New Year’s Hunting

Today is the first day of 2016. I had hoped to kiss the old year goodbye by harvesting a deer yesterday, but no such luck (I don’t normally ascribe to the concept of “luck” but when it comes to deer hunting, I believe there’s some luck involved – good or bad ). I then shifted to what a great omen it would be for the New Year if I harvested a deer today.

My expectation was that it would be quiet, with most hunters sleeping-in to compensate for a night of frivolity and alcohol. For the most part that seemed true, except for someone to my north who was either unloading at birds or chose 0800 to target practice (or shoot at coyotes)… and those soldiers on Fort Riley, off in the distance on a field training exercise (FTX).

I arrived at 0645. The morning was still and quiet, save for my footfall as I made my way to my hunting spot atop snow, ice, and frozen tallgrass. But once seated; there was nothing but silence. No wind. Even the chill was calm (there’s a brief period of time in the early morning when 17 degrees doesn’t feel cold, as the morning seems completely motionless). As sunrise approached, one and then a symphony of birds began singing, as if on cue. The scent of the prairie changed, and then the wind picked up (albeit minimally), and the temperature dropped – feeling every bit 17 degrees. It was barely 0800 when I heard the gunfire in the distance, and the sound of artillery.

Before I move forward in my story; I want to first explore the smells of Kansas. Perhaps it’s a change of wind direction, or a temperature shift, but throughout my hunts, especially in the morning, I notice distinct shifts in the scents around me. I always hope that an earthier smell is an indication that deer are approaching, but honestly I have not figured out what the changes mean or why they happen. It’s a phenomenon, however, that I don’t recall experiencing anywhere else; which may be due to not hunting prior to 2014. To feel the subtle shifts in temperature and discern the changes in scent, I think one needs to be stationary out in nature for a significant period of time; something most people just don’t do. For me, experiencing the shifts is part of my developing intimacy with Kansas.

Now as for this morning’s hunt; I heard gentle steps around 0815 or so, and looked to my right. Approaching me along the berm, coming from the woods, were two coyotes. The lead coyote was within about 10-12 yards of me. We made eye contact, and I swung my rifle over and held it aimed at the coyote in case s/he demonstrated ill intent. I doubt he knew what the rifle was, but he did understand I had claimed my spot and wasn’t moving from it. After a short time, but what seemed like minutes, the coyote seemed to realize he couldn’t ease on past me and would have to find a different path. Both coyotes turned around and headed back into the woods. I didn’t sense any aggression in either of them, at that moment, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

My thought afterward was that I likely would not see any deer, as the coyotes had probably scared them off. But about 0830 my Spidey sense tingled and I looked behind me in the field and saw a beautiful buck walking toward me. Although he was easily 70 or more yards away, he saw me. I’ve read somewhere that it’s a misconception that deer are color-blind (just as it is with dogs) and that they do see some color and shades, to include orange. In any event; he was not spooked by me, but paused to contemplate, and then decided to change course and walk across the field headed east. A minute later, a lovely doe followed him. What a blessing to see such beautiful creatures this morning, and I felt good knowing the buck had survived this hunting season and would be in-play next deer season.

My hope was that the deer’s presence was an indicator that movement was happening and I might be graced with some does to choose from this morning. Well, as luck would have it; a herd of about four does showed up, however not in front of me coming from the funnel, but up on the berm. The lead doe walked toward me, pausing from time to time. My mind raced as I remembered last extended rifle season when I was unable to get a shot off; I had placed myself precariously in some branches and scrub, and when I saw three does walking out of the woods to my right, I was unable to readjust to take a shot. With the herd walking straight toward me, on the same path the coyotes had been earlier, I knew I was doomed to be an observer, because any attempt I made to move caused the lead doe to stop and watch me. She got within 15 yards, give or take, and eventually I moved in such a way that she and her herd ran back into the woods, with the lead doe screaming her warning!

