s family members that live in more remote areas of the West.
About a day into our visit we finally got around to explaining to his aunt and uncle the finer details of our food ethics preferences. Offers to pull bighorn sheep and deer meat from the freezer quickly followed. Up to this point, Nick and I had been hunting small game only. Deer hunting had been on our long term to-do list, but when that grilled venison backstrap hit my taste buds deer hunting was suddenly catapulted to high priority status. “We need to learn to do this”, I urged.
A number of years ago I made a list titled “Things I am afraid of”. My intention was to do as many things on the list as possible. Solo backpacking was one of them.
But it looks so beautiful and innocent out there…
I had been going on a few backpacking trips a year for a while, so I was fairly comfortable with the basic concept. The thought of going it alone, however—particularly when my female-ness was on my mind—remained a frightening prospect. What if I get kidnapped? What if I get attacked by a bear? What if I get lost? The mind can go in seemingly endless directions with this sort of thing. But at this particular time, my mind was in motivated-fear-conquering mode. So, I made a plan and started preparing. This is the story of what happened, what went wrong (spoiler alert: things went very wrong), and what I learned.