The mention of hunting will most likely bring two responses. The first of the non-hunter, sometimes anti-hunter, and that is of disgust. The other is of the hunter himself. It is one who smiles widely and tells a couple of hunting stories, however true they may be.
When I was young and growing up my response would have been the first. That is not entirely my fault because most of the so-called hunters in my area think nothing of killing an immature animal, or worse yet, not being a marksman and wounding the animal. For me, wounding an animal and risking the possibility of not being able to utilize it was unforgivable.
Things do change however, and my family moved out to the country when I was eleven. This move brought innumerable blessings. Living out in the country also brought me in contact with situations to which I would have never been exposed in the city. Some of these situations were of the death of an animal, and over time this changed my view on hunting. I am still disgusted, as any sportsman should be, when I hear of an animal being shot and lost. What I finally began to realize is that all animals die. Some animals die of old age in the winter. Others die quickly from a hunter’s bullet. Their meat is eaten and enjoyed and thanks is given for the blessing of their nutrients.
I have now been blessed to have hunted a season, bagged a deer, and learned many valuable lessons about hunting as a way of self-reliance. I have also learned many things about myself through hunting. My prayer is that through this article I can prevent someone else from making the same mistakes I made during my first season, so they can be more focused on finding and learning about themselves through this activity in which the crazy, outside world has no business. In order to best show what needs to be developed to be a successful hunter and sportsman, we will look at choosing a rifle, hunting equipment, hunting strategies, marksmanship development, scouting, and my experience of the hunt.
Choosing a rifle has a very simple solution: Choose what you like and what instills confidence. This may seem like an overly simplistic answer, but it covers all of the ground. If you like a certain rifle, you will tend to shoot that rifle more, therefore better, than another rifle. Calibers for hunting can be discussed until “the cows come home,” but confidence will answer this problem as well. I do not feel confident hunting southern whitetail deer with anything smaller than a .243 Winchester, but that would not be my first choice if I was hunting elk or moose.
Hunting southern whitetail, I use a .243 because I like my rifle, and I know that I can put a bullet exactly where I need it. I also know that a .243 can take down any southern whitetail at any given ethical range. Personally, I do not particularly enjoy taking the recoil of a bigger rifle, but if I was hunting different game, such as elk or moose I would want something bigger. Again, it’s about confidence. If you claim to enjoy recoil, you are welcome to head for the hills with a 375 H&H Magnum.
Hunting equipment is what many of us could spend hours looking at on a computer, in a catalog, or in a store. Much of what are called “hunting necessities” are not necessities at all. Camo, scent killers, and baits are completely unnecessary.
When I bagged my deer this past season I was wearing a red flannel shirt and jeans. This may make it sound as though I was a walking neon sign, but that is not so. Deer are incredibly intelligent creatures, and I had several stare directly at me, knowing that I was not part of the tree, but completely unalarmed. I do recommend trying to blend with the environment. Brown pants would be better than jeans. The flannel shirt that I was wearing blended with the fall sweetgum tree I was leaning against. One big fault of the camo idea is that in many states, such as my home state of Georgia, a blaze orange hunting vest is mandatory. The checkered red shirt gave an easier transition between the vest and my surroundings.
Scent killers are used by many with differing results and opinions. Some tend to think that by using scent killers they are scentless to the deer. From my experience, deer notice anything that is out of the ordinary, whether it screams “human,” or not. Scent killers or attractants are in a grey area of ethics for me as well. Personally, I have an issue with trying to change the animal’s habits in order to bag him. I hunt on the deer’s terms. I, as any hunter, learn the habits of deer to put myself in a position where success is likely.
This feeds into hunting strategies. Many people, at least in my area, plant food plots, place deer feeders, and put up blinds or stands near them. I have always been somewhat opposed to this type of hunting. It is borderline unethical.
Food plots and deer feeders are nothing more than bait with which to kill deer. I can not understand how a person finds satisfaction in a deer killed by these means. Baiting a deer is not in a grey area of ethics for me. It is unethical. If it seems as though I am coming down hard, that would be correct. I understand the mindset of hunting for sustenance, but there will be times in which knowing how to truly hunt will pay dividends. Satisfaction only comes when you put yourself into doing the job right, whatever it may be.
Blinds and stands are little better in my view of ethics. The most common type of blind is the store-bought tent variety. But, how much of yourself do you put into the woods when setting up one of these? Stands are not as bad as the previous methods. There are legitimate situations when a stand is used, not because it prevents the prey from seeing the hunter, but because brush can be so thick and tall the hunter will not be able to shoot safely at identified targets. Stands also are safer to use on smaller properties where shooting flat will almost certainly send a bullet into a neighboring plot.
Let’s say, for a moment, that TEOTWAWKI actually does come. Which person would be able to survive off the land? The one who has always hunted over bait, or the one who has taken the time and effort necessary to learn the animals habits? This is only a hypothetical problem, but learning the animal will always aid in a successful hunt.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)