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Through the Lens

Reflections on Opening Day

Tue, October 03, 2017

Crazy as it may sound to many, I usually don’t hunt opening day of archery season. Not one to break tradition, I didn’t hunt this year’s opening day either. I’d like to tell you it’s all part of some great deer hunting strategy, but the sad truth is, I never really have my act together for deer by opening archery weekend. Instead I roam around, talk with those who do hunt it, gather info and intel.

A few weeks ago, our fearless leader and editor Jeff and I had a long conversation about my current “disillusionment” with the outdoor world, media, and industry. AKA known as “Gee you are a cranky old woman lately”.

I set out at first light on Sunday, hoping that somewhere during my travels my faith would be restored.
Right out of the hat I noticed a sharp increase in the number of vehicles parked here, there, and yon on the public lands I visited. Also notable was the sharp increase in out of state plates.

Normally I don’t see that many non-residents until closer to rut, or gun season. That led to me to wonder if more folks were out and about due to the new crossbow changes.  Interestingly enough, I only encountered a couple of folks that were crossbow users, so that may or may not be the reason. Maybe they just haven’t gotten the memo that IL isn’t still puking out giant bucks at every turn of trail.  Maybe we are doing a better job of recruiting new hunters. Maybe folks just wanted to start early this year. I’m still a little confounded by the number of hunters that were afield.

Although I held out Sunday, and even Monday…waiting on THAT story, that encounter – you know the one that makes you smile for someone’s success, the one that makes you want cheer out loud for that young person who just got their first deer – I didn’t run across any of those. I’m hoping I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time, because what I did encounter sure didn’t help my unsettled feelings about what deer hunting and use of the outdoors has become. If anything, I am probably even more crabby, and more disillusioned at this point.

Mostly I encountered a whole lot of complaining, and dare I even say it – whining.

Here’s what I’ve learned the last couple of days:

It is now all virtual. The hunt’s success is not based on harvest, enjoyment of the outdoors, the experience of sitting in the woods waiting on first light. Success is measured by the amount of video footage gained, the number of selfies taken (in full on winter weight camo when it’s 70 degrees, face paint, add manicured nails and full make up for the women), the number of likes, followers, and atta boys/girls one receives on social media.

It’s vital to hashtag all that video and all those selfies you share via social media with 87 hashtags in hopes that one of those companies you hash tagged will suddenly realize that you are a superstar hunter and immediately add you to their staff, reshare your photo, and make you famous! Not to mention the ad nauseum posts thanking anyone and everyone for the best, greatest, most innovative product going.  How did we ever bag a deer before those inventions?

One must have a target buck, have the buck named, consult 6 months of trail cam images (and share them as well!) refuse to even consider any other deer that crosses your path, scoff loudly and soundly at anyone and everyone who is clearly not as dedicated as you and happily goes afield with stick and string to grab a doe for the freezer.  One simply must sneer and snipe about “meat hunters”. Only trophy hunters are worthy. Meat hunters just don’t spend enough time, money and effort to get that special buck. How dare they be content with a nice fat doe?

Additionally, one cannot even dream of taking up space in a parking area with anything less than the newest, fanciest, truck or SUV. It must sport not only expensive camo trim, it must be completely covered in 900 product stickers.  Because anyone who shows up in a raggedy, dented, mud and dust covered 1985 beater simply cannot be serious about deer hunting. I mean really – the only sticker on it is a faded NRA sticker and worn out frayed Fred’s Dance Barn bumper sticker. Clearly a poser who doesn’t deserve to be called a deer hunter. (Lordy – he didn’t even spray down with any scent blocker and gasp! his camo is left over from his Army days!)
I learned we have become a society who cannot use a compass, a map, and remember how to get back to the truck. Yards upon yards of red, orange, lime green, tape festoon the trees throughout the hunting areas.  Like tinsel on Christmas tree, trail marker ribbons, and guides abound across the fields and forests.

Then I was educated about those damn devil farmers. How dare they not have that corn cut yet. How dare they run the combine and grain dryers on opening day? What on earth is wrong with those farmers? I am so sorry they just didn’t realize that they needed to adjust their farming schedule to accommodate the deer hunting public.  Heck, as fast as prices are dropping this year…they might as well take off a few days and make sure nothing disturbs any deer hunters in the neighborhood. It’s not like anyone’s going to make a bundle with the corn and beans this year.  How thoughtless of them not to take someone’s deer hunting into consideration as part of the overall plan.

Oh, it’s not just those darn farmers either – good grief – do you know how many hunts were ruined because a car drove by? God forbid, some of those reckless folks even stopped to show the children in their car the deer standing in the field or to take a photo. How dare they! In a state park, no less!  Do they not know that will just ruin a hunt? Simply destroy it.  Probably should just close the park to everyone but deer hunters.
Yep close it to everyone but the deer hunters, because well no one should be out squirrel hunting, hiking a trail, speeding up river in a boat, training a dog on designated fields.  It’s deer season for heaven’s sake…. that’s all that counts!

