I’ll have to make a confession here. When I played Duck Hunt on the Nintendo as a child, I would be 1 inch from the screen. And I still wasn’t a great shot.
And while I’m being honest, I also shot the dog when he laughed at me. (Just to clarify for any non-80’s kids: the dog in the game, not the actual family dog.)
Both of my brothers hunted when I was growing up, but I never really got into it. Every Christmas, they would ask for a camo shirt or some sort of bottle of deer urine – but I would ask for a book or video game or some other inside oriented thing. Any surprise I’m a computer programmer now?
But, I saw this in my front yard this morning:
And I saw this in my back yard while we were renovating:
These days, I definitely see the benefit of hunting, and I want to hunt – but there are some things about myself that I’m going to have to get over.
1. I Hate Waking Up Early
The last few years I’ve been self employed, which means instead of waking up to an alarm I generally work from when my wife goes to sleep until I can’t keep my eyes open. There have been a few times that I went to bed after my my wife woke up to get ready for work. So it’s safe to say I’m a night owl.
Hunting, on the other hand, is early. Early early.
I went dove hunting with my brothers-in-law this past weekend, and Ben said we could sleep in until 7am because it was “vacation.” Generally, in hunting, if you get to your spot after the sun is slightly up, you’ve lost your chance. Actually – there seems to be a trend among men that in order to prove your personal commitment and general manliness, you get up earlier than everyone else. 6am bible studies… 5am mastermind groups… 3am golf tee time… (Ok – maybe last one hasn’t happened yet, but just wait.)
I get it, for the most part. The reason most people do those things that early is because they have to get to work by 8 or so, and they have full evenings. I’m very blessed that I’m “in the office” whenever my laptop is on. But I’ll always opt for the later slots – the men’s groups and coffee appointments that are in the evening.
But still no decaf – I’ve got work later.
2. I Don’t Like Being Cold
The further south you go, the warmer it is – so moving from Kentucky to Tennessee did give me slightly warmer winters and summers. My perfect temperature is upper 70’s inside or mid 80’s with a good breeze. I prefer ‘extreme’ hot to ‘extreme’ cold hands down. But don’t go crazy… If I had to choose between 140°F and 40°F – even though 40°F is “colder,” it’s the obvious choice.
But, TN is not immune to ridiculously cold temps, especially the last few years. Early this year, my band decided to schedule our outdoor photo shoot on what turned out to be the coldest weekend of the year, in the teens. Or – if it wasn’t actually the coldest, it was the coldest that I was outside all year. Oh – and we took pictures by a lake. All day. I shivered uncontrollably, and when I was given the “action” signal from the photographer, I put my best acting abilities to use. “I’m not cold,” I tried to tell myself. “It’s blazing hot out here.”
But I was cold. And it was not blazing hot out there.
So, a number of the photos had to be thrown out simply because I looked like I was in horrible pain – and I was. (To be fair, though, mine were not the only grimaces that caused us to toss some of the shots) I’m pretty sure the “keeper” shots we have now have been photoshopped so that I don’t have extremely pale skin with an extremely red nose. I’m not going to ask Johan though, because then I can act like he didn’t. But you and I know he did.
Anyhow, most of the “worthwhile” hunting seasons are scheduled during the freezing cold. I’m planning on going bow hunting this year, and the season starts at the end of September – so I’m hoping the temp won’t drop too much by then. (Though the immediate drop in temp over the last few days squashes my hope a bit.)
I suppose this year I’ll be the one asking for warm camo for Christmas.
3. I’m A Very LOUD Person
Holly often whispers “shhhhh” to me when I think I’m talking in a normal tone of voice – especially when we’re getting ready for bed. She’ll follow it up with a soft, “You don’t have to yell” – and again, I think I’m simply being audible. I always say it’s because I’m a Stevenson. (Hey, Stevensons – admit it. We’re loud.) But it also could be because I’ve been in a rock band for almost 8 years, was in another one in college, and have been playing loud music for a really long time.
