Hunters it’s ok to admit “it”. In fact, you should celebrate “it”. A big chunk of the hunting doesn’t involve shooting something and sometimes doesn’t even take place in the field. Some of “it” happens back at the cabin, farmhouse, camp or the local diner when the gun, or bow, are safely put away. In its best form “it” starts before opening morning and runs well after evening shooting hours close.
It is our hunting buddies who we plot and plan with. It is grandad’s knife we proudly carry to the field each year. It is the bowl of chili and cinnamon rolls served for lunch every opening day. It is listening to the football game on the radio. It is the pitch game that keeps us up too late. It is the fire that warms us and makes us drowsy. It is traditions that fuel our hunts and keep us looking forward to the adventure.
One hunting institution that I learned the importance of many seasons ago is family. A successful hunting season isn’t solely related to what is bagged. However, it is always strongly influenced by the people I share it with. Some are relatives, others are friends – but all the good ones become family. My family of hunters are good for stories of seasons past, some of which are true. They keep me motivated when the hunt is isn’t going the way I thought it would or should. They are all good with using jokes to point out my shortcomings; some are even good when I return the favor. All part of being a family.
Food. The older I grow the more I realize the importance of food and its role in hunting. I always look forward to lunch on opening day and Hank’s three-alarm venison chili. I’ve been known to end my hunt early on several occasions just to get a jump on the midday meal and my competition. Meals during the hunt are rarely formal but they make up for it in the almost-holiday-like atmosphere they have. The tradition of food rarely is constrained only to meals for the hunter either. I remember the strong aroma of coffee being poured from Dad’s thermos during cold morning hunts. And like my son now, I often warmed up with a hot-chocolate or three while in the field and rarely can drink one now without thinking of a past hunt.
But our traditions don’t end there. They go much deeper. Some of us get to carry an uncle’s gun into the woods when he no longer can. We sometimes wear the same worn out shirt year after year because, in our minds, it means we still get to hunt with dad. I won’t even get started about naming hunting spots. But I will point out how much all these things means to us hunters. And I will challenge you to start a new tradition. Include a new hunting friend or two this season so they get a glimpse of all the aspect of a successful season and what it us hunters get to be a part of. Traditions are meant to be shared – in fact, that’s how you got to be a part of them in the first place, too.