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One of every hunter’s goals should be to introduce a youngster to hunting and the outdoors. For me, hunting is a traditional way of life…a way of life that surrounds you with all the beauty nature has to offer…a way of life that makes you feel as if you are part of nature itself…a way of life that should be continued, by passing it along from generation to generation.
Back when I was 11 years old, my father took me hunting for the first time. It was in the fall of 1968 and it was squirrel season in West Virginia. I can remember the day like it happened just yesterday. I shot my first squirrel with a Harrington and Richardson single shot 20 gauge shot gun. That gun originally belonged to my Dad, who handed it down to my brother, then he passed it down to me, and then I passed it down to his son, my nephew. My Dad and I only enjoyed hunting together a few times. He died three and half years later when I was 14 years old. But his teachings and willingness to take me hunting, to experience the outdoors, has provided me with a passion, a way of life, I have enjoyed for over 40 years.
I’ve experienced the satisfaction of passing down my passion for hunting to my nephew. I consider it one of the finest things I have done in my life. He began hunting with me in the mid 80’s. Not only did he develop a passion for hunting, but we get to share our passion together quite often. My nephew is my best friend and best hunting buddy. I know he looks forward to the day he gets to pass down his passion for hunting to a youngster.
Not every youngster we talk to will be interested in hunting. For those that choose not to hunt, I hope by spending time with them, it will give them an understanding and appreciation of why people enjoy hunting and why the outdoors is enjoyed by so many people. Passing along our knowledge and passion for hunting will keep hunting going strong generation after generation. Hunting is not for everyone. My wish for those individuals is to find a passion they enjoy and pursue it. And if hunting is not for them, we can still guide them to enjoy the outdoors in other ways.
With the temperatures warming up this past week and Thursday seeing a high of 64 degrees, the snow is gone. Neighbors were out washing vehicles, taking down Christmas lights, and picking up debris in their yards. A lot of debris can accumulate in your yard during the winter and when the snow melts away, it reveals what it has covered up the past two months.
In the case of our yard, it revealed several small branches that had been knocked down by the wind and snow along with a number of pieces of paper and plastic the wind had brought in along with someone’s garbage can lid. One nice thing to see was the crocuses starting to pop up in the flower garden.
But what the melting of snow truly revealed in our backyard was the number of poop piles two dogs can make during a two month period when the snow made it impossible to scoop poop. As I did last year, I counted the number of piles scooped. Last year I scooped 187 piles after the snow melted. This year I set a new personal best with 195 scoops. This is one personal best I hope I don’t come close to beating again!
I was doing some research today and came across some interesting information. I stumbled upon The Humane Society's website. They had an article from February 2, 2009 that can be viewed at
containing data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service most recent report that was published in 2006. This report can be viewed at http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/nat_survey2006_final.pdf.
The Humane Society made a point to mention wildlife watchers contribute significantly more to the U.S. economy than hunters, including nearly twice as much in 2006 ($46 billion vs. $23 billion). In 2006, there were an estimated 12.5 million hunters and 71 million wildlife watchers.
If my numbers are correct, that means each hunter contributed $1,840 (23B divided by 12.5M) to the economy compared to only $648 (46B divided 71M) per wildlife watcher. Although the 2006 indicates the number of hunters may be going down, it also proves hunters still contribute more money per capita to the economy...almost three times more than wildlife watchers. And I would bet the majority of hunters are also wildlife watchers. I know I am.
A great program that has evolved from hunting is Hunters for the Hungry. According to the following link on the National Rifle Association’s web site http://www.nrahq.org/hunting/hungry_nat_list.asp, all but 4 states have some type of program supporting hunters feeding the hungry.
The names of the programs in the states may vary, but in general, they're all cooperative efforts among hunters, sportsmen's associations, meat processors, state meat inspectors and hunger relief organizations to help feed those in need. Some states have more than one program. Over the past years, such programs have brought hundreds of thousands of pounds of venison to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks.
Here are a few examples of how hunters are helping in a big way:
Since 1999, Alabama hunters have donated over 450,000 pounds of venison (http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/HelpingHungry/)
Since 1997, New Jersey hunters have donated over 219,000 pounds of venison (http://www.ubnj.org/ubnj/huntershelping/thehungry.html)
During the past 20 years, Virginia hunters have donated 4,154,156 pounds of venison (http://www.h4hungry.org/history.htm)
During the past 19 years, West Virginia hunters have donated 734,238 pounds of venison (http://www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/hhh.shtm)
In 2010, Ohio hunters donated 104,400 pounds of venison (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/New...son-Donated-During-Hunting-Season-so-far.aspx)
In 2010, Pennsylvania hunters are expected to donate approximately 100,000 pounds of venison (http://sharedeer.org/)
In 2009 Tennessee hunters donated over 100,000 pounds of venison (http://www.tnwfhuntandfish.org/hunters-for-the-hungry)
Not only are hunters the biggest supporters of conservation and wildlife, our donations of venison have helped so many families in need.
