Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

What makes a successful hunt is the leading edge of an argument in many hunting camps. For some, a hunt is only successful if there is a trophy animal with a tag on it, or a heavy game bag. For others, it is the experience of being in nature, sharing with friends and the peace of being in the woods, plains, or mountains.

Success in hunting is almost impossible to measure. Personally, I love killing big trophy animals, and let’s face it, that is what we are all going for when we hunt big game. But that is not what drives me to pursue game in different areas and in different methods.

A few years ago, I received an invitation from a new friend to join him and a few others in South Dakota to hunt whitetails in late muzzleloader season. I jumped at the opportunity. Hunting whitetails in the Great Plains was always something I wanted to do. Hailing from South Carolina, hunting deer is a close quarters event. Thick pine forest and oak swamps dominate the landscape. A chance to hunt deer in the wide open plains was different.

It is not about bagging game or counting trophies. It is about the people and places I get to go and share it with.

The planning began. Robert Ruark is arguably the finest outdoor writer to ever put pen to paper. In his classic work, The Old Man and the Boy, Ruark writes, “‘The best thing about hunting and fishing,’ the old man said, ‘is that you don’t have to actually do it to enjoy it. You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had twenty years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight.’” There is no truer statement on the hunt.

The anticipation, the planning and preparation are as exciting as actually going. Some of the finest times had in hunting are back at camp with old friends renewing faded friendships and new ones building on fresh experiences of the day. The tales of yesterday and dreams of tomorrow all build to the excitement and joy of what may be.

Meals cooked in wall tents and over campfires at spike camps all play a role in the joy of the hunting experience. Hours spent on a hillside glassing for a buck or miles walked through corn stubble anticipating a flush of a rooster pheasant all enhance the hunt.

One of the traditions I enjoy most when upland hunting are the tailgate lunches. Not really a meal at all, but more than a snack. A tailgate lunch usually consists of a few cans of Vienna sausages, some sardines covered in mustard sauce coupled with a pack of saltine crackers, and perhaps to feel better about your diet, a small piece of fruit. All is washed down with a thermos of coffee or cold water. Hunters tell tales of missed shots, planning a new covert to hunt, checking guns for bent barrels to explain why you missed a woodcock at 10 yards flying straight away down an old roadbed. It’s all part of the hunting experience.

My favorite outdoor writer, Gene Hill, once wrote, “At home a friend will ask, ‘Been bird hunting?’ You will say that you have, and when he asks, ‘Have any luck?’ you will think of what you have held in your heart instead of your hand, and then answer that you certainly did—without a doubt.

As I have grown as a hunter, one thing is truer than ever. It is not about bagging game or counting trophies. It is about the people and places I get to go and share it with. That is what makes hunting the grandest of sports.

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Pete Rogers
Outdoor writer

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Facts referenced from: FactRetriever