I don’t want to!” My 3 year old son said when we made him get up and brush his teeth this morning.
He repeated that sentiment emphatically through the whole morning process. Using the potty, changing clothes, eating breakfast.
My wife reinforced him, “sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to” and the process continued until it was all done and cartoons could be watched with a glass full of chocolate milk.
How’s that apply to hunting?
When I was about 15, I was with my dad in the woods when he wounded a deer and had to dispatch it appropriately. It shook me up. Elicited a pretty strong emotion that I didn’t want to repeat. In fact, I had my own version of “I don’t want to” and told him I didn’t want to be around if something like that happened again. I didn’t think I had it in me to kill the animal up close and personal like that.
It’s been a few years now and since I began bow hunting, I’ve made a couple bad shots and have had to follow up to kill the deer. Each time, I have a flash of “but I don’t want to” but I know I have to.
Hunting has a way of eliciting some powerful emotions. As soon as my arrow leaves my bow and hits its target, there’s a dump of adrenaline that’s often referred to as “buck fever.” If you’ve had it, you know. If you haven’t, I don’t know how best to describe it. I think it’s as bad now as it was when I was 12 years old. I don’t know if I would classify that emotion as excitement? Elation? Nervous? But I know it is unparalleled in my life.
That emotion is intense. And in the case of the bad shot like I mentioned above, that emotion can take a violent swing downward to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and quickly turn into sadness for the animal, regret for the shot choice or rising the process, disappointment in myself for the shot I made.
At that moment there is a very real, pressing, urgent issue of having to deal, hands on, with the consequences of my actions. There’s no one to shuck it off to. No one to do it for me.
This has only happened a couple times to me, once last year and once a few years before. I told my dad afterward that if I couldn’t make a shot better than that, I didn’t deserve to be hunting with my bow. I practiced a lot more after that.
Hunting has a way of drawing out some very real emotion and that emotion connects me to the food. It’s not just something I bought at the store in a thoughtless purchase for a Tuesday night meal. Hours of preparation, real excitement, possibly some sadness, some hard work, and hours processing the meat.
If you come to my house and eat something wild, I’ll ask you how it is with a big smile, because to me, it probably tastes like Gordon Ramsey cooked it…