I can sum up my 2010 deer season in one word…GREAT! Of course I have been blessed to say that every year. And how could it not be? Hunting is a passion, a way of life. To be able to go afield and live your passion is wonderful. I have two deer in the freezer, and I got to spend my days afield with my best friend and best hunting buddy, my nephew Todd.
I got out several times to bow hunt, but it was the gun season this year that put venison in the freezer. And it was gun season that gave me two more stories of “almost.”
I hunted the first 6 days of gun season in Indiana with my nephew Todd on his and his wife Jen’s property. I was hunting a nice buck I had seen the previous deer season. As far as we knew, he was still around. On opening day, around 9:30 in the morning, I spotted a buck coming from the direction of a neighbor’s field towards Todd’s property. The buck entered heavy cover straight in front of me, about 125 yards away. I used my binoculars and felt this was the deer I was after. I would get a glimpse of him occasionally as he moved through the cover angling downwards to the next ridge to my left. As he came out of the cover onto the ridge, he was approximately 90 yards away, within my comfort zone for taking a shot. But he never broke stride…moving onto the ridge and over the backside. I thought he would break over the ridge on the side closest to me. Well, add another “thought” to the list of “almost”…LOL. It wasn’t his time to die. I felt no disappointment. The fact I saw such a magnificent whitetail, had another story to add to my hunting adventures, got to hunt with my best friend and best hunting buddy, all added up to another great deer hunting adventure.
But the “almost” didn’t end in Indiana. I also hunted both Ohio gun seasons along with the muzzleloader season. Here again, I was after the “big” buck. Todd came from Indiana so we got to hunt another week together. We were hunting private property in Jefferson County. It wasn’t until Saturday of the first week that I had an opportunity at the big buck. I was still hunting and had just circled a small knoll and had worked my way through a saddle. Usually I break over the knoll and work my way to the saddle. I heard steps being made in the leaves in front of me down in a bottom but couldn’t see anything. The noise was getting closer and finally, there he was. A nice buck, one I felt was in the 130 class. But there was a problem… lots of heavy cover between me and him…too much to get a shot. Oh how I was wishing I had taken my normal route and had broken over the knoll. There would have been no cover to deal with. He walked past me no more than 30 to 35 yards. As was the case in Indiana, it was not his time to die. Another “almost” story that will be heard around the campfires this summer.
I finally made it into the woods today, my first day out squirrel hunting. I had been planning on getting out all week, but due to commitments and scheduling of my time, I wasn’t able to go until this afternoon. It sure was great to get back into the woods. I wasn’t out as long as I would have liked, but any amount of time spent in the woods is GOOD. I was out from 1pm to 4pm hunting for squirrels and scouting for deer. I saw one fox squirrel and he is now in the fridge.
Now you’re probably thinking, that sure doesn’t sound like a full game bag. As I shared with my nephew over 20 years ago when he began hunting and have shared with many others since, it isn’t the amount of game in your game bag that indicates a successful day in the field. It’s the wonderful gifts you see, feel, hear, smell, touch and sense. Today I saw turkeys and several types of song birds, I felt the breeze in my face, I heard the running waters of a stream and the sound of leaves rustling about, I smelled the earth of the woods, I touched the majestic trees that were all around me, and I sensed the presence of my Dad who took the time to introduce me to the outdoors and take me hunting when I was young.
This is why I consider hunting a way of life…a passion. For me, pulling the trigger or releasing the arrow is the finality of hunting…it is not necessarily the most important part of hunting. It is everything that is associated with hunting that makes it such a great way life. You will not kill a game animal every time you go hunting, but you can always come home with a game bag full of gratitude and wonderful gifts.
There are so many different brands of hunting equipment to choose from today. Most of it is good, some not so good, and some better than others. Since there is so much out there to choose from, I thought from time to time I would discuss the products I use and offer my input on the performance of the product. Please feel free to let me know what you use. With so much out there, sharing information is a way to separate the good from the not so good.
Today’s agenda will be the current weapons I use for hunting deer. First up is my slug gun. In 2004, my nephew told me about someone he new that purchased an Harrington & Richardson Ultra Slug Hunter Deluxe. I always liked the idea of using a single shot gun. I drove to Cabelas in Wheeling, WV where they had a new one on display. The gun fit me perfect, much better than my Winchester Model 1300. After comparing ballistics between 20 gauge ammo and 12 gauge ammo, I discovered the 20 gauge ammo provided enough knock down energy out to 125 yards. I decided to purchase the 20 gauge model. I topped the gun with a Leupold VX-I 2-7x33mm shotgun scope. I use Hornady SST Sabot Slugs. The drawback to the gun is the weight. With the scope, sling, and a round of ammo, you are talking about 10 pounds. It’s a lot of weight to carry around especially if you like to still hunt like me. But the weight reduces recoil and the heavy rifled barrel provides excellent accuracy. This by far is the best of the three slug guns I have owned. If you like the idea of hunting with a single shot gun, I would recommend you take a look at an H&R Slug Gun. I do not think you will find a better gun at such an affordable price.
