In the world of hunting, the pursuit of elusive game often becomes a passion bordering on obsession. It's a journey that demands countless hours, early mornings, and an unrelenting determination to bag that prized trophy. A truly relentless struggle, from enduring ticks clawing at your skin to waiting patiently for a moment that may never materialize. The question that frequently arises is, "Is it worth the hunt?"
I recently found myself perched in a maple tree, surrounded by the rustling, orange leaves that still managed to break up my silhouette, as I set out on a deer hunt. My decision to be there was more about the experience than the expectation of success. Motivated by the fresh rub from what is most likely a smaller buck. Little did I know that this outing would lead to a profound shift in my perspective on hunting.
The day was progressing, and it was around 5:30 PM when my surroundings offered an unexpected surprise. Without warning, a group of wood ducks swooped in with a demanding whoosh and landed gracefully in a nearby stream, I pulled out the rangefinder, yup, no more than 30 yards away from my tree stand. This stream was just wide enough for these wood ducks to land comfortably, yet small enough to shield them from the prying eyes of hunters scouring the larger ponds. However, there was one exception - me, a hunter perched in a nearby tree.
As I contemplated leaving, I watched in awe as the wood ducks began to paddle and dabble in the water without a care in the world. In that moment, I felt like an intruder in their world, a silent observer of the peaceful and unspoiled realm of these magnificent birds. It was a humbling experience that shifted my focus and brought forth an important question: "Is it worth the hunt?"
The dilemma I faced was whether to designate this spot solely for deer hunting, in pursuit of a potential source of sustenance for the upcoming winter, or to embrace it as an early-season wood duck blind. Wood ducks, after all, provide the prized delicacy... I know it as "red meat of the sky." This encounter with the wood ducks had transformed my perception of hunting. It showed me that hunting isn't solely about the pursuit of game for sustenance; it's also about connecting with nature, observing its beauty, and savoring its bounty.
The decision to prioritize wood ducks as a potential food source is not just about sustenance but a testament to the versatility and richness of the hunting experience. It's about celebrating the diverse flavors that hunting has to offer and relishing the stories and recipes that accompany it.
Saturday Evening – The Solo Wood Duck
Later in the week, on a Saturday evening, I returned to the same spot. Armed with newfound knowledge and the wisdom to conceal my silhouette within the sawgrass, I managed to harvest a female wood duck.
However, the accomplishment came at the cost of my waders, which I tore while retrieving the bird. It was a stark reminder of why I had acquired a faithful hunting companion, my dog, in the first place. Yet, given the tick-infested surroundings, I decided to let her rest at home, knowing she deserved the R&R.
The hunt for the wood duck wasn't just about the thrill; it was about the determination to get the job done, no matter the obstacles. It was a testament to the hunter's spirit, a relentless drive that pushes us to embrace the wilderness in all its challenging glory.
Thursday Evening – Pheasants and Dallas
Thursday evening marked a new adventure. My friend Zach and I embarked on a hunt at a nearby farm that stocks pheasants. We brought along Dallas, a dog now coming into her own and was eager to showcase her skills.
Our efforts led to the flushing of four pheasants. While I may have missed one shot, the other two were pushed right toward us, and I made the shots count. With my hunting quota fulfilled, I stepped aside to allow Zach to take the stage. Watching Dallas work alongside Zach, gave her that much more experience in diversity and the extended endurance of a hunt.
The final pheasant proved to be a humorous and unforgettable moment. It took refuge in a
tiny, toppled-over cornstalk bush, and the banter about smelling the pheasant's distinctive aroma filled the air. Just as we reached the bush and the joke was made "I think I smell it...", the bird burst out, eluding our shots.
Dallas, true to her nature, high-tailed it after the fleeing rooster, running a 100-yard dash before circling it back to Zach. The chase was on, and Zach managed to make a decisive double shot, securing the bird.
The sight of Dallas's unwavering determination as she navigated the thorny labyrinth of the bush was a spectacle to behold. Her tenacity paid off as she retrieved the last rooster of the evening, cementing her status as my trusted hunting companion.
A Week of Reflection
This incredible week of hunting marked the final days of my 20's, with my
30th birthday fast approaching. It was a time of reflection, both on the adventures of the past and the possibilities that lie ahead. The echoes of each flushed rooster resonated in my memory, a testament to the unique experiences the woods have to offer.
Hunting is not just a pursuit; it's a profound connection to the natural world, a journey filled with stories and experiences that enrich our lives. It's a reminder that the true worth of the hunt goes beyond the meat in the freezer. It encompasses the bonds formed, the lessons learned, and the beauty of the wilderness that forever draws us back into its embrace.
With my loyal hunting companion, Dallas, by my side and Zach as a good friend and partner in Valley Views, I can't help but to consider this as Zach's official rookie year of hunting. Together, we are learning and experiencing everything hunting has to teach us, and it's a journey that continues to redefine the answer to that timeless question, "Is it worth the hunt?" In these moments of unity with nature and the camaraderie of friends, the answer becomes clearer with each passing adventure – it's absolutely worth it.
Quick Tips and Insights:
Pro-tip Hunting Reminder: Make sure you pack that role of TP in your hunting bag. You’re going to need it.
Pheasant Hunting Season is in full effect and waiting for you to hit your next Pheasant Stocked Area. The state of Massachusetts will stock 40,000 Pheasants that you can hunt until December 31st. Be ready for your next hunt and know what your doing out there in the field by learning more at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/pheasant-hunting-regulations.
Add another Bird to your Table this Fall on your next Turkey Hunt. It’s quite a different ballgame than Spring Turkey Hunting. Help increase your best percentage chance of getting your Thanksgiving meal by brushing up on Fall Turkey Hunting. It’s highly worth the read, learn more at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/fall-wild-turkey-hunting-tips.
Week 3 of Pheasant Hunting is upon us, plan your next Hunt at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-pheasant-stocked-area.
This Week's Visited Stocked Areas: