A Time of Sharing

Posted on March 29, 2016

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“Turn around slowly, time is a racer.

The wink of an eye takes you from here to there.

Turn around slowly and treasure your days here.

These precious moments may come to be rare.”

                                                                                         David Kauffman

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Every one of us is given the same twenty-four hours each day; the distinction lies in how that time is spent. Philosopher William James once said, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” Ben Franklin said of time, “that is the stuff life is made of.” With each completed sweep of the second hand another minute, a gift freely given, has been granted to us. How sad that in many instances we rush to grow up and upon reaching the twilight of our years recognize the value of this un-recapturable period and long to be children once again. Perhaps that is why the Psalmist implored, “teach us to number our days,” for he knew all too well the days of our years would, “soon be cut off and we fly away.”

 

An Investment

 

Every dad that hunts has either experienced or yet longs for the day when his son or daughter accompanies him on their first hunt. It’s a right of passage, and when success is met, no detail is ever forgotten. Mom may remember the child’s first word spoken, first step taken, and the anxiety of placing the fledgling on the school bus for the initial trip away from the security of the nest; but dad, who may or may not be able to recount such events, can always recall with animated imagery his time spent in the woods with his offspring. Although I’ve had some tremendous experiences thus far, fulfilled many personal goals and harvested some incredible whitetails under daunting conditions, these accomplishments pale in comparison to the many magical moments spent afield in the company of my son. When I watched him take his first buck under my guidance twenty-four years ago, I committed every nuanced detail of the entire hunting experience to memory. Beaming with parental pride I stood, gazing upon the scene about me, attempting to selfishly capture every moment of this treasured occasion. It was at this moment when I fully comprehended the profound words written by Archibald Rutledge. “A dad likes to accomplish things in the woods, but I guess he gets more real pleasure out of having his sons accomplish what he knows is not so easy to do.”

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With the introduction of a youngster to the grand sport of deer hunting comes certain demands faced by all who teach: responsibility, character, patience and sacrifice. When coaching a child, bits and pieces of our own experiences are transferred to their account. Little eyes watch our every move and small ears hang on every syllable. They are learning by example. It has often been said, “more is caught than taught” and therefore what we personify to these young minds through our words and deeds must be above reproach. All that have voluntarily done so understand completely the gift they are bestowing.

Yes, it can be counted on with certainty that the young greenhorn will invariably snap a few branches and twigs while following in your footsteps. They will indeed become fidgety and easily distracted. Undoubtedly, there will be occasions when the model hunting situation begins to favorably unfold, a situation you have diligently prepared for that suddenly and without warning is vanquished due to a sudden movement or an uncontrolled sneeze by your pupil and you watch helplessly as the opportunity floats away like a dead leaf riding the current of a swift brook. It must be remembered, when making an investment, regardless of how many deposits that are made, patience becomes paramount if we are to fully realize the maximum return. While the disappointment of a failed chance may encumber the mind of a seasoned veteran, the event becomes just one of many impressions imbued upon the protégé.

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Deer hunting, enchanting and invigorating as it is, cannot hope to compete with the fast paced, action packed activities of today that vie for the adolescent’s attention. There was a time when rural America was the norm and children grew up in families that routinely hunted. Woods lore and whitetail wisdom became a heritage inherited by each successive generation. Sadly, as our land has shrunk due to urban sprawl, so too has the number of our future recruits due to the ting-tong of a more seductive bell. This detachment, in part, is the result of parents busily focusing on temporal needs with little to no interest in hunting, and our deer hunting past has been all but forgotten within the educational classroom. In Romancing The Deer Camp, Rob Wegner accurately depicts prevailing sentiments when he writes, “Our current disconnection from our great past undermines deer hunting’s acceptability in modern society.”

Once upon a time school systems understood the values of hunting and dismissed for opening day of deer season. The classes’ youthful participants eagerly anticipated the annual hiatus. Accomplished deer hunters were heroes to this impressionable lot. Regrettably, at present, these attitudes have been archived only to collect dust on some obscure bookshelf.

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Let’s face it, without spring’s arrival of fawn recruitments whitetail populations dwindle. Likewise, as our population of deer hunters age, with fewer beginners replenishing the ranks, we stand a real chance of one day being classified as “endangered species.”

 

What Does That Mean for the Sport?

 

Most, if not all state wildlife agencies are funded primarily through license sales. This money is utilized by trained biologist entrusted to manage our wildlife. Game wardens, the protectors of our fauna, are remunerated out of that same reserve. As hunting numbers decrease, this available financial resource shrinks as well. The results come in the form of staff reduction, ill-equipped personnel, poor working conditions and, eventually, apathy.

Retail merchants, distributors, publishers and manufacturers of hunting-related items also stand to lose potential income with the decline of new inductees. Hunters typically spend billions of dollars annually on rifles, bows, clothing, accessories, seed, videos, periodicals,  ammunition and more. Travel to hunting destinations, lodging and outfitting are all part of the money trail. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the well-spring begins to evaporate, the flow of water cascading down the falls is reduced dramatically.

A decade ago Judy Enck of Cornell University speculated on the future of hunting:

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The future for hunting looks bleak, given prevailing social values coupled with recent and projected trends in American demographics. Certainly without, and perhaps even with extraordinary intervention efforts on a scale we’ve never seen before, hunting is going to continue to decline over the foreseeable future.

We hope that interest in hunting in America early next century will not be restricted to the domain of historians! We are convinced that hunting in America is at a crossroads, either hunting advocates will get ahead of the problem with innovative programs, or we will watch painfully as our hunting heritage fades. We hope we will not be the generation responsible for allowing hunting to pass away, rather than passing it on in good health to future generations.

 

Self-Centeredness

 

Far too often we have selfishly placed the worth and significance of the hunt in “big racks and trophy class specimens”. In our quest to fulfill this desire; to be the guy on the magazine cover; to place our name in the record book, we have temporarily lost sight of the real and lasting values that hunting engenders. If we are to propagate our remaining wooded terrain with exuberant young disciples, then our own personal objectives must be sacrificed on the alter of others. Photographer Freeman Patterson illustrates the importance of placing self on the back burner, “On those frosty mornings when I grab my camera and tripod, and head out into the meadow behind the house, I quickly forget about me. I stop thinking about what I’ll do with the photographs, or about self-fulfillment, and lose myself in the sheer magic of rainbows in the grass. Letting go of self is an essential precondition to real seeing.”

A Return on the Investment

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The single most asked question of me following the deer season is “how did you do this fall?” I’m sure this query is not unique only to me, but is posed often in many different circles. Despite the outcome, no matter how many deer fall to our weapon, regardless of size or configuration of antlers, seldom will the gratification last beyond the following hunt. If we are to be truly rewarded, to find lasting satisfaction, then we need to pursue the trophies that matter the most. Several states have now instituted youth hunting days where only the child carries the weapon. In the company of an adult, they, on this special day have the whitetail world at their disposal. Never should there be restrictions placed upon them as to what should be taken, does and spikes alike need to be fair game.

 

Conclusion

 

If our hunting heritage is to be preserved and we agree that the youth are the key to that future, then candidly we need to inquire of those who would redundantly quiz us on our success and ask them, “Did you make an investment by taking a child hunting last fall?”

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“Life is short but filled with potential. All of us have the ability to make a memory with those we love. Realize your deer hunting experiences amount to far more than a rack on the wall or meat in the freezer. Racks and meat vanish in a moment, but the lessons learned will last a lifetime.” – Charles J. Alsheimer

 

All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

© 2016 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer