Feels Like Hunting Season

Guys like us generally do not like to discuss our feelings. We think we are tough, unflappable, able to stand sturdy against the changing winds; and hunting is a way we prove to others, and ourselves, that this is true. I would take a wild guess that the women reading this blog share the same feeling; of not sharing feelings. But, I’d be lying to your face if I said this hunting season did not impress some feelings on me.

Please refrain from exiting this tab just yet, and jumping over to that video of Mr. Macho gunning down a deer from 900 yards and celebrating like a camouflaged Hulk Hogan fresh off a steroid bump. Reading my thoughts on hunting feelings today will not cost you your man-card, it will not make you buy Lululemon leggings, and it certainly will not force you to trade in your .300 WSM for that home tanning bed you saw on QVC. But it may allow you to realize why you love to hunt and what is so special about our outdoors pursuits.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this from a certified hipster coffee shop in a small city known as the “new Brooklyn”. Somehow I still consider myself an outdoorsman.

A late-season archery set up in Northern PA

Anticipation: This feeling is always present for a hunter. Sometimes it ebbs to where you might not notice its presence. Other times it flows through your mind and body with the force of a late April downpour. You may even feel it during a late April downpour as you hurry to put the finishing touches on a food plot. Anticipation is present as you sneak into your stand on the archery opener. It is present as you eat your 7th candy bar on a cold day in rifle season. It is often strongest as the sun dips below the trees and a string of hungry deer emerge for an evening feed. Anticipation is what keeps hunters focused in the stand. It can also be used to explain why you were not focused on what your wife was telling you at dinner last night. The single most important feeling a hunter gets may just be anticipation, and it lays the groundwork for all the other hunting feelings to follow.

Cold: Cold is a feeling that forces itself upon hunters with no remorse, no compromise, and no way of escaping its icy grasp. Most of us like to act like it does not bother us. After a frigid sit during rifle season this year a friend asked me if I got cold. With my toughest looking snarl I replied, “My toes may have gotten a little chilly. I’m not sure though, because I couldn’t really feel them.” Cold is the one feeling that can take away feeling. We decline to wear warm beanies and balaclavas to ward off the cold, because then we might not be able to hear as well. I often notice Dad’s completely purple ears after a cold day in the woods and wonder if you can hear a deer easier through a beanie or frozen eardrums.

Hunting the big, remote woods of North-Central PA

Disappointment: Maybe you sat all day and did not see anything. Maybe you clean missed the best buck you saw all year. Or worse yet the only bear you saw all year. Maybe you got in your stand an hour before light only to have another hunter stumble in 50 yards away as the sun began to peek through the trees. Although, that may border more on anger than disappointment. Feeling let down or dejected is inherent to hunting. If you were able to shoot the exact animal you wanted to, every time you went out, would it really be hunting? I felt disappointed on the last day of archery this year when it was just too dark to see if the buck in front of me had the required 3rd point on one of his beams. Why did he have to stop and rub that tree for a couple minutes on the way to the field? A true hunter knows that disappointment and dejection are short lived and easily channeled into determination and the aforementioned anticipation. We do not like it, and it is hard to properly convey to others; but we accept that it is a part of trying to outsmart an animal on its own turf. And then we move on and push it aside; which is our favorite way to deal with feelings.

Hunger: Eating goose jerky, while hunting for Thanksgiving turkey, while scouting for venison. Hunting revolves around food. And don’t forget the celebratory quad-stackers at Burger King after a successful hunt!

Boredom: Boredom often directly precedes hunger, or occurs after hunger has robbed us of all our snacks. Boredom happens when even the squirrels refuse to venture outside. However, boredom is most prevalent at Christmas dinner when no one else in the family hunts.

Sunrise on a morning archery hunt

Pure Joy: As the sun slowly fades the opening morning black to various shades of gray and 5 deer-ish shapes work across the bean field in front of you; pure joy is present. That time your daughter sniped her first fox squirrel out of an old oak, and turned to you with her biggest smile possible, you felt pure joy. Joy when hunting is caused by different things for different people, but all can agree that it comes due to their favorite experiences or best memories. Joy can be fleeting in the normal day-to-day of life; but hunting season can provide a crucial injection of the feeling that makes life worth it.

Foggy first morning of rifle season

Satisfaction: This fall when I hung a couple stands on a property I was going to hunt, cut my shooting lanes, set my cameras, and had everything prepared for opening day; I felt satisfaction. Most do-it-yourself hunters encounter this feeling regularly. Akin to what you feel after a hard day of honest work, this feeling deposits directly to the soul rather than your sorely depleted bank account. Satisfaction is not directly related to the success of a hunt. I have had hunts where I harvested a wonderful, mature animal and yet I still did not feel satisfaction. Last year however, was one of the most satisfying years of hunting despite not harvesting a deer. The reasons for satisfaction in that instance were the fact that I was hunting a completely new area, doing all the scouting and preparation myself, and learning for the first time the intricacies of archery hunting. When men and women set foot in the woods to try to kill an animal, the satisfaction could simply lie in the freedom to pursue such an activity in this nation. Satisfaction is an outdoorsman’s reward at the end of the day, and the reason we will venture out next year.

I hope at least a few of these feeling resonated with your experiences in the woods this fall. Feel free to leave a comment with another feeling that always finds you in the woods!

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