Article contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Ford
I see hunting not only as a means to supply tangible sustenance to live, but a brutally honest media for oneself to be reflected.Â Your true colors and the sincerity of personal goals will be laid bare on the forest floor.Â
Sitting in the deer stand on January 1, 2015 I look back on the season that is closing.Â Sunlight is fading and so is my time pursuing white-tails.Â As I ride out the last few minutes in my ridge-top white oak, I feel the weight of how I have been anchored by 76 days of pursuit.Â The days of pre-season preparations must be added, and the sum of it all has engrained itself into the structure of my life.Â The passing of time and natureâ€™s seasons are present to some degree as deer season progresses.Â During the last weeks and days of season, however, the finite nature of time is more present.Â Seasonâ€™s end has surpassed imminence.Â It is now here.Â I sit in it, and I am forced to look the sum of my efforts and actions in the face.
As the sunâ€™s glow dissolves into the valley behind me, I recall what I have been able to accomplish since the season opener on October 18th.Â Efforts, breakthroughs, and short-comings have all added brush strokes to the mural of my days afield.Â I find myself inspecting the work and tallying the score.Â I am left to ponder the results, rewards, and lessons for another 10 months.
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My first deer of the season came on Thanksgiving Day.Â It was a good doe at 150 yards that, after the shot, ran headlong into a brier-choked pine thicket.Â With little blood, tracking was tough.Â In the end, I was blessed to find her.Â Scraped and bloody, I was incredibly late for Thanksgiving supper.Â But, I was on the board and happy.Â I hunted hard and got three more deer in the course of a week.Â Late November was good to me.
December was another story.Â Deer became scarce; spooky from being pursued and shot at.Â To compound difficulty, I couldnâ€™t get out of my own way.Â While hunting with a friend, I missed a 200-yard doe.Â A week later on Christmas Eve, I missed another doe at 225 yards.Â Even though I had the time, I rushed these shots.Â Both times, I looked for blood for hours, trying to find any sign that could lead me to a downed animal.Â Nothing.Â A few more careful seconds, and things could have turned out much differently.Â These short windows of seconds will replay, in slow motion, through my head for the months to come.Â Only I am to blame, and I know that.Â As my own toughest critic, I try to reason with myself.Â Failure is sometimes the best instructor.Â All I can do now is catalog these instances and move on, referencing them in a constructive light.
The successes and failures of self-reliance force you to open up to yourself.Â That is what I love about declaring myself responsible for my own meat supply.Â There is no one else to look to, either for credit or critique.Â The convictions to provide for myself come from somewhere deep within.Â Mastering goals set forth after inspection of my own natural fibers is fulfilling in the deepest sense.Â Falling short is painful.Â But there is often undeniable truth and humbleness that comes through pain.
I love hunting and spending time outdoors because there are no favors, shortcuts, or sacrifices allowed or given.Â What you have to show is a product of your degree of dedication.Â Up against time on New Yearâ€™s Day, like it or not, there is nowhere to go but forward.Â This last day brings some closure to what I have worked at all season.Â The work will resume soon with preseason scouting and strategizing.Â The lessons of this year will be a valuable guide.Â Hope will be renewed with hard work aimed toward preparation.
Seasonâ€™s end is an opportunity to look back, for self-inspection.Â Donâ€™t like what you see?Â Only you are accountable for that.Â Do your best, never stop improving, and Mother Nature will sort you out as she sees fit.