Next is my bow. Back in the 90’s I was reading a lot about single cam technology. In 1996 I decided to replace my Browning Bighorn bow with a new Mathews Solo Cam Featherlight. I still use the same bow today. It’s been a good bow. But, this will be the last year for it. I recently had the string and cable replaced and was told it was time to get a new one. The cam is starting to get a wee bit of play in it. I am leaning towards purchasing a BowTech. If anyone out there can provide me with any feedback, it would be greatly appreciated.
With deer archery season set to start in a couple of days, I’d like to wish all of you archery hunters a GREAT season.
Back in 2008, I changed my television cable package so I could start watching the vast selection of hunting shows offered on the Outdoor Channel and the Versus Channel. I was ecstatic. I was watching show after show after show. I felt like I was living in the outdoors. My wife felt like she was living the same day over and over as in the movie “Ground Hog Day”.
After several weeks of our television set being tuned into the Versus Channel or The Outdoor Channel, I found myself becoming disappointed in what I was viewing. My growing disappointment emerged from viewing so many shows that contained very little footage of actual hunting. The shows were focused on someone in a tree stand or ground blind placed near a food plot or attractant with a decoy set up.
Oh how technology has changed the way we hunt. I remember when scouting was actually done by walking through the woods instead of sitting in front of a computer and viewing digital pictures or watching live video feeds being taken by trail cameras. I remember actually hiking into the area I wanted to hunt instead of riding a 4-wheeler or utility vehicle. I remember hunting a natural food source instead of one planted to draw deer close enough for a shot. I remember when it was not legal to use bait…I mean a deer attractant.
With today’s onslaught of trail cameras, utility vehicles, attractants (actually they should be called baits), food plots, cover scents, scent free clothing, high fencing, decoys, electronic calls, outfitters, etc, etc, etc…you no longer have to be a hunter. The only skill it seems one has to master is shooting.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I am not a well known outdoorsman or a writer. After my name, there is not the title “Professional Hunter”. Although I’m not exactly sure what qualifies someone to be titled a professional hunter. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word professional as “engaged in an activity as a means of livelihood or gain”. Gain is defined as “to get something for as a result of one’s efforts”. Every year, I engage in deer hunting gaining venison in the freezer. Therefore, I should qualify to be a professional hunter. I suppose I could put it after my name then. Let’s see how it sounds… Hmmm, not bad. I suppose now I am qualified to host an outdoor show. I can start endorsing products. Dang…I could make some money at this.
My love for the outdoors began when I was 11 years old when my father took me squirrel hunting. We only enjoyed hunting together a few times. He died when I was 14 years old. But his teachings and willingness to take me hunting to experience the outdoors has provided me with countless hours of enjoyment ever since.
After my father’s death, I continued hunting squirrels and rabbits for the next 13 years. In 1984, when I was 27 years old, I was I invited to go deer hunting in West Virginia. Since that first time I went deer hunting, I’ve been hooked. I do not get invited by outfitters to hunt big bucks that have been scouted all year. I do not own a farm where I can grow mature bucks. I do not have access to property holding Boone and Crocket deer. But every year I harvest deer. I have tried various methods of hunting the whitetail: tree stand; ground blind; deer drive. But the art of “still” hunting is my favorite way to pursue the whitetail. I enjoy the challenge of hunting deer on the ground, on their terms. I would rather shoot a doe by still hunting, than sit over a planted food crop or a bait…oops I mean attractant, and shoot a trophy buck.
In 2008, I set a personal goal to shoot a deer, buck or doe, with my bow while still hunting. All of the previous deer I had shot with a bow were from treestands. I had not hunted with my bow for 10 years and immediately realized how much I had missed hunting during the archery season. I figured, if I can get within 30 yards of a deer while gun hunting, I should be able to do it while using a bow. Well, I accomplished my goal. I consider this accomplishment one of my hunting high points. I got to within 22 yards of the deer. It was only a year and a half old buck, but I shot this deer while still hunting on his turf.
The point of this article is not to condemn any certain method of hunting or to condemn the use of technology for hunting. I hunt from a tree stand when the circumstances call for it. I do use a compound bow. I even bought a range finder. I am not totally against the usage of modern technology for hunting. I just want deer hunters not to forget how to use their hunting skills. Remember, it is called deer hunting, not deer shooting.
So as you begin planning for this deer season, consider still hunting; consider hunting an area you have never scouted; consider hiking to your destination instead of riding an ATV; don’t use any type of food attractants; don’t hunt over a man-made food plot; keep your decoy in the garage. No matter what size the buck or doe you harvest, a great sense of accomplishment will overwhelm you when you walk up to your downed deer. You will no longer be just a shooter, but a hunter.