When you’re lying in wait for your prey to approach, any noise you make lets them know that you’re there and that they probably don’t want to be. I suppose I won’t be making as much noise when I’m hunting by my lonesome (I don’t think I’m loud when I talk to myself), but so far I’ve only gone hunting with other people. And I have the uncontrollable urge to socialize with them.
4. I’m Not Good at Sitting Still
I can lay still – that’s easy; I enjoy sleeping. But sit me down with nothing to do and you’ll get the least amount of focus possible from me. Hyperactivity was my best friend as a kid.
I can focus hardcore. While I’m programming, it’s easy for me to get into the zone and lose track of time because I’m coding up a storm. But when I don’t have an all consuming focus, I’m as distracted as a cat chasing three laser pointers.
With nothing to do, my mind wanders. I think that can be a good thing – because of that, I’m a songwriter, and I recently finished writing my first novel (more on that later). Letting my mind wander allows me to create other worlds in my head, and I try to put that down on paper when possible.
But when you’re hunting, you have to sit still and be focused – because otherwise, all of your preparation and still-sitting is for nothing when you either scare something off, or something passes right in front of you and you’re unaware.
5. I’m Still Not Fond of Killing Things
The first dove I killed, I prayed over it, thanking God for creating animals for us to eat, because I needed to remind myself that it was a good thing. The first chicken I killed, I had to put my head between my knees because I was getting incredibly nauseous. We, in the “civilized” world, are so completely disconnected from our food source that we generally don’t think about the death of animals anytime we bite into a juicy steak or a glorious piece of bacon.
I’m trying to get better about that, eating less processed food, and paying attention where everything actually comes from. (I started writing a separate blog post about that – maybe I’ll finish it one day.) I’m getting better in terms of killing and cleaning animals… I’ve slaughtered a handful of chickens since my first one, each getting easier. After hunting this weekend (I shot at a bunch, hitting nothing), a friend of my bro-in-law killed a squirrel, and three of us huddled around it and a youtube video, figuring out the best way to clean it.
But… Blood can still make me faint.
6. My Eyesight is Getting Worse
I have a computer programmer’s eyes. I code in the dark, with an dark color scheme.
If you turn on the light in whatever room I’m in, I will invariably hiss like Dracula seeing the sun. When going outside, I have to wear sunglasses even when it’s overcast, else I’ll end up with a headache in no time from all of my squinting. I don’t think that sunglasses will help me see deer/birds better.
I also have floaters in my eyes, which oddly look a lot like birds when I look up in the sky.
And lastly, I had a doctor diagnose me with Convergence Insufficiency, which means that when I’m tired, I have a hard time focusing my eyes on something. When people talked about “double vision,” I never thought that they were describing what I saw. And, unlike Foreigner, it never gets the best of me.
7. I’m Extremely Cheap
Just ask my wife. One of our most memorable fights early in marriage was caused by her finding a deal on some shirts. For me. She got three for the same amount that we agreed that she’d spend to get me one. She thought I’d be excited, but instead I was mad because she could have still only bought the one, and saved 2/3 the money.
I’ve loosened up a bit since then. And it helps that we’re both making better money than a part-time hotel room service attendant (me) and an ice cream scooper (her).
But hunting is not cheap. It’s expensive. Guns cost, like, a lot of money. And ammo prices have been rising almost as fast as gas. It pays for itself – as long as you kill some big game – but the initial cost could easily finance my bees, chickens, and whatever’s next for a number of years.
But, as a man, I like guns. So I’ll take the hit and buy some guns. And luckily, I got a crossbow for Christmas last year. And I’ve been practicing. So, watch out, trees right beside my future target.
Bonus! I Can’t Tell Birds Apart
This is a bonus, because it only pertains to bird hunting, which won’t make up the majority of my hunting experiences. Whenever birds flew overhead this weekend, I pretty much always looked at someone else to see if they were raising their gun first – because I had no idea what kind they were, and if they were in season. At the end of the day, I still didn’t know which ones were doves for sure, but I at least knew which ones I’d be thrown in jail for shooting.
I’ll let you live this time, bald eagle.