It’s that time of year where the guns are cleaned and oiled , the war paint is applied, the long johns are pulled-up, the battery-powered socks are turned on as deer hunters flock to their leases in search of that prize-point buck. Coming from Texas and spending part of my life on my grandfather’s ranches, I’m very familiar with this time of year though I was always lucky, as back in my youth, hunting permits where cheap as â€œlandowners and their families enjoyed exempt status and were even issued doe permits, no deer lease required for our family, just some salt and peppered, pan-fried backstrap.
Today with a technology consumed busy life I find myself with no time to hunt but enjoy reminiscing about the days of hunting deer, rattlesnake, javelinas (wild South Texas hog), cotton tails, jack rabbits and even cubbies of quail. Though I must admit, when I see todays hunter I think about how my grandfather would quip and snipe at how hunters have evolved from trackers to stalkers as they sit in their deer blinds quietly waiting for that buck they’ve been fattening with feed corn for the past few months. Hunting has become as commercialized as Christmas to the point that todays hunter is better termed a techno hunter, much like fisherman with their sonar detectors for the school of fish.
It was in those early years of my life when my crack shot grandfather and my father schooled me with my hunting skills including some shooting skills that would play a part in my 8-plus active-duty years with the U.S. Army. There I’d earn a German Schutzenschnur with the German 3rd Corps Army down in Koblenz and with the U.S. Army an expert badge with the M-16 rifle, the U.S. Army issue Colt 45 and later the Beretta, 9mm handguns. Though I also earned expert badges with grenades and the bayonet as a soldier, none of those accolades came from my family’s training in hunting anymore than my demolition qualified status with TNT and C-4 plastic explosives while I was stationed with the Headquarters Company, 3rd battalion, 8th Infantry Division (mechanized) in Mainz, Germany.
But like the Army, my grandfather always taught, understand where the North Star is and where the sun rises and sets, so you will not get lost in the thick of the woods, practice sound discipline and move slowly and carefully, pulling each thorny shrub twig back without making noise while studying the footprints on the ground. Looking for signs of life of your target along with tracking were always important and taking charge of your mind would help you focus and even help you forget about the uncomfortable numb feeling of your toes and fingers during those cold Winter days–this was hunting.
Not like hunting today with head phones plugged into i-Phones. Unless you’re a purist, hunting today is throwing corn on the ground the same time everyday at the same location, usually 50- to 100-yards from the stool in the deer blind for at least three months before deer season. The idea is to train your prize buck to faithfully show up on time on the first-day hunting season opens just like a military muster call, or formation, the deer stands bold and tall at attention, head and eyes straight forward as it awaits its fate. Hunting has evolved during an era of what sociologist will call the era of convenience, or the “We want it now” era, from cell phones to pizza in thirty-minutes or less, it’s about how fast as we can get it to free up our time for the other busy things we face in life today.
On the day after deer hunting season begins, a vast majority of hunters will clean their guns, oil them down for storage and wait again for the following year to repeat this ritual. If my grandfather were alive today, he’d say, “Is this hunting?” But then again, my father would say, fishermen put bait on hooks don’t they?
Thanks and I close my thoughts by saying, please don’t forget our service men and women, their family and friends, God Bless, rg sends!