When I first set forth to learn how to become a hunter, I made a promise to pass it on. Actually, several promises to several teachers. It seemed that anyone who was willing to teach me about hunting did so freely and only asked that I "pass it on".
So here I go. This season will be my first time taking on students who wish to become ethical hunters and providers of healthy meats for their families.
What I'm finding as I head down this path is that there is just as much letting go as there is supporting and providing guidance. Everyone has a different starting point. As a teacher, I try to correct as little as possible. I try not to tell people "do it like this" rather, I'll show and explain what the objective is.. As long as they are safe and ethical, it's ok that people do things differently than I do.
My first student, Gill began as many hunters do, with firearm training. This student is a full grown, adult man who has had a fair deal of firearm experience in the past. He already had the confidence to handle his rifle safely and comfortably. All we really worked on were some tips for sighting in his gun and helping him to stabilize his shot without a gun rest.
Our next step was to get into some camouflage clothing and say a prayer of thanks to the animals of the Forest. This is not a step I overlook because the few seconds it takes to express my gratitude for a life that is about to be given, helps create an immediate connection to my environment and deeply centers me. I pass this on too. It's not manditory to pray, however, in my view, it is manditory to have respect for our wilderness.
So after offering a pinch of tobacco and gratitude, we very slowly began to stalk our way into the wooded forest.
Stalking is much slower than you might think it is. Sometimes only taking one step and waiting a full minute before starting your next move. You see, as humans, when we walk on our two feet, it makes a very recognizable sound. One-two, one-two, one-two, one-two. The animals in the Forest can hear us from a long way off (assuming the wind doesn't blow your scent in their direction and give you away sooner).
Luckily for us, the wind was in our favor and our movements were slow and deliberate. Once we settled into an area where we'd be able to get a clear shot at a Deer should one make themselves available we settled into stillness.
Gill took to this like a duck to water. He didn't fidget, stir, adjust his seat, talk or make any sudden movements. He was so focused on being calm and still that he didn't even notice when I waved gently to get his attention. Solid focus. It was really so rewarding to see. This was not something that I taught him at all. I gave him the concept and he got it right away. He was able to mirror the quiet, undisturbed wilderness in his own energy. It was humbling to observe.
We heard a good number of Squirrels rustling around in the leaves but no Deer. We stayed for a couple of hours until it was took dark to shoot safely and didn't speak until we were out of the wood line.
Even though we did not harvest a Deer, we did not come out of the woods empty handed. Practicing that kind of focus and connection to the Wild is always worth the time spent.
So my gratitude today is not just to the Wildlands and Wildlife that make our world great, but to the people who want to learn more about it. To those who seek out a deeper connection to the foods they eat and act as shepherds of the land, the conservationists. Thank you to anyone who seeks to learn and pass it on.