Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's up, Doc?

Some of you might be wondering what happened to all the hunting talk. After all, I took Washington State's Hunter Education class and even went scouting and trap shooting with a friend of mine.

Since then I've also visited my brother-in-law in Arkansas to go squirrel hunting. I had high hopes of making this Squirrel Gumbo.

So what happened?

Well, for one thing, I got skunked. Seems those country squirrels aren't quite as insouciant as their city cousins. I saw one all day and it made sure to keep plenty of brush between us before high-tailing out of sight.

More importantly, I must confess that I have not yet grown accustomed to walking the woods with a firearm. All my life I've been outfitted with binoculars or a compass or a mushroom knife—at most, a fishing rod. Bushwhacking around with a gun, truth be told, feels decidedly different. Suddenly I'm an interloper, an antagonist.

Yes, I realize this is all in my head, but that doesn't make it any easier.

I've also made a conscious decision to embrace my love of mushroom hunting and see where that leads. No doubt you've noticed the uptick in fungal-related posts.

Maybe the hurry-up mode with which I first approached hunting, as if trying to make up for lost time, was a mistake. Some things are easier to learn as a kid. Foreign languages and skiing, for instance. Given a choice, I think I'd rather go a-wandering with shotgun in hand than try conjugating Spanish verbs. So this is not the end of my short-lived hunting career, just a speed bump.

In case you were wondering.


Michael DeMarco said...

I grew up as a hunter then went to Alaska and lived with the Eskimos, homesteaded for years and hunted for the table. Then one day I realized that I was done killing. At the time it made me an odd ball and I have never preached about my change in outlook. I came to realizing it was the "hunting" while being in the wild and not the killing that appealed to me and once the context changed it became optional. Same with fishing. But I am 65 and I look back, not with regret, but with an appreciation of the time the place and how my own life has changed. I still question my choice to stop and I don't judge others since I know there are many good lessons to be learned by those who hunt and fish with the right intention and respect. Thanks for sharing your experience. Only a few more months till spring mushroom hunting!

Lance said...

Whenever I go hunting, I'm always looking for more than one thing. Most times if I can't find some moving quarry, I find some sort of edible mushroom. Any excuse to spend some time in the woods.

Anonymous said...

I hunt and fish and collect mushrooms, and acorns and anything else that's edible and free, but of these activities I'd have to say that hunting is by far the least enjoyable. I don't like al the technical issues of weapons and ammo or the legal issues of licenses and the often narrow geographical parameters that define where you can hunt without fearing a game warden. My gathering activities are also questionably legal but they don't make a lot of noise or involve the possibility of seriously injuring anyone so I am generally left alone to gather at my leisure. One way to avoid some of the pitfalls of hunting is to go primitive and use a bow and arrow or even just a really sharp stick; if you are at all like me then you aren't likely to really nab a grouse with these instruments but you are also unlikely to accidentally hit a passing hiker and they are also silent and can be practiced in the safety of your backyard without raising too many questions.

Keith said...

Hunting, foraging and trapping is the way to go.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Hate to say it, Lang, but we are all either interlopers and antagonists in the woods no matter what we bring with us -- or, if you take my point of view, we are all a part of nature, no matter what we bring with us.

The fish and the squirrel both die that we may eat. It's only the method that changes.

All this said, for God's sake don't hunt if you are not comfortable with the idea of it. Doing so would poison your thinking about the pursuit. Take your time, as you say, and if you decide you do want to hunt someday, I would be happy to show you what I know.

Until then, I got some blewits down here for ya...

Ra said...

It's funny that we've both embarked upon the 'hunting scene' at the same time. I have some of the same thoughts from time to time, but mostly I hold onto the hope that those will pass as I become more knowledgeable about the sport and have more experiences hunting.

Just starting out here, it feels like I am either alone or too reliant on a couple of my other friends that aren't as enthusiastic about getting out as I am. The latter is fine if my friends would go out, but currently, I've purchased a lot of items in order to go duck hunting and we haven't gone out once, and duck season is nearly at its end. My other friend flaked when it came to deer hunting, and even he didn't know where to go as it was his first year as well. I'd like to hunt turkey and elk, but that's more equipment, and more knowledge I don't have. When all of this adds up, it can be pretty overwhelming, and suddenly I feel like 'just keeping it simple' and sticking with what I already know. Of course, if we give up and go back to our 'safe' and 'tried and true' ways, we'll be fine, but we'll never break into a sport that we actually might enjoy, if only we could get over the learning curve.

pdieter said...

I'm sure your imbedded argument to get Riley an early hunting experience isn't lost on you...but I thought I'd just bring it up.

I share Michael's life experience (except not Eskimos but Igorots).

Langdon Cook said...

Thanks for the wise and inspiring comments everyone! This is a work in progress, obviously, so I will post my thoughts as they develop. The main thing right now is getting used to carrying a firearm. There's a lot of power in a gun, physically, psychologically, and metaphorically. One doesn't just blithely pick up a gun--or one shouldn't, at any rate.

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Thanks for the update, Lang. I was wondering, in fact.

Coming into hunting, I was ambivalent. So I hear what you're saying, especially regarding firearms. Like Hank said, there's no reason to push in that direction if it doesn't feel right. Hunting certainly isn't for everyone.

If you do continue in that direction, though, I look forward to hearing more and would be happy to correspond about the journey and any other speed bumps that surface along the way.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that you are closer than you think to being a hunter. You already spend a great deal of time in the woods foraging, observing, remembering berrypatches, etc. Now apply those skills to game. Look for game trails, scrapes, bedding areas, escape terrain, funnels, etc. Edges where two habitats meet are good (tree lines around clearcuts for example).

Regarding the guns, they are a lot less intimidating when you are really familiar with them (though never complacent). Buy some "snap caps" (dummy rounds) for you rifle and practice loading, unloading, chambering a round, firing (again with dummy rounds), working the safety, etc. Familiarity with these actions from practice will serve you well when you do the same actions in the cold pre-dawn dark, wearing gloves.

Here in the Cascades there isn't a lot of small game so you really end up in the deep end: it is either grouse and ducks or straight to deer and bear. I've been hunting for 6 years and still feel bad when I kill something. I hope I always do. But we enjoy the meat, and we take time to remember the animal when we eat it (not religious, just respectful) and unlike store bought meat, the animal was happy right up to the moment of death. My wife is a biology geek, so we usually end up looking at the stomach contents and find proof of a happy herbivore life.

On a foraging note, I don't know if you're aware that you can make maple syrup from our bigleaf maples. I'm on Vancouver Island and have been tapping about 15 trees on my small woodlot and have about 5 litres of syrup to show for it. Much more interesting flavour than the eastern stuff (strong vanilla, butter flavours), but more energy intensive, as lower sugar content means more water to boil. Still, a fun project to do with your kids. Sap should be running until end of February.

"Ms. Embree" said...

I am a vegetarian living in Haida Gwaii and the only thing that is bringing me closer to actually hunting it the idea of bow hunting. Fortunately for me there is a local organization SKIFFFS (Skidegate Inlet Food Fuelwood and Fitness Society) that makes archery very accesible for the community. Perhaps this could be a way to slowly lead in to hunting?

Anonymous said...

My Dad used to hunt squirrels when I was a kid in Wisconsin. My mom always made them into pot pie. It was my favorite treat. One year my new sister-in-law came for a family meal. She refuses to eat game (sigh), so Mom made a small chicken pot pie along with the larger squirrel one. It was a great opportunity to compare. No question about it, the squirrel was the absolute winner! Anyone who has a chance should try it at least once in their lifetime.