The alarm clock begins to blare “egh, egh, egh”, I quickly open my eyes and I smile and just lay there in bed on my back for a moment. I breathe in deeply and say to myself in a quiet but excited voice “it’s opening day of bow season baby, oh yeah!” In one motion I jump up and out of my bed. I walk to the bathroom, brush my teeth, bang out a quick scent-free shower, head down the stairs and turn the coffee maker on. For the moment I am respecting everyone’s slumber state on the couches in the living room and in the bunk beds down stairs. I fire up the frying pan and scramble some eggs and cheese. We will sit a good 6 hours this morning, so we don’t want growling stomachs.
I then tip toe into the living room of the farmhouse and I load the CD player with Shaggy and as I can hear the sound start coming on, I crank it up on full blast. As I stood there in my boxer shorts, I laughed hysterically as Jay and Steve came shooting off the couches terrified as did my buddies RJ and John in the bunk room maybe 15 feet away. Soon I have been gang tackled in the living room and we all begin to laugh and start chanting “opening day yo, opening day, opening day yo, opening day!” Thirty minutes later it is time to make our move. I needed to show a couple of the guys how to get to their stands so it was a good 90 minutes before daybreak as we headed out.
After successfully aligning all my pals that are hunting with me on this opening day, it was time for me to make my way to my stand. For weeks I had strategized for this day and calculated wind and weather dependent upon where I would sit. The day’s lucky stand would be the Salad Bar Slammer, for the wind was out of the northwest. The Slammer is located along the edge of a cedar swamp that turns into a crab apple line of trees and then lets out into a corn field. The stand, given the year’s crop rotation, should make for an exciting opening morning.
As I park the golf cart off the road, I carefully snag my bow and backpack and get on my way. As I begin my journey, I am conscious of each step that I take. I am mindful of every branch or twig that might make noise if stepped on. One wrong move and I know my morning chances of scoring Mr. Big could be over in a flash. I walk in as straight of a line as possible to minimize the amount of scent my boots might leave on the ground. Amazingly, I do not jump a single deer and the wind stays in my face just like planned. I ease my way to my tree, which is an old tall hemlock pine that is nestled in between the apple trees and the swamp. From my vantage point at 22 feet, I will be able to see the edge of the field. If and when he comes I should be able to put my eyes on him first, allowing me to be prepared to close the deal once in range.
A clean path in life is always best. I am not saying that we need to be camouflaged at all times, however leaving a clean path is typically preferred. Too often in life our ego gets in the way and this is no longer possible to achieve. We say something hurtful to a co-worker, to a friend, to our spouse, or even our children. We say something that we immediately regret. I believe that by consciously focusing on a clean path that respects the fragility of most relationships, situations and people we end up in a far better place in life. Ask yourself this question: when you think about a path or a wake in water, what type of wake do you want to leave?
In a deeper life sense, a wake is something that represents the end of our human life. When our friends, relatives, and acquaintances come together to say good-bye and we are in our place of worship, or in a funeral home, or about to be put into the ground, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be known as a person that was mindful and thoughtful of people and the universe, or were you a drainer that sucked energy from the world? For me, that choice is easy. I want to be known by my family and friends as someone who was loved and loved others. I want to be known as someone who lived a life driven by passion, love, and achievement. Always more important to me than financial success or gain will be how I made people feel. Did I contribute to the world more than I took from it or did I leave a messy trail? A true steward of the outdoors is always mindful of his or her path. This hopefully transcends into general life as well, and I believe it often does.
Did I shoot a deer that opening morning, you may ask? Does it really matter? To me it does not, as I remember the alarm clock, the blaring of the music, the showing my friends where they needed to be, the stealth climb up the tree, the way I felt as the sun rose on another opening day of bow season, the rush of it all, the amazing memories. To me it is far more about the moment, and far less about the kill. I believe that deep down, 99% of all true hunters feel this way. It is too bad that as a society we have allowed ourselves to only view the distinct differences of opinion, instead of the commonality of passion and life. No matter whether you are an anti-hunter, a hard-core hunter, or neutral on the whole subject, let us look at what we have in common, not in opposition. Let us think about leaving a clean path together and let us create memories that move the world forward.