Monday, December 5, 2011
Reconciling The Wild Life
I hate not hunting. Truly despise the thought. Work or weddings, enmity seeps from otherwise bloodless and paralyzed veins when collared to another facet of the Real World. Every hunt I make is an event I’ve looked forward to my whole life. And each time the sun sets, a creeping feeling whispers that this may be the last time I get to hunt. Silly, but certainly palpable. There are no pills for this fear. I suppose this is one of the reasons I write - to maintain a written history of the fun and remember the Good Old Days.
This is the second anniversary of The Wild Life, in its current form. Also, the 250th post. And, oh, there’s been no lack of hunting. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve gone back and visited with the past. What a strange chapter to a long-ish, fairly productive hunting career.
When I got this site cranked up, I was fading out of the trophy deer hunting. The previous five years, I dedicated myself to leases and the pursuit of nice bucks. I was successful meeting my expectations some years and exceeding them in a couple others. But with the money I wrapped into this, I realized I was missing out on a lot of the rest.
If you’re a far gone antler crank, good for you. But living in Florida, whitetail expectations are little tempered compared to the Holy Land of the Midwest. I wanted to snoop around more, spread myself thinner in the hunting world. And in this, too, I’ve been mostly successful.
Over the course of this blog, I’ve really come to enjoy gator and duck hunting. Not just the actual hunts but learning about these pursuits. The gear has been fun to collect. After a dozen years of deer and turkey, one kinda maxes out on what he or she wants to buy. I think, also, the factors that make these hunts so much fun is what is lacking in today’s deer and turkey hunting world.
One is opportunity. Deer have gotten expensive. When I started out on my Antler Quest, a Georgia lease was a reasonable number – as was gasoline. Quality deer management took hold, and all of a sudden, bragging about big bucks became taboo because no leaseholder wanted to lose their spot to someone with big bucks of the green variety if word leaked out about local monsters. Leases in Florida are even worse since the demand for land is so high. Osceola’s are part of this equation, too.
Duck hunting, in particular, is on the rise in these parts because of the lack of deer opportunity. Public lakes are accessible, as are most coastal waters, and there’s plenty of game at which to shoot. They may not all be Duck Commander-style hunts, but if you can’t find a place to splash waterfowl in Florida, you simply aren’t trying that hard.
The other thing that I enjoy about ducks is the camaraderie. Now, I love a treestand. It gets me right in ways years of therapy would be unable to accomplish. I feel recharged after a cool evening in the stand. And I love venison a whole lot more than duck breast. But I have quota tags for a duck hunt and a deer hunt for the same weekend in January. When I study my chances of catching up to a six-point or better on public land with a bow, or BS-ing with buddies in a duck blind, blasting away at teal – well, it may take more than a flip of a coin to get me to ride that climber up a pine. Heck, I even flew to Montana, Land of Mulies and Pronghorn, to shoot ducks last fall. Would do it again in a heartbeat.
So, yes, I’ve chronicled a change in my Fall Routine, and it’s been fun. Luckily, gator hunting doesn’t interfere with deer. It sure is exciting, and I wouldn’t have bothered paying for those tags if I’d had feeders to fill and food plots to plant in another state. Two years ago, I took a December weekend off of deer to hunt bobwhite at a Georgia plantation. I’ve done more predator hunting since this blog’s inception than ever before. Done more small game hunting, in general. Yikes, I’ve even gotten married and had twins since two Decembers ago.
The other thing that has changed in this transition has been my utilization of public land. Besides a missed opportunity on a gobbler a couple springs ago, I’ve not really tapped into much luck on these properties. But, I will say, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly, how gorgeous and well-kept most places I’ve been are. I’m impressed. The game is there, and it’s not necessarily the land’s fault I’m not tagging out – I’m not really left with as much time to scout as in the past. That’s a critical component to success. A public land buck and gobbler is high on my list of priorities at the moment. I need to work harder at it, which I should probably do soon.
For despite the embarrassment of riches I’ve lightly detailed above, I want more! I’m toying with the notion of another Georgia lease. It’s not exactly the most financially sound decision in the world, but I feel the itch to chase that Antler High once more. The way I figure, friends have to stop getting married in October and November eventually. I’m not that popular. That should open up a few weekends a year. Ducks can be done on the weekdays if all is planned correctly and after the rut in November. I’m not sure how this will fit with potential invites to other states next season, but I’m sure it can work. I feel like a running back carrying multiple defenders on his back just trying to cross a goal line that never gets closer.
That’s my bag of issues, though. Want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, or otherwise visit my site. I try to keep it entertaining for those who want to burn some time; informative for those looking for answers. I’m a Jack-of-all-Trades and legitimate Expert-on-Nothing.
Looking ahead, it should be a productive next couple of years. Duck season has only just begun. Hog hunts a-plenty coming. I just signed on to a new lease in Central Florida with a few deer, hogs, and it's going to have an awesome dove field. There's also a terrific number of predators. You can guess what I’ll be doing come February after the other seasons fizzle. Then gobblers, hogs, gators, early deer, early duck, blackpowder..it keeps coming...hopefully.
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