In Pennsylvania the fall hunting seasons are in full swing. Archery deer, small game and turkey are now open, with the muzzleloader doe having closed last Saturday and general deer season only a few weeks away.
The motivation for hunting is as varied as the hunters themselves. Some hunt only for the thrill of the kill and some of those have no concern for the game they hunt or the laws that govern hunting. These are my enemies; I have spent over two decades of my life fighting them. Others are true sportsmen who care deeply about the environment and all of the creatures in it. That hunters were at the forefront of the first conservation laws in this country and with their dollars continue to finance the majority of wildlife protection and habitat improvement projects in our country is a little known fact.
For me, hunting is a time to be spent in our wildlands, in solitude, alone with the beauty of nature, away from the ringing of phones, the hassles of the office, or the traffic snarls. It is a time to slow down, to feel the chilly breeze upon my face, to savor the sweet odor of new fallen leaves, to watch as a single leaf falls to the ground, to watch the first snowflakes of the year, a time to be alone with my thoughts, while at the same time being so attuned to my surroundings that a glint of sunlight or a flicker of movement through the undergrowth is not missed and will reveal the presence of a previously undetected creature.
Hunting is a time to visit old homesteads that have been abandoned for many years. A time to sit and look at the ruins and think what life may have been like in those days. What were these people like, where did they go, what were their hopes and dreams? I can only daydream about it for I will never know. Many lie in now unmarked graves, their names lost to history.
Hunting is a time to pause beside a mountain brook and listen to its music as it makes its way down the hollow, to look at the beauty of the leaves trapped in its flow.
A time to look closely at the bubbles formed for only a moment at the bottom of a miniature waterfall.
Hunting is a time to reach back and reconnect with our early ancestors when their next meal depended upon the success of the hunt. It is a time to again connect with the predator instincts that are genetically encoded within each of us.
This is what hunting means to me.