I suppose the benefit to a tree stand is the ability to shift positions for deer coming from any direction. As a ground hunter, and not in a blind, I have to choose a direction to hunt and hope the deer are compliant with my plans; such as the herd I encountered on December 5th when I harvested my first doe of the season. I waited until 1000 before calling it quits for the morning. The temperature with the wind-chill was bitter cold and penetrated my boots and two pair of socks. My toes hurt like crazy and I was concerned that any further exposure might do irreparable harm to my phalanges, toes and fingers, as I’d dropped my right glove somewhere and had only a left glove and a fingerless glove on each hand. Temperature-wise, I was ready to leave by 0900, but forced myself to stay until 1000 on the off-chance the herd doubled back and decided to take the lower path where I was aiming. In my head I heard Eva Shockey telling the Fox News interviewer that sometimes you really want to stop hunting in the moment but have to make yourself stay. And that’s what I did, as long as I could, but I was also cognizant that I was being impacted by the cold, and I didn’t want to be the next new story about being injured (or worse) on a hunt. Its times like this, though, when I question how I ever thought I could live in Alaska, where a Kansas winter looks warm in comparison!

Prior to my deer encounters this morning I had been praying, really fervently, asking for some deer. I’m pretty sure I specified wanting a doe to harvest, but perhaps I was weak in that portion of my prayer. I was certainly blessed with multiple deer and multiple sightings; just none I could do anything about ethically. Part of me wants to return this afternoon; but I realize that it’s not ideal to hunt the same spot all the time, and since the herd of does ran off screaming, they will not likely return today.

Yesterday I picked up my processed deer and placed the meat in my freezer. There was at least 45 pounds, probably 50, but a second harvest would insure that I have enough free-range, healthy meat for my new Paleo lifestyle. However, I also recognize that I am blessed to have gotten even one deer; and if the best I can say for the New Year is that I had deer and coyote encounters, that’s still pretty sweet.

Fortunately, there are still two more days left for my unit’s extended rifle season… and tomorrow is a new day.

NewYearsDay2016

A Look at The Paleo Diet (Glad I’m a Hunter)

It’s been less than one week since I began perusing the book, The Paleo Diet, by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. Initially I was reading it starting with the introduction, but after perusing the website (thepaleodiet.com) I started reading from the index instead of front to back. Between the book and the website, which is chalk full of interesting articles, I have come to realize everything I thought I knew… was wrong. My life’s been a lie! Okay, so not really a lie; that was an over dramatization of how I feel since being redirected in my thinking.

Let me backtrack a tad here, to first share how I even came across the paleo diet and the book of the same name. As an avid second amendment supporter I read Hands Off My Gun, by Dana Loesch, a pro-2A pundit on Fox News and the Blaze. I actually happened upon her by accident (or by G-d’s design) which led me to her book (a very good read – read my Goodreads review) and, in this modern era of tech and electronic networking, to her Instagram account. While following Loesch on Instagram I happened to “like” one of the photos she posted of herself in a dress showing off her toned legs, and in the description she mentioned the paleo diet. So off I trotted to online retailers to get the best price on a copy of the book, The Paleo Diet, so I can learn more. And the rest, they say, is history….

As a two-time cancer survivor with a permanent disability to remind me of the blessing of life, and as a mid-life woman (so hard to contemplate that) with arthritis and other sundry maladies, I am always endeavoring to seek improved health through dietary lifestyle changes (except for when I ate the breakfast sampler yesterday morning at Cracker Barrel – sucking down grits, hash-browns, biscuits & gravy, eggs, sausage, ham, and bacon – but not all of it!). I have been awakening in the middle of the night with hands so stiff and painful I cannot bend my fingers at all! The doctors assure me there is no current evidence of arthritis in my hands, per x-ray, however based on my level of discomfort I am likely pre-arthritic. I am loathe to take medications if not absolutely necessary, so seek to find holistic ways to repair myself, and vaguely recall reading, years ago, about the macro diet and how dairy is joint-degenerative. With that in mind, I intended to seek a dietary change, and then voila – The Paleo Diet manifested itself into my life! (It’s the Law of Attraction, I tell you!)

