On Hunting

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There is far more to hunting today than I could ever have imagined at a young age…

The air is cold enough to freeze water to the grass on this morning that I choose to sit within a blind during deer season. There was a time when I hunted on mornings such as this with my boots frozen to the tree I had climbed into, as the sleet and drizzle fell. But with age comes wisdom, and now I find myself sitting within a wooden hunting blind with a propane heater keeping me warm.

These days I hunt more with a camera than a rifle, but I cannot say that I don’t enjoy good German sausage made from deer meat any less than someone else who does. There is something to getting up before daylight, walking within the early morning darkness, and wondering just what the light will reveal.

Often, these days, I find myself nodding off a bit waiting for sunrise to begin. I guess it has always been that way when I think back. But, eventually arrives a moment in between light and darkness when the brush seems to move on its own, fooling the eyes, manipulating the brain’s recognition system. It is amazing how many animals a person can see without seeing any. Yes, I have started to photograph a lot of scrub brush in my days and put a scope on nothing but shadows more than a few times. The wait is a guessing game and the preparation time far outweighs the moments that something can appear.

Eventually, however, what can amount to years of study as a child can produce the most amazing lessons as an adult. Learning to sit still, learning to be quiet, learning to breathe properly. Learning to move the eyes before slowly turning the head, learning to look for the animals, but first and foremost, learning to see movement.

I remember the first time I saw a digital transmission. As I understood it, unlike analog where each frame is a complete image, digital compression originally only transferred what changed from frame to frame and copied the rest.

Learning to hunt was comparable to digital processing. One looked constantly only for movement and in doing so trained the brain to notice only what changed; in other words one learned to copy in one's mind what was the same and to recognize movement as something that was different. The thought processing this opened up for me as a child, long before the digital generation in electronics even began to occur on the scale we know today, is mind boggling.

Learning to see what is different in the world can be a time consuming experience; especially when it is so easy to get lost in the comfortableness of wanting to see things as always being the same. But if you don’t learn to pick out the movement that is change, you will eventually become lost in the static world, duplicating what you cannot see as different, completely missing the change that most often is something far more wonderful than could ever have been imagined.