The season is upon us… and I don't mean the holiday season. I mean hunting season, one of my passions since I was 15 and it started with my father back in Canada.
Once hunting season starts, I retire the boat and my fishing rod and switch them out for a tree stand and a rifle.
The rifle season starts today - Monday, December 2nd - for me in New Jersey, and it's beautiful. The weather has changed and the leaves have started to fall. And this time of year, my main focus is to surround myself with the woods, connect with nature, and get up close and personal to life itself in its purest form.
I'm looking forward to the excitement. The night before the hunt, everyone is eager and counting down the hours until we walk into the woods.
Hunting's purpose and meaning, at least for me, is not about killing everything I see. The thrill of the hunt is more satisfying than a kill will ever be. I've sat in my tree stand on numerous trips, and I've watched more than a dozen deer walk by, play with each other, jump around - and I just watch.
Most of the time, I have no desire to shoot. I've gone eight years of hunting, in a row, without shooting one deer. But my passion and excitement for the sport never waivers.
I'd call myself a trophy hunter. I don't hunt for the meat or number of kills. After all, it is a sport. But I'm very selective in the bucks I decide to bring home. The experience in itself is the cake, and the trophy deer is the icing on top.
A lot of people set up trail cameras prior to the hunting season that take pictures of deer in the area. I don't. I like to let my imagination work instead. I don't want to clog that with technology.
By the way, all the hunting myths that you hear about, such as using scent spray and walking quietly into the woods, are totally false. I can't tell you how many times I've walked to my tree stand smoking a cigar. A deer has walked as close as 10 feet away from me, looked at me, sniffed the air as if they actually liked the Rocky Patel I was smoking, and did not move. I would stand there talking to the deer but it never talked back! We looked each other in the eye and connected on a deep level. It's as if we both respected one another and acknowledged it at that moment. It was majestic.
Camaraderie defines hunting for me. I have dear friends of mine - Jim Sr., Jim Jr., Steve, and many others - that I hunt with on a farm in South Jersey from December 2nd to January 18th. A huge part of the hunting experience are the friendships, the story telling, the rituals and the laughs.
The anticipation of opening day is special. We watch the weather channel hoping for ideal hunting conditions like kids tracking Santa on Christmas Eve.
Every night after the day's hunt is over, everyone regroups and goes back to the farm for dinner and every last person has a story to tell about their day in the woods: what they saw, what they heard, what they smelled, etc. It's a beautiful thing!