Peace Through Hunting

One of the benefits of being part of the Army family, even as a civilian, is having access to the many tools the Army provides for soldiers, families, and Army civilians. One such tool is the GAT 2.0, part of the Army Fit program. The Army is big on resilience, and endeavors to empower with guidance and education. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I took the GAT 2.0 last April. The test measures emotional, social, family, spiritual and physical health through a series of questions. Last year when I took it, my actual age was 51.6 years, but based on my answers my “RealAge” was 49.3; a whole 2.3 years younger than my chronological age. That’s a fine outcome, I think!

To assess how I’m doing one year later, I took the GAT 2.0 again yesterday. All areas showed “improvement”. My actual age is 52.6; but now, my “RealAge” is 48.9 – a whopping 3.7 years younger than my chronological age!

I contemplated what might have made the difference over the past year, and then I realized… hunting! Over the past two years I’ve done a significant amount of fishing; more since relocating to Kansas than the rest of my life combined. But even with my calming experiences with pole in hand, I spend most of my time fishing on post where I am still in contact with other people, inappropriately discarded garbage, vehicles, noise, etc. Hunting, however, takes me into the woods; into solitude.

One of the questions on the GAT 2.0 measured my sense of calm and peace. Becoming intimate with the woods in this part of Kansas has brought me serenity; a chance to commune with nature, to see/hear/smell G-d’s presence in the wild.

Even though I am currently not hunting, as spring turkey season has not yet started here in the Flint Hills, I have become so focused on it that my weekends include trips out to the woods; to set up a blind, replenish the feeder, check on the trail cam. When I stand amongst the trees and tall grass I feel whole. Hunting has given me the opportunity to develop some detection skills as well, and seeing fresh deer tracks, and deer droppings as I did today, energize me with anticipation!

Having spent my life as an avid outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, I have always been excited to see wild animals in their natural habitat. But now I find myself almost just as excited see the tell-tale signs of their presence. My respect for deer has increased since I began hunting, and I seek to understand them in a new way. There is a rhythm to nature that most people don’t experience. For me, it is a cadence that I long to be in-step with; and when I can participate and observe it, even if only briefly, it heals my mind-spirit.

Simply looking at the woods as I drive past, whether on post or on the interstate, brings me a feeling of peace… because I know the woods now. This shift in perspective has made all the difference in how I feel about Kansas, and how I feel about being here. It is this sense of intimacy with nature here that has empowered my ability to let go of those things I cannot control, has aided in my development of patience, and has provided me a closer connection to G-d.

According to the results of my GAT 2.0, hunting has made me younger by bringing me peace. What a great gift and a true blessing.Woods20150328b

Beyond Deer Season; Spring

With deer season now long over, I’ve found myself turning to other endeavors. Yesterday I went fishing, as I did last weekend, after an absence of almost six months. Last weekend I fished the pond near my hunting spot, hoping to try my hand at using jigs to catch some crappie. Alas the crappie seemed unimpressed with my technique. So yesterday I returned to my favorite on-post location, Moon Lake, where I caught three nice sized channel cat; the largest being 19” and several pounds. It felt good to have a fishing pole in my hand, and even better when the opportunity to reel in a catfish came my way.

Yet my mind has not stopped perseverating on hunting. In order to round off my hunting “war chest,” I bought a Mossberg 20 gauge shotgun and a Mossberg .22 Plinkster rifle. I can now partake in turkey and waterfowl hunting during the appropriate seasons, and critter hunting the rest of the year…. I am excited about the prospect of trying squirrel stew!

To be better equipped in advancing my addiction to hunting, I also recently purchased a two-person tent-style blind, a low tech deer feeder (turkey, hog, squirrel….), and a trail cam to capture intel on the deer who traverse the trail in front of my blind. My friend’s property (where I hunt) is quite large, and John and I scoped out a different location for hunting come Autumn (and currently for critters and turkey); one that places me at the beginning of the woods instead of toward the end – which the deer seldom reach in rifle season due to hiding in lieu of being shot in the woods belonging to Fort Riley, which adjoin my friend’s property.

Let it not be said that hunting is an inexpensive passion. Guns and ammo aside (and crossbow and arrows aside); getting geared up costs bucks (yea, pun intended). Hunting clothes alone are costly, and if you save money as I have by purchasing less-expensive woods-themed garments, there’s the added expense of scent-free laundry soap, scent-free dryer sheets, scent-free garment bags, and body soap and deodorant which are also scent-free. I’ve purchased two cameras so far; the Midland video camera with which I videographed my first kill, and then the Moultrie trail cam for capturing spontaneous photos of my whitetailed friends. And when all is said and done, there’s those pesky hunting (and fishing) permits and tags which the state requires for funding conservation.

I find the whole hunting experience to be rather like a credit card commercial: “Hunting permit and turkey tag – $37; blind for hiding in the woods – $60; shotgun and ammo for shooting turkey – $200; sitting for hours in the woods waiting for game – priceless!”

But I love the whole experience and wouldn’t change a thing! Today is when I set out to set up my blind, trail cam and feeder. My friend, John, came out to help. It was fun, and we strategized about placement and hunting. I love nature, as I have my whole life, and it was one of those “Kansas moments” that have wooed me into staying here and calling the Flint Hills home; that is up until I felt a creepy-crawly on my right hand, looked down and saw a tick. Then, like a girl, I screamed and ordered John to get it off of me before it took up dining. So, I love nature… and I hate bugs. What can I say? I once turned my back on an approaching brown bear at Camp Le Noche Boy Scout camp in Florida in order to have someone take a quick photo… but ticks make me scream.

Spring turkey season begins April 15th. I have already requested the 16th and 17th off work so that I can be out hunting during the work week, before all the other hunters fill the air with the sounds of shot and scare away my chances of tagging a turkey. And just in case the turkey fail to oblige me in the Spring, as they did during Autumn, I’ll have my .22 rifle with me – so I can make good on my squirrel stew boast.

Kansas has blessed me with ample opportunities to fish, and now hunt, and I savor my trips to the lake and the woods to renew and refresh my spirit. And I thank G-d, and the spirit of the creature I killed, as I nourish myself with the bounty bestowed upon me. This is the good life!

As the country song Homegrown (by Zac Brown Band) says, “I’ve got everything I need, and nothin’ that I don’t.”

(Follow me on Instagram @Gal_HunterMidlife)

Two-person blind, Moultrie trail cam, and DevourBait deer feeder; ready for Spring hunting.

Two-person blind, Moultrie trail cam, and DevourBait deer feeder; ready for Spring hunting.