Read all posts from The First Feast series here.
Throwing in the Towel
My frustration level has reached its limit now. I knew there were deer on the property. I had harvested hogs there before. Yet, none were showing up for me on the days I was hunting. I’d been on three, two-day hunts. All had been a bust. No animals in sight, and my clock was ticking down. I’d like to believe that this is the same process the Pilgrims would have faced as well, but I’ve seen too many documentaries about America in its early days. North America was a smorgasbord of life and game when the settlers arrived. Finding game to hunt would have been, perhaps, the easiest thing they had to do.
I find myself looking online for ranches that ship game meat. I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided to let it go, when the guide called me to see if I were coming back. After speaking with him a few minutes I decided to go back out. My excitement level this time around is low. I did not even prepare for it. I just waltz out to the woods, more out of obligation to the project than any other reason.
I started this hunt in the evening for hogs. The guide set me up at a feeder with a blind at ground level. The path to the feeder whines back and forth, like a snake. As I came around the last bend, I caught the sour scent of pigs. It stopped me dead in my tracks. It was still early in the day. There should not have been any hogs roaming for another two hours.
I knocked an arrow and moved slowly around the bend. As I came around, I saw ten or so hogs, eating next to a mountain of old bread the guide had placed by the feeder. They were about 50 feet from me. That’s close for a rifle. I had a bow. There was no way I would take that shot. Instead, I crept to the edge of the path, and step on a stick. The loud snap, followed by my stepping fast into the middle of the path, sent the hogs in all directions.
If you have never hunted wild pigs, then let me tell you they are the perfect symbol for greediness. Their desire to eat overruns their good sense. Now that the hogs had showed up, they would come back to that pile of food in short order. So I quickly moved closer to the edge of the clearing, and hide behind a tree. Fifteen minutes later, the first hogs began to cautiously move back into the clearing. I waited till five had come back, and then waited some more.
I did not want a boar. Male hogs, especially big ones, are not good eating. Sows and young hogs are the best for table fare. I needed one around 100 pounds. Unfortunately, I have not been hunting long enough to discern what size meant what poundage, so I just picked one that looked about the size of the first hog I had harvested.
It was at that moment, I understood the real advantage of tree stands—apart from not having to worry about getting charged by an animal. At ground level you only have shots at the animals in front of you. If I were twenty feet in the air, I would have taken my shot by now. Standing on the ground, I had three large males roaming in front of the hog I wanted to take. After weeks of waiting for something, anything to show, you would think I would blast away at the first one within range. If I were trophy hunting, or getting rid of nuisance hogs I would have. I needed something that would cook well. I was not about to mess up the critical part of the hunt by rushing.
Lucky for me, male hogs like to jostle one another around, even when eating. The three in front started pushing one another around. The sow I had my eye on moved away from the group, giving me a clear target.
My shot was well placed just behind the front leg and below the shoulder. All the hogs scattered with the one I hit with my arrow only going about 40 feet into the woods. I had my first harvest for the project. There was no hooping or hollering like you see on hunting shows. My general feeling was, “It’s about damn time.”
That evening I went to a friend’s birthday party. There was food, and wine, and beer. I mention this only because if I was going to go hunting for deer, I needed to be in the woods at 5:30am. The party I was at would not end until after 1am. I was not inclined to leave early, just to go sit in a tree stand and fight with bugs again. I was having more fun at the birthday party.
Nonetheless, I made the trek out to the stand anyway. I went mainly because I could not sleep. If you going to be wide-awake in the wee hours of the morning, a deer stand is as good a place as any to do it. So off I went into the woods, and up into the trees.
I Waited …
And waited…and waited….and “wait—was that a rustle in the thicket below?”
One thing I’ve noticed when hunting is that every sound captures your attention. Maybe it's because you want some game to show up right now, or because the noise pollution of every day life — cars, doors opening and shutting — are absent. Whatever the cause, you are hyper alert to any movement or sound. The rustle in the thicket drew my attention, and head it until I saw the tiniest lifting of an ear. There was a deer there. Now that I knew where to look, I could see it. The well-hidden deer made me curse inside.
All the hunters on my Facebook page were right. The other hunts probably had a deer looking right at me, watching me fight bugs and boredom. I just never saw them, because they are ghosts.
As a child and adult, I’m a fidgety person. I can’t keep still. There is a picture of me next to the words “ADHD” in the dictionary. However, the right incentive changes all of that. I stood rock still, barely breathing for 15 minutes. I could not spook this deer away. I would probably never see it or any other again. My heart started pumping when it started walking toward me. I wanted to shake my arms loose to reduce the chance of getting Buck Fever and shooting with shaky hands, but was too scared to move. The deer was a doe, and a good size. I could move a little, take a deep breath, and draw my bow.
Sixty-eternity-feeling seconds later the deer stepped from the thicket, in-between two small trees. It was a perfect sight picture, and I nearly lost the shot, moving in retrospect too sudden to get the shot off. Luck was on my side this time, and I was able to put the arrow on target.
My reaction to hitting the deer was the same as shooting the hog the night before. I was not elated. I should have been. I had just killed my first deer. All I felt was a monkey being lifted from my shoulders. I just felt like, finally!
So…a measure of success. I had finally taken a deer and a hog. There would be naturally obtained venison and ham for Thanksgiving Dinner. All I needed now was to go out and rustle me up some ducks and seafood.
Photo by Daniel Lipinski
Kiara Ashanti is originally from the cold state of New Jersey. He attended college in sunny Florida and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Speech Communication. He loves taking on new projects and is the author of over 200 articles ranging from trading securities, politics, social policy, and celebrity interviews. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog posts here.
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