Sunday, August 30, 2009

Answering the question


The question is inevitable. I’m a fortysomething guy with numerous interests and hobbies. So why pursue hunting?

The naysayers might say it’s because I have some latent desire to “be a man.” Others could say I’m giving in to peer pressure. Or is a longing to recapture some youth? Do I need to gather my own meat, a throwback to frontier times?

None of these are correct and many aren’t even close to the real truth. First of all hunting animals does not make me a man, nor does any other singular activity. For me, manhood is defined by taking responsibility for oneself, being a leader of a household, making a commitment to one woman (a vow that is to last for a lifetime), putting in an honest days work, and keeping your word. No, shooting animals doesn’t promote any of these traits.

For me, the reasons to take up hunting are simple. For starters I like to be outdoors. I’ve hiked, backpacked, four-wheeled, and mountain climbed (not a fourteener in Colorado, but a “twelver” in New Mexico). Since the onset of adulthood I haven’t had the leisure time to enjoy a lot of these activities but I also admit I haven’t made them a high priority for much of the time. Earning a living, going to graduate school, and raising a child all take a toll on one’s time. But the good old outdoors is still there, unchanged, ready for me to participate once again.

Second, moving to this area did stir up a desire deep inside of me to hunt. Something about being away from a city or suburbia environment and finding myself smack dab in the middle of pheasant and deer habitat here in NW Kansas ignites a deep-seated yearning to head out on foot and challenge my skills against those of Mother Nature.

Third, while there is no peer pressure on me to join up with friends and acquaintances I do see hunting as an opportunity to connect with others around here in a different way. From what I hear hunting seems to further friendships and gives everyone a way to share a common outdoor experience. Add to that that 97% of the land in Kansas is privately owned meaning no National Forest or BLM land on which to enjoy the great outdoors, and hunting just seems like a natural activity.

To round out my list of reasons I’ll also cite an affinity for shooting. I first did target shooting with a .22 over 30 years ago at summer camp. I liked it then and my thrill of hitting the bullseye hasn’t diminished with time. In fact Geogal and I gave little Geoana a Daisy BB gun for her birthday this year and she seems just as inclined to use it as I am to practice my marksmanship now.

So while I won’t go overboard on this hobby (I just plan to procure the right equipment over the course of time) I do look forward greatly to the fall and the coming of deer and pheasant season. Just this morning there was a crisp feeling to the post-dawn air with an outside temp of 49 degrees. Won’t be long now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reward Trip

Yesterday I took the truck and headed for Nebraska. Destination Kearney. Cabela's to be specific.

Not that it takes much to get me through the doors of that establishment, but this journey was special. You see, I spent all of last Saturday completing the Kansas Hunter's Education Course. As I was successful Geogal granted me permission to make a trip to Cabela's to load up on a little gear.

Before I proceed further with purchase details I need to dispel your myths about the hunter education. It isn't a "pay your fee and get a certificate" classroom. (There was no fee, this is taxpayer-funded.) In order to get my certificate I had to complete an extensive online curriculum covering everything from firearm types to hunter ethics to "after the shot." By extensive I mean it took me an entire two evenings (staying up late) to complete before the Saturday classroom portion rolled around. 14 different sections. I had to be familiar with each one or no certificate for me. No Hunter's Education Certificate, no hunting license. No hunting license, and I'm staying home come November.

I had to pass two written tests and an oral one, plus some time at the shooting range. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday but this wasn't all fun and games. (I did, though, get to skeet shoot for the first time in my life. I liked it!!) Was all of this education worth the effort? Yes, I can say without reservation. I know so much more now that I did three weeks ago.

Example: Three weeks ago someone might ask "What kind of shotgun do you have?" My answer back then, "A single-barrel, single-shot."

Now, same question. My response: "A Stevens 16-gauge 2 and three quarter inch, break action, vintage late 1940's or early 1950's."

Why an old firearm? I might have written elsewhere in this blog that my Dad gave me his old shotgun and a 30-30 rifle when he visited last fall. He hasn't hunted since before I was born and these bang-sticks haven't been fired in decades. But that's about to change. I have them with a gunsmith right now, they're in good shape overall, just in need of some cleaning.

So, officially hunter-educated and getting everything ready for autumn, I went to Cabela's yesterday, something of a reward for completing the course. Not to mention I needed gun cases for transportation as well as some way to securely store the firearms (Geogal isn't worried about our little one but her friends might be a concern.) Found both items, plus a blaze orange cap to ensure I won't be shot by another hunter. Hunting is just like any other hobby or interest. You can spend as little or as much as you desire. For now I'm keeping it simple and will stick with the firearms I have. I did look at 12-gauge shotguns yesterday as those are more widely used in hunting, but Cabela's does carry some 16-gauge shot (both lead and non-toxic).

I'll be ready.