What I’ve come to learn thus far, is that much of what I’ve done to seek better health may have, in the long run, created some of the problems I now have. Years ago I took on the mantle of a low-carb lifestyle (except for occasional cheats) which supported weight loss and increased energy. I cut out rice (except for sushi), potatoes, candy, breads (except Ezekial) etc. Well, according to Dr. Cordain; legumes, such as soy (and peanuts, which I’ve learned are not a nut), grains, dairy, refined sugars, and salty-processed foods (like bacon!) produce chronic low-level inflammation in our bodies. This means that the soy milk I enjoy in lieu of cow’s milk, the protein powder I have used for close to a decade to reset my carb cravings and which is my staple for breakfast (which is soy and milk-based), the complex carb bread I have learned to enjoy for years, the cheese I love, and even the tofu I make my awesome pumpkin pie with are all aggravating various physiological mechanisms in my body and maintaining on-going inflammation. I won’t even go into my love of bacon (all salt and nitrate full).

The premise of the paleo diet is that our bodies, by design, work best eating as the hunter-gatherers did (Paleolithic man – hence the name). It donned on me that this is a great dietary lifestyle for me, since I am now a hunter! There is nothing quite as yummy as a lean (by design) venison steak, straight from a free-range deer. On the other hand; I have built a dietary lifestyle apparently full of “toxins” and it will take some serious effort to change. My goal is to make the switch in January 2016, because I will be spending Christmas with my parents and their every meal defies the paleo diet. But now that I know what little that I know about the foods I’ve been eating, I feel almost self-destructive continuing in the same manner. For instance; I bought a one pound bag of white beans to cook in the crockpot into white chili with my wild turkey legs and now I have legume guilt, knowing that what I initially thought was going to be a wholesome and delicious cold-weather meal may actually make my hands hurt worse.

Although I am excited to begin the paleo diet and watch myself return to vitality, I have experienced a pre-release of burdens and some added burdens at the same time. For example; I used to endeavor to follow the blood-type diet. According to that author, my type A blood is meant to be vegetarian. I have had that thought in the back of my mind even as I enjoy my fresh game. Yet according to Cordain, the blood-type diet, although somewhat sound in cutting out wheat and limiting dairy, is faulty scientifically and historically in assessing the blood types; type A is actually the oldest type and meant to be a hunter-gatherer, not a vegetarian (agrarian). So I am delighted to release that guilt niggling at the back of my mind. As much as I love hunting, enjoy wild game, and pulverize bones for marrow it was pretty hard to contemplate being a vegetarian (although I was for several years right after my cancer). A burden I have added, however, is learning that some of the nutritional supplementation I have been using, from a highly respected and beloved nutrition company, is actually a “toxin” based on the paleo diet research, and now something I feel I must choose to eliminate from my diet. Making this dietary change is sort of like learning to walk again after having been unable to for years….

Ever since my cancer, over 20 years ago, I have sought ways to attain and maintain health; to decrease foods problematic to my system, and to choose holistic alternatives. My choice to become a vegetarian after my cancer was to avoid the toxic meat supply ladened with hormones, pesticides, and anti-biotics. Now that I hunt, I am eating free-range wild animals with no hormones or anti-biotics, and minimal pesticides (depending on the farming practices near where the animals graze). There is no marbling on the deer meat, because there is next to zero fat on creatures that roam miles per day. The Paleo Diet only insures my continued hunting, and increases my desire to bag enough game to keep me fed for one year, until next hunting season comes along.

Over time I will continue to read the book, The Paleo Diet, follow it up with online research, and slowly purge my kitchen of those things that no longer fit the lifestyle I’m headed toward. And as I begin the process now, with two months of preparation, I will look forward to a new year with greater health, more energy, and less over-all inflammation throughout this only body that I have….

So glad I’m a hunter!