My First Deer Hunt - The Mental and Physical
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
It was late November, just after gun season and my buddy Joe had a break in his dad-life to get out into the woods for some deer hunting. I had been shooting a borrowed compound bow for a few months just in case I had a chance to tag along with someone. After a quick phone call, the plan was set, and I was about to hit the deer woods for the very first time. But less than a year before, I was the opposite of willing.
At the time of my first deer hunt, I was 30 years old and had fished and camped as long as I can remember. My entire family on my mom’s side seemed to hunt at one point for pretty much everything you could legally hunt. Mostly waterfowl and deer, but my grandpa hunted plenty of small game and upland birds in his day. I had grown up with meat on the table and stories in the air. I lived an hour away from most of this family though and never really had the same exposure to hunting that the cousins had in the same town as Grandpa. I also never really wanted to harm animals. I did not have anything against hunters, but I did not want to be personally responsible for taking a life. Fast forward twenty years and something inside me was changing. The more exposed I was to outdoor culture, the more I began to question where the grocery store meat was coming from and how it was procured. I did not know it then, but I was developing early signs of a condition called adult-onset hunter.
The thought of ethically sourced and local meat was always attractive to me and I already enjoyed supporting local businesses that operated in this manner. However, it took me almost a full year to really digest the thought that if I continue to buy meat at the grocery store, I am killing animals. My dollar is pulling the trigger, and I am just as responsible for the death of the animal I am eating.
So, I asked myself the question: Do I want to continue to eat meat? If my answer was yes, my mind was convinced I need to take part in all the stages of the animal harvest. I could not sit back anymore and blissfully eat my delicious store-bought tasty red cuts and ignore how they got in front of my face. If my answer was no, then I was done eating meat. And after I am done eating meat, then where does it stop? The killing of animals for human use is a rabbit hole for another article, but I liked meat and had no desire to stop eating it. It was time to start taking responsibility for ethically harvesting a fair chase animal if I wanted to continue eating meat. It was time to see how meat ends up accessible for human consumption. Into the cold hunting woods and onto the uncomfortable tree stump I sat.
We did not see any deer. After a short time sitting, I thought over and over to myself why would someone willingly do this? I was freezing, my butt was numb, and field mice were crawling on and over my boot. I was counting the seconds until I could move to reposition without risking spooking the invisible deer that could be approaching at any minute! Alas, my internal struggle was broken by Joe making some turkey calls to pass the time. It was late November and at the time I had no idea how likely or unlikely an answer call would be, but sure enough, I heard some turkeys answering his call. He spaced his calls and each time he got an answer, the return calls were getting closer. However, when they seemed at their closest, Joe just stopped calling. He was sitting far enough away that I could not signal to him to keep calling.
On the drive home from the hunt, I asked him why he stopped calling? He replied that he never heard them answer at any point. He just continued for the fun of it and stopped when he grew tired. We had a good laugh at that and never saw a deer. I went home and instantly started to think of ways to make myself warmer and less numb in the woods. I did not have the right gear or clothing to make my time in the woods relaxing or productive. The silver lining was that the elements and the numb tingling hindquarters did not deter me from getting back out and trying again. I knew with enough determination I would eventually become successful.