Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some of the Hardest Lessons

I sit here tonight glaring at my computer screen with a heavy feeling on my chest. Today, early this morning, I trudged afield at 5:30 to my deer stand for the opening day of modern firearm season here in Maryland. By 9:00 I was following a blood trail that ultimately led to a dead end, a 200 acre bean field where there were no deer in sight. It was obvious that my shot had not been immediately fatal, and that I had lost an animal. 

I am not a deer hunter in the purest sense. I spend at most four days a year in the woods going after the whitetail deer, all with a firearm. I do not own a bow. I am not a trophy hunter. I deer hunt for no other reason than to put wholesome, truly free-range, and sustainable meat on my family's dinner table. But regardless, I like to think of myself as an extremely ethical hunter, one with a respect for the animals I pursue that verges on reverence.  Killing an animal has always been a very emotional experience for me, which may sound weird to the non-hunter.

But a last-second jolt by a deer whose shoulder was in my cross-hairs likely sent my shot further aft than I intended. Today I was, for at most a minute, an impatient hunter. I returned to the farm where I hunt this afternoon for a complete scouring of the woods. I left no stone unturned until the blood trail ran cold. For someone who takes responsible hunting as seriously as I do, and for someone who insists on a clean and quick kill above all else, I find myself ashamed tonight. A powerful emotion.

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. But it is through this reflection, and self-flagellation, that I ensure this never happens again. But in hunting, the lessons learned for next time, can be incredibly difficult this time. 

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