I listened to how ridiculously expensive our non-resident tags have become, and how awful it is that one can’t go buy an OTC buck tag after getting a doe… (I’m thinking more like after getting a buck, but not my story to tell.) I failed to realize that the simple act of plunking down the dollars for those non-resident tags instantly gives them the right to well – pretty much everything.  I do have to say, I really couldn’t disagree with a few of the complaints leveled about the state of things in IL in general – things really are pretty much of train wreck, we do have ridiculously high sales taxes, and our DNR has been hamstrung in many ways by the whole never ending fiscal crisis.

All in all, it simply reinforced my feeling that it’s gotten madly out of hand, it’s all about the dollars, the fame, the recognition.  So, if you went out, had a good morning or evening sit, cussed the coons, squirrels and possums, or made a kid smile – please, please, share your story in the comments. I need to hear there are still folks out there who hunt just for the love of the sport, for the filling of the freezer, and for the opportunity to sit quiet and watch the natural around us.  Heck, I will go so far as to hazard a guess that good many of us old-timers need that reassurance that all is not lost to commercialization, celebrity seeking, and social media.

Comments

Aw G, don’t let the state of things get to you.  I too have spent time gnashing teeth and wringing my hands on the topic of “Celebrity Hunters” how the draw of fame and fortune has affected this pastime.  Over the past two seasons I never pulled a string or pulled back the hammer.  I did get plenty of tree time and my own footage of youngins I just wouldn’t shoot so I could rub it in my crew’s face.  Not because I’m too good for shooting some freezer meat, but because I enjoy sitting in that tree melting off the day’s worries, daydreaming about old mossy-rack, and think just where I’d like to move this stand next year.

Traditionally I spend most of my allotted time for the treestand out there in October, and by the end of first rut, I pretty much call it.  It’s about hanging at the barn, looking at trailcam footage, and just sitting in the tree.  If I’m not able to chill and relax, I’m not going.

This year I am dealing with a personal challenge which will likely prevent me from hitting the woods at all.  I’ve run no cameras, prepped no stands, not fired my bow, not laundered my clothes…nothing.  Life has a way of shutting things down when you prioritize family and there are crisis. 

So, while I can commiserate with you on the state of the “industry” I must admonish you for not putting that to the back of your mind and just getting out there for you.  Do your own thing.  The window is short, even if it seems like allot of time ahead on Oct 1.  It’ll be mid January before you know it.  And, you of all people know the challenges life can throw at a person.

So I’m not asking you to go get some freezer meat, but I’m asking you to go.  Get in the tree or the blind.  Relish past sits in that spot.  Think of old mossy-rack rolling around the point.  Lose you stress in the antics of the squirrels or that flock of turkey putting through.  Go out there in jeans and a flannel.  Just go.  relax.  enjoy it.  every day is a gift, G.  Every day.

Posted by OZ on October 03

Qz, first and foremost I hate to hear that you are having a difficult time with some of those curve balls life throws our way. I hope that things begin to improve for you. You’ve always been a good friend, and someone I value.
Rest assured, it’s not keeping me away from the outdoors. I may be a little grumpy, and little less patient with some of the nonsense, but I will not let the “state of the state”  rob me of my enjoyment of the outdoors. It makes me rethink my career decisions on a daily basis, but not my love of the outdoors. It almost serves as an impetus to do better, do more. To volunteer more, teach more new folks, etc. As my mother always told me - “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
As always, I appreciate your honesty, and even your admonishment. You have given me the inspiration to try harder to find the good stories, to write more about the good things that are still part of our hunting and outdoor heritages.

Wishing you some peace and comfort during the difficult days.

Posted by G on October 04

Awesome read, as usual.
I am that same grumpy old hunter.
Never even think of hunting before the middle of October.
My grandfather and father got me into hunting in the early 70’s.
I was the game carrier and brush buster when people still rabbit hunted.
Graduated the Illinois hunter safety course in 1978, so I could start deer hunting.
Went out shotgun deer hunting with grandpa and Dad in 1979.
Green to how many cloths to wear and nearly froze to death.
Sadly it was my only year with my grandpa, he passed that November.
Then lost my best hunting partner in 2013 my Dad.
Nearly quit hunting but still do in his honor.
Thru the years it has gone from nearly a deer around every bush to hunting the whole gun season and not seeing a deer.
I cannot watch the outdoor channels because those so called pro hunters make me want to puke!.
Buy a $60,000 truck to haul a $30,000 trailer full of the $100,000 products I endorse!.
Look at me I am a PRO HUNTER!!!!.
Really? Pro?.
Like you said G , How did we ever kill a deer back in the day.
Before these so called super hunters with $200,000 worth of product to get the edge on those pesky whitetail?!.

