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Hunting Firsts

The importance and significance of remembering.

Everett's first deer.

I was born into hunting. I do not recall a time when it began, only that it has always been part of our family. My sisters hunted, albeit sharply decreasing as I, their only brother, grew up. Most of my first hunting memories are now obscured by three decades of hunts and the irrevocable effect of time. Even still, they mark great moments in my life. My first gun was a .410 break-action shotgun gifted to me after my grandfather passed along with all of his fishing gear I have long since lost. My first deer was with a lever action .30-30 gifted from that same grandfather to my father before it was placed in my hands.

I have a brightness in my eyes after stalking and killing my first antelope.

Firsts Deserve Recognition

There is something mysterious and demystifying in a new experience. What was once thought impossible is now seen with a greater confidence knowing it can after all be done. But then this success demands to be built upon and another challenge emerges. Hunters build on these failures unrelenting until we finally grasp our goals. This requires a celebration and usually a ritualistic initiation. Deer camps will “blood” hunters who take their first game by dipping a finger in the animal’s life force and drawing a cross on the forehead. It is an important recognition of the hunter’s efforts and the hunted’s sacrifice. Therefore, firsts need to be marked with solemnity but also applause

Firsts Prove Skills

I can recall with exacting perception my first archery bull elk I killed. I had been in that moment countless other times, but something had always interrupted by releasing an error. Each time I mentally noted that I would not make the same mistake. As this bull bugled from high above and pushed his cows down and in front of me, I went through my list wondering what could go wrong. Even as I chose my spot (and hit a little far back of it) and watched blood spurt from my arrow piercing his side, I held my breath until we found him four hours later. Those who hunt with a bow know the difficulty these self-imposed limitations create. Overcoming it requires a great amount of practice and a measure of Divine favor.

My mother after her first deer after many years.

Firsts Mark Achievements

I routinely bring new hunters to a ranch with a healthy whitetail deer population. It presents a minimal entry into hunting by providing a high chance of harvesting a doe. Taking a life is not a small thing and needs to be counted by those who would hunt. For these novices, anticipation has built as they passed hunter education, practiced with their rifle, and endured the cold waiting for a shot. Those who do not know cannot understand, but we who have experience know it better than all. When preparation meets opportunity there is success. Being a small part of these hunter’s first deer allows me to share in their excitement and also start them right. We can remove much of the anxiety of not knowing