It is the first day of 2015, and the first day of the extended rifle deer hunting season in Kansas. My unit has until January 11 to bag another antlerless deer. Well, I have until the 11th for an antlerless deer; others may get to shoot their dream buck. But that’s a whole different story related to hunting permits, tags, and my lack of understanding on the subject.
Although I was in no hurry for the holidays to conclude (because time with family is precious), I have been anticipating this day eagerly, as my rifle season in December left much to be desired. I had hoped that hunting on Fort Riley was finished, and that the cold weather would keep many hunters indoors so my chances of seeing some white-tailed deer would be improved. Not quite the case, unfortunately.
My hunt started at 1315 this afternoon; dressed in three shirts, a winter jacket, underwear pants (not as thick as thermals), my new She brand (from Bass Pro Shops) pants, two pair of socks under my boots, a bandana and head gear… I expected to be warm enough. I also brought three pair of gloves, an orange knit head cover and my balaclava. None the less, by the time 1730 rolled around, my feet were so cold I could barely walk and the tips of my fingers (even wearing two pair of gloves) felt frostbitten. I even found myself starting to doze off at times; wondering if I was pre-hypothermia.
I went out to the blind early, hoping that the deer would have returned to the area where I hunt, which holds their watering hole. As usual, nothing much happened until 1600, which is about the time the deer usually reach my neck of the woods. No deer ventured into the clearing leading to the pond, however, likely out of fear from the hunters on the other side of the berm who kept unloading at them. I’m not sure what angered me more; that other hunters interrupted my hunting, or that they seemed to be lousy shots. One after another round could be heard being discharged, as if the deer weren’t actually in range but the hunters thought going semi-auto on the deer would make a difference. Perhaps it did; I wasn’t about to venture deeper into the woods to challenge any overzealous hunters who shoot before targeting.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m an avid gun lover, second amendment supporter, and now hunting enthusiast. Having said that; I have to share that sometimes having other hunters in the areas surrounding mine angers me and agitates me. I’m also a firm believer in the law of attraction, and I believe there’s enough prosperity to go around, for those who are willing to generate energy for it… but I don’t think that way when it comes to hunting. I know there are enough deer; but the deer just fail to come my way when they’ve been shot at prior to reaching my hunting grounds. As soon as I hear rounds being discharged in the woods in front of me (where the deer come from to get to the pond) I already know my objective for the day will go unmet.
Sadly, I also have some mistrust of the hunters in the woods near me, as many are soldiers hunting without permits, or hunting intoxicated (I know this from the stories my soldiers tell me in treatment), and they trespass from Fort Riley land to my friend John’s in an effort to make the kill. Several weeks ago in Walmart I overheard two men in the hunting section, both of whom looked like soldiers, talking about hunting and grabbing some beers to go out with. Then there’s John’s neighbor, a farmer, whose property adjoins John’s. This evening as I reached my truck, parked in front of John’s house (and the farmer’s soy fields) I saw a doe. I got very excited hoping that she might wander onto John’s property, giving me an opportunity to take a shot. Then a herd of does came behind her and they grazed, slowly moseying closer. I put down all my gear, save for my Browning 270 bolt-action rifle, and slowly started heading for some trees to hide behind. Blam! Blam! Blam! The farmer started shooting at the deer (missing each time) causing them to flee.
I recognize hunting is considered a sport, and I suppose in the truest definition of the word (an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature) I am hunting for sport; although I am not endeavoring to shoot more deer than someone else, or the biggest buck; I am hunting for free-range, organic meat. However, I believe there is a level of integrity and responsibility inherent in the “sport” of hunting, and I do not believe that using a semi-automatic and shooting repeatedly in hopes of hitting a target is benevolent. As with bow, compound or crossbow, when shooting with a bolt-action rifle there is one shot, because the deer will scatter by the time a hunter slides the bolt back to reload another round. Don’t misunderstand; I’m welcoming of semi-automatic rifles for hunting; just not the use of successive rounds as a handicap in lieu of sighting in on the target, breathing appropriately, and squeezing off a round.
My father, although I don’t believe he ever actually hunted, taught me that hunting (as fishing – which he did engage me in) is acceptable so long as the animal is used for food and if as much of the animal is used as possible. I hunt with that in mind; and when I processed my doe at Clay Center Locker in November, I asked them to cut some leg bone for me to give to my service dog as a treat. This week I defrosted the bones and when I went to grab one for my labbie-girl I noticed a short, fat bone covered in meat. Instead of giving in to my dog (who would have loved it, I’m sure) I put it in the crockpot with my black eyed peas and pork, for my New Year’s prosperity meal. To me, that is part of responsible hunting, and where the physical prowess and skill cease being part of a sport and become an act of self-sustainability.
Tomorrow I will return to the woods; however instead of sitting in my blind and being at the end of the deer path, I’m going to venture up the berm above the pond and into the woods. I hope to have a better chance of sighting white-tailed deer there, so I can have an opportunity to bag a deer. As a newbie to hunting, I am cognizant that I will only ever get one “first deer” and only one “first” deer with each weapon type. I am blessed to have bagged my first-ever deer with a crossbow, and now I seek to get my first deer with a rifle. Knowing that I am heading into the woods where others may be hunting; I will also be sure to wear enough orange so as not to be mistaken for game. According to The Weather Channel, tomorrow will also be a slightly warmer day with a high of 37 degrees and a low in the 20s, instead today’s low of 19.
There is a saying in Judaism, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, “Next year in Jerusalem.” My version for this small extended hunting period is, “Tomorrow in the woods.” Sounded wittier in my head….