The echo of my shotgun could be heard traveling down the canyon and getting quieter the farther it traveled into the distant dense forest. I look down at the ground and see it sitting twenty five feet in front of me. As I walked closer with the shot still echoing in my ears, my heart stops. It is still alive. My adrenaline rushes again and my mind goes into a panic. I chambered another round quickly and put the gun up to my shoulder. As I look at the creature down the barrel of the gun I begin wonder. Do I shoot it again? Should I wait? As more questions fill my head, a single thought overcame the panic that was starting to set in, “Just wait.” I lower my gun and took a couple of steps closer. We make eye contact. It felt as if time stopped around us. I was taken off guard seeing how this creature was trying to make sense of what was happening to it during during final seconds of its life. And then the neck crocked back, its feathered eyelid closed shut, and my heart felt like it stopped.
My first experience hunting Dusky Grouse in the Targhee National forest of Idaho is something that I will never forget. Everything about that initial hunt is burned into my memory and for a good reason. It wasn’t only my first time hunting, it was a major step toward embracing a new lifestyle. I am in my late twenties and did not hunt at all until that day. I had been out hunting before, but this moment was the first animal I had killed. I was not expecting this experience to have as big of an impact on me then it did.
I was born and raised in Southern California. My family was not one of hunters or anglers, but I was still taught to respect life and any living creature. I remember going to the tide pools at the beach as a young boy with my family. My mom would always point out all the different animals and creatures that made those rocky shores their home. I was fascinated by the diversity of life that could exist in such small and rough areas. This love and fascination for animal life only grew and deepened as I became older. I later moved to Idaho for school when I turned eighteen. As I started to settle down in this beautiful state I started to love everything about this area; yes even the winters have grown on me. The diversity of life and vast scenery started to make me think more about my own personal, mental, and physical health. I came to realize that part of this was to better understand my own impact on the environment around me. A desire to be more independent started to develop. As I started to feed this desire, a personal disconnect was found. It was a disconnect between me and the meat I was eating. I knew that my meat was from an animal but I wanted to understand more than that and have a deeper connection to the source. This is when I began to teach myself about hunting. I uncovered a desire to harvest my own meat and restore that connection I never really had with the source of meat, that being the animal and the life it has.
It has been a over year now since I decided to start hunting. The hunting journey has been an interesting one. I mean this in a positive way. I have had to reevaluate my opinions and beliefs that I had thought were set in stone. My appreciation for life other than my own and in general has deepened. Hunting has produced emotions and feelings that I have never had to sort through in my entire life until now. These new opinions and beliefs that I am developing and using to create a foundation in my life have not been easy to sort through. I often find myself having conversations in my head going back and forth. Trying to represent each side of the argument. These mental debates usually end in a stalemate at least until I have a new experience or learn something pertinent to the argument. My point is that my decision to hunt and regain a connection with life outside of my own has pushed me and helped me become a better person. It has made me want to only eat meat that I have had a hand in processing. So far it has been a worthwhile journey, a journey that will not end anytime soon.
This "Late Life Hunter and Angler" series will be a way of documenting my journey. I hope it will show my mental and physical struggles that I will no doubt have. I plan to share what I learn throughout my journey. I want it to be a means of discussing topics of hunting, the environment, fishing, and conservation. It will be a place to organize my thoughts and help me better cultivate my growth. I hope it is a way not only for me to grow but for others to become inspired to grow in their own way. I want this series to become a place of thoughtful discussion that catalyzes personal growth for you and me. So feel free to follow along and share your experiences. I would love to hear them