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Hooks and Antlers column: Deer hunting deeply affects lives of sporting people


With early muzzleloader season open and the regular season opener set for Saturday, the signs of deer hunters abound in the form of vehicles parked at roadside and in fields, camouflage-clad individuals, all-terrain vehicles in the backs of pickups, cars parked in front of local gun shops, buck photos in the newspapers, postings on social media and more.

Yes, deer season affects the lives of sportsmen and women more than any other activity on the sporting calendar.

While the reasons for hunting vary among individuals, today’s column offers a dozen reasons why hunters avidly take to the whitetail woods.

The most tangible explanation for hunting deer is venison. This meat is tasty, nutritious, and healthful. There is something special about providing for oneself instead of heading to the grocery store. Since the majority of licensed hunters fail to fill their tags each season, other motivations must exist for the allure of deer season.

In reality, immersion in nature is the primary attraction of deer hunting. Modern society has eliminated much of humankind’s contact with the natural world, but hunting allows people to venture into that world where they are greeted with beautiful scenery and where they are one with all kinds of weather.

Hunters also spend a lot of time viewing wildlife in its natural setting. When engaged in hunting, an individual is more than an observer of nature. He or she becomes an active participant in the natural world.

Hunters, too, are fascinated by the deer itself. The whitetail is one of nature’s most awesome animals, and hunters are drawn to observing deer in their natural habitat, to learning about their seasonal behaviors, and to witnessing their incredible senses and athleticism.

Some people hunt for fun and recreation. These individuals find enjoyment in their activity just as others take pleasure in reading, woodworking, gardening, kayaking or whatever.

Hunting also offers a spiritual benefit for many hunters. In the solitude of the woods, an individual can take the time to ponder questions about his existence, his relationships, and his purpose in the world.

In truth, hunting is an activity that allows for reflection. And like R. W. Emerson or H. D. Thoreau, numerous hunters experience a spiritual connection with the natural world and its creator.

Some people find rejuvenation and renewal in their outdoors experiences. I’m reminded of a wife who once commented to me about her husband’s solo ventures into the Adirondack Mountains. “I don’t know what happens up there, but when he returns home, he comes back a better person.” Who could ask for more?

Human beings also hunt to fulfill their predatory nature. Created with eyes in the front and incisor teeth, humans are predators with hunting instincts. Like hawks, coyotes, and other predators, hunters fulfill their nature when pursuing their quarry.

There is also the anticipation of the hunt and the thrill that occurs when a deer magically appears on the landscape. The heart rate beats faster, breaths become more rapid, blood rushes to the head and limbs might even begin to tremble. At such moments, the challenge for the hunter is to calm the “rush.”

Fellowship also draws individuals to the hunt. Being part of a group that works toward a common goal can result in a special camaraderie for friends and family members. Groups often consist of two or three generations of hunters who form special bonds when sharing their common pursuit.

Like fellowship, camp life holds a special attraction for some people. Such people are drawn to the simple pleasures of peace and quiet, the warmth of a wood fire, evening cocktails, a hearty meal, storytelling, and a warm sleeping bag.

Individuals also enjoy the exercise component of the hunt. Many hunters do more walking and climbing during the several-week-long deer season than they do during the rest of the year.

Hours in the woods make for a fulfilling day of fresh air and active use of the major muscle groups. Such exercise is good for the mind, body and soul.

A 12th reason for deer hunting is escape or diversion. Today’s lives follow a hectic pace, and the woods offer an escape from the routines, responsibilities and stresses of everyday existence. In the woods, an individual finds temporary tranquility.

There are additional reasons for hunting, and only the individual hunter knows what factors draw him or her to the whitetail woods each autumn. While the non-hunter might not share the predatory instinct of hunters, he can certainly identify with the allure of nature, spirituality, fun, rejuvenation, fellowship, exercise and escape.

Outdoors Calendar

Saturday: Regular deer season opens in Northern Zone.

Saturday: Second portion of waterfowl season opens in Northeast Zone.

Saturday: Regular Canada goose season opens in Northeast goose hunting area.

Nov. 1: Deer hunters may apply for leftover DMPs.

Nov. 1-May 1: Everyone must wear PFD when underway on vessels less than 21 feet.

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