Posted by knoxcounty on October 04

G- I was here years ago and everyone trashed me for blasting the carbon soaked ground hunter.  I just hope you do not get the same treatment now that everyone sees where I was in 2013/14.  I am glad to see that this site actually has some bloggers that are “keeping it real.”

Posted by PIMPSTAFFER HATER on October 04

On a positive note, I was lucky enough to spend opening afternoon sitting in a buddy stand with my 10 year old son (just taking a kid hunting is always a positive note in itself) who was able to harvest his first deer with a crossbow. He made a great shot on a nice mature doe that only went about 10 yards. I could not have been more excited and proud!
Let me just say if there is ever a chance to restore your faith in hunting, at its most basic levels, its while hunting and experiencing the entire thing through the eyes of kid. They have not yet had the chance to sour on some of the things us adults dislike about where hunting has gone.(This list seems to keep growing)  They’re whole experience is fresh and exciting, the moment leading up to the shot, the actual shot, remembering where the deer was standing when you shot to look for sign of a good hit, how to properly blood trail, the photos, the drag, field dressing and proper handling, processing the meat, eating the meat they provided. These are all exciting valuable lessons for our next generation of hunters, and just being a part of those moments can’t help but restore your faith in what hunting truly is all about.
Bottom line, find what it is you truly love about the hunt and go out and enjoy every chance you have to do it. Whether you like to meat hunt, chase big bucks, help a first time hunter… Just do whatever it is that makes you happy and enjoy the seasons life gives you!! (We all only have so many left)

Posted by BOWHUNTR on October 04

Gee, G, I too long for the old days of the Curt Gowdy American Sportsman show.  Although I doubt Curt was driving a rusty old truck, the guys on that show simply enjoyed the moment. 
Take heart, I still bet there have been more deer, ducks and geese shot by people wearing Carhartts and army surplus gear than all the fancy gear now available.

Posted by riverrat47 on October 04

I am nauseaus

Posted by yellowstone on October 04

G, My sons opening day consisted of him and i spitting sunflowers seeds at each other,And a huge bobcat 4yards from the groundblind. We didnt see a deer but i will remember that hunt for a very long time. We are meat hunters and very proud of that.

Posted by WhitetailFreak on October 05

P.S. When do you see the fall mushrooms starting g? I still have yet too find the hen of the woods:(

Posted by WhitetailFreak on October 05

THE MUSHROOMS ARE ALREADY STARTED AROUND THE STAUNTON AREA

Posted by herman on October 05

Thanks everyone for the comments! Looks like I may not be the only crabby old person in the woods this year.
So far I haven’t caught a lot of heat for this - I think the youngins’ are a little afraid of the “Grandmotherly Glare” I level their way sometimes.
WTF - On the fall mushrooms - I am sad to report this may go down as my worst fall season ever. It’s time…but we are in such a drought in SW IL that I am not holding out much hope. May check my trees this morning - just to torture myself. Hopefully some anticipated cooler temps and rain will them jump started in my corner of the world.
On a lighter note: After sharing this post on social media I had several folks reach out to tell me their “feel good” stories about opening morning. All is not lost!

Posted by G on October 05

I stumbled upon hen of the woods in Calhoun about 3 weeks while squirrel hunting.  was really shocked to see it given how dry its been.

Posted by buckbull on October 05

I shot a big fat doe opening night sitting over a water hole while wearing my Mark Anthony Ghillie suit. Mark may have been a crook but his Ghillie suit really works and is really fun to use. That is my 2nd doe from the ground while using it.

Kyle

Posted by kschroeder.DVM on October 05

Great article as usual G - spot on and I couldn’t agree more.  Don’t worry - there’s plenty of us old guys out in the woods that have long since gotten our priorities aligned and don’t measure our hunting (or fishing for that matter) - by the limits taken, the inches measured or weights of our stringers.  I go out because it’s what I do and some of my best trips are the ones that never result in a deer hanging, birds to dress or dirty filet knives.  I know that’s how it is for my blood brother Oz and it bothers me to know end that he might not be around much with us this fall.  (but holding out hope he can get at least a couple of sits in - maybe something to pull a trigger on or draw a string)  He is, after all, the source of some of my BEST outdoor stories.  And with my son gone this fall (he’s in the Army now and will be unable to join us) - it’s gonna be a very different season for me.  I can tell you I’ll be profoundly sad that my son and Oz won’t be with my and my bro-in-law for the dragging, butchering and post hunt story telling…  It won’t be the same but there will be other seasons.  I’ve missed two seasons entirely these last two years from shoulder surgery.  I survived it - so will they I guess.  Good luck this season….

Posted by RiverRat on October 06

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