Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Hunter's Tale

    Thoughts from a Hunting Journal
(Part I)

              It could be said that the journey started years ago with my dad bringing home ducks and rabbits, pheasants and an occasional deer.  They were mostly taken from the meadowlands surrounding our home and the public forests of northern New Jersey.  It could possibly be said that it started with my mother hunting those same woods, pregnant, and all the stories and misadventures that go along with those sort of things.  Or it could go deeper, I guess one could suggest, to a grandfather I did not know.  A memory of pictures and stories told, of photos of old-time, black and white deer camps and meat poles, when men of the community went off to far off states to hunt deer and drink and play cards.  A time of history where deer camps had names, his was "Dogpatch" and they wore patches to proclaim their allegiance.  There were dogs, beagles in days gone by, and Labrador retrievers for as long as I have been alive.
             But this is not their journey, it is mine.  And, although my roots may have been sown in that fertile piece of history, they sprouted in an entirely different time.  My journey has brought me to a time of completely different values and views.  I am caught between two worlds, two generations, two separate mindsets, so far apart it seems that I can't even imagine where or when the split came but I know that it is huge.
             Before I speak of the present, one must know and understand from where I began.  This is my journal, my life, my journey.  It is a record for my family, by family, so as they get older the stories can be remembered and retold, so they do not fade like so many other things in life, both more and less important.  It is a hunting journal of sorts, but also a story of life and how the two are intertwined.  My thoughts and memories may meander sometimes between true hunting and merely being outdoors.  Yet are the two so different?  To me, hunting is not solely the act of pulling the trigger or releasing the arrow, it is not merely the taking of life, it is the prologue to the act that carries the heaviest of weight.  The scouting, the stand preparation, the land stewardship, the details like packing, practicing, and pictures, the anticipation, these are the important things to me; and most of all, the sharing.  What good is a story without an audience?  Of what importance is food without mouths to feed?  What is a life without a family to share it with?  In an act based largely on solitary pursuit, camaraderie plays an amazingly important role.  There is no deer camp without hunters.  There is no true family without dear companions.

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