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Last Bite

If you have read my blog for a while, you know that most of the time I have fish and fishing on the brain.  You also know that I love to hunt, but it is hard finding time to do it all.  I fish hard in the fall when most folks are hunting.  Spring turkey season is the one time each year that hunting distracts me from fishing.  Once again this spring, I have been thinking about some things, things I want to ramble about here in this blog post.  Yes, it mostly concerns hunting, but it really applies to fishing too. . . .

Spring turkey season is a contemplative time for me, especially when I am hunting alone.  There are lots of things that run through my mind.  When I finally tip over a big tom, I have lots of feelings and thoughts.  I always take time to pause in the moment, take some time to ponder those things.  The taking of game, the catching of fish, especially big fish, should be taken seriously.

Sure, there is joy in the success, there is the rush of adrenaline, may it always be so.  I have had partners, usually those taking their first turkey, leap to their feet whooping and hollering at the successful shot.

But it is more than that, much more.

There it gratitude.  Thanks given for the game taken, the fish caught.  Appreciation for the time spent in the field, on the water.  Wonder at all of creation.

There is sadness.  Life includes death.  My quarry’s life will sustain mine.

Yes, there is even regret in that.  Fred Bear put it this way:

“I have always tempered my killing with respect for the game pursued. I see the animal not only as a target, but as a living creature with more freedom than I will ever have. I take that life if I can, with regret as well as joy, and with the sure knowledge that nature’s way of fang and claw and starvation are a far crueler fate than I bestow.”– Fred Bear

There is pride, satisfaction in a hunt well-done.  Pride in a close, easy, quick kill.  Much more honor in the entire process, from pre-season scouting to table preparation, being practiced well.

There is a sense of accomplishment.  Knowing that a lifetime of skills have been earned and honed.  As well as knowing those skills have been passed on.

As I grow older, there is more and more a sense of nostalgia.  Recollections come flooding back; game taken, fish caught, similar experiences at previous times.  Memories of partners who shared in those experiences.

I have attempted before to capture what the hunt means to me.  How it really feels.  I find that difficult because all of these feelings and more are so real during that experience.  It is a sad commentary that I should have to attempt to describe it.  Every one of you is a predator, a hunter.  Look in the mirror.  Your eyes are in the front of your head just like the wolf, just like the puma.  It is woeful that so many have done so much to deny who they really are.

There are a number of rituals that hunters practice to wrap up all of these thoughts and feelings.  Some will blood the cheeks, especially for first game taken.  Some will take a bite of raw heart or liver.  Blow the horn, light the fire, raise the toast.

One I have practiced is the “last bite”.  When I put a tom down I like to pluck some fresh green grass and place it in his mouth.  It cleans up bleeding and makes the bird look more presentable for photos.  It is a last meal for his final journey.  I thought this was some sort of ritual practiced by aboriginal hunters, but then I found that it has it roots in Germany–the “letzer blissen”.  Makes sense, I am German on both sides.

You might think it is silly.  My wife does.  I do not care.  It is really all about respect.  Once more, something I have written about.  It is respect for the game, the fish, the outdoors, the woods and fields, the water.  It is about respect for life, and death.  Respect for the hunt, the pursuit, the fair chase.  Respect for myself, and for others.  And, it is something else our world needs a lot more of.

It is the weekend.  I hope you get a chance to get on the water, get in the field and think about it.  Practice it!

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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