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The True Essence of Deer Hunting

Someone once said: “Deer hunting is a lot about nothing.”

“Nothing,” seriously? In my view, that statement is so far from the truth.

It is the time of year for archery deer hunters and soon, firearm deer hunters, to be on their stands or in their blinds all day long, up to 12 hours … alone.

Nebraska Conservation Officer Rich Berggren poses for a photo before entering his muzzleloader deer hunting season blind in his off time.
During part of a day off, Nebraska Conservation Officer Rich Berggren of Waterloo allows a photo to be taken before he enters his firearm deer hunting blind in rural Sarpy County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Doesn’t sound like it’s too difficult to do, does it? Pulling an all day sit is no easy feat even with your iPhone or Android. But it is. Deer hunting for long periods of time by yourself demands complete fortitude, conviction and tenacity.

To be on-stand, so to speak, for hours in Nebraska’s ever-changing and oftentimes cold, blustery weather in the fall, the solo deer hunter encounters the pulse of time moving slowly, very slowly. And there’s only so much time that you can occupy with electronics. The occurrences of seeing deer can often be measured in small blocks of seconds with adrenaline flowing rather than in minutes. Hours go by sluggishly as a wild environment reveals itself.

An archery deer hunter in Nebraska is on-stand. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

And there are days even during the breeding period called “rut,” when I have sat all day and seen no deer at all. Zero. Zilch. I resorted to watching the antics of fox squirrels and songbirds. Not all bad!

Tim Heckenlively of Falls City, NE reflects on things while bowhunting from his tree stand for deer in the Missouri River bottomlands in Nemaha County, NE. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Welcome to deer hunting.

If you’re not ready to solely be in your own company for an extended length of time, then you may not be ready to deer hunt. Above all, there are no guarantees or absolutes with hunting. In fact, the animal taken is only one measure of a successful hunt. I tell people all the time if you can’t stand to be alone with yourself for hours on end, then maybe you should consider other forms of hunting that are more action-packed and activity-driven such as upland game bird hunting.

Deer hunting is intensely personal. INTENSELY. PERSONAL.

A selfie of me in a makeshift ground blind for archery deer hunting in the woodlands of rural Sarpy County, NE. The key is to blend in to your surroundings further allowing for deep, reflective thought. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

A good friend of mine, a college history professor at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE and an avid deer hunter, Timothy Shousha of rural Waterloo, NE, comments about deer hunting: “Humans deer hunt to not only learn about wildlife, but to learn about themselves.”

Stopping and sitting or standing quietly, he believes, is a trait that is lost in the modern era.

“We live in a fast-paced world, a quick drive-through type society in America,” said Shousha. “It’s always a good idea to take a break from our rapid lifestyles occasionally. We need to take the time to appreciate what life can bring us.”

To highlight his point, the professor fondly recalled the line spoken by Ferris Bueller in the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986): “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“We even have elected officials,” Shousha continued, “who criticize folks from opposite political parties for not moving swiftly enough to enact legislation. I think that they should spend time on a deer stand.”

I agree. Those folks should spend a few days on the stand for introspection.

Introspection. There’s an interesting word.

It is defined as a process that involves looking inward to examine one’s own thoughts and emotions.

Oh yes, deer hunters are afforded many hours to be introspective and learn a lot about themselves sitting or standing for hours on end especially during the deer rut.

Research even shows that simply taking that short, 10-minute hike to or from your deer stand or blind stimulates the mind and body and reduces stress levels.

Steve Wagner of Gretna, NE walks to his deer hunting blind in rural Sarpy County, NE for an afternoon session during a recent Nebraska firearm deer hunting season. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

This time for introspection can have a profound impact on one’s life. I know this first-hand.

It was in the deer stand decades ago that I was better able to cope with my dad’s death. He was a passionate deer hunter who died at 58 years of age on Labor Day in 1998. The time spent daily for hours on end without deer moving during that fall’s firearm season in Nebraska helped me to put things in proper perspective. It allowed me to sort things out. I realized I still needed to reach out to specific family members for further consolation concerning my father’s passing.

Trust me, deer hunting will allow you to accomplish things like my scenario did.

This is an example of the true essence of deer hunting.

The deer stand or blind also allows a hunter to refresh and reset their life without interference. It is sort of a mental cleansing in nature, if you will. With today’s high-tech, high-speed atmosphere this is more important than ever. If you are concerned about life’s ill wills and running here and there seemingly in a nonstop race, the prescription for worry and frenzy is “alone time” in a deer stand or blind.

Reflecting on relationships, understanding how you can help others, evaluating major decisions in your life, setting work stress aside, focusing on something entirely different than your norms and just relaxing with tranquility of the quiet countryside surrounded by the natural or agricultural world, are examples of gaining introspection while deer hunting.

Professor Shousha emphasized introspection with this quote: “I must be alone with myself to find myself again.”

Nearing sunrise during an opening morning of a recent Nebraska firearm deer hunting season in rural Sarpy County, NE while sitting in a box blind. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

So true.

You can be sure when I am out in the deer woods this autumn, I will be pouring over the aspects of my own life, particularly how far I’ve come with the rehabilitation of my leg injury, both physically and mentally.

This therapeutic self-assessment will start with planning valuable days in the field to deer hunt. Once on that stand or in that blind I will look back and learn more about who I really am. I will become more self-aware. I will be able comprehend myself more fully and my life will become clearer and more focused. I will find out how I can become a better, more positive person in the deer blind, a cherished vantage point.

This is what is referred to as my cousin Mark’s “trailer blind” that I use for deer hunting in the fall in rural Sarpy County, NE. It is a comfortable place for contemplation in the woods. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Now, if those fox squirrels would just leave me alone …

A fox squirrel peers down at me in my treestand during an archery deer hunting season in rural Sarpy County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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