The air is crisp and cold.
Hardwood trees stand motionless and silent — faint brush strokes against the slowly lightening predawn sky. Small sounds begin to carve the creek bottom.
A raucous calamity of crows can be heard in the distance. An assertive blue jay appears on a limb. Two fox squirrels squabble amid the leaves on the woodland floor.
In the grass beyond the trees, a rooster pheasant cackles; greeting the first full rays of the sun.
Suddenly, and without sound, where there had been only sumac and wild plum, a white-tail deer materializes. Symmetrically curved antlers thrust forward, nose delicately testing the autumn air.
The hunter in the tree stand freezes.
He is hardly breathing. The adrenaline is beginning to flow in his body. He tightens the grip on his rifle.
Slowly, carefully, he raises it to his shoulder.
This is what hunting is all about — the experience. It is one of, if not the most, essential elements of hunting.
Some think hunting is only about harvesting a game animal or game bird. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The taking of that game animal or game bird involves only a split second.
Far more time — innumerable hours — will be spent by the hunter surrounded by and observing nature. Not much compares to the beauty, serenity and adventure of being in nature and waiting for game.
For many of us in the Nebraska outdoor community, hunting is an autumn experience that can be compared to the atmosphere of a Husker game day in Memorial Stadium.
Like going to a Nebraska football game in Lincoln, the experience of hunting is about a lot of things.
Sure, it is the ambiance. But it is also the tradition, the camaraderie of family and friends and the entire process. It creates memories that a person will carry well into his or her senior years.
It’s also about understanding the importance of good habitat, biodiversity (that all things are connected) and the role we play in the natural cycle of life and death.
The hunting experience is truly a celebration of America’s freedom and the North American Model of Conservation.
The hunting experience allows for one to fully escape the concrete jungle, that hustle and bustle of everyday life filled with modern technological devices.
The challenge the hunting experience offers is unmatched. There are factors such as weather and crop harvest coupled with trying to draw wild game animals and birds close enough for a shot on their turf. The odds are not in the hunter’s favor.
So harvesting a free-ranging wild game animal or bird is purely a bonus.
Hunting isn’t about killing, rather, it’s about the intrinsic things that are connected to the hunt that we enjoy the most.
It is about the experience.
This article was written as a guest commentary piece for the Omaha World-Herald Newspaper and published in the paper on Sunday, October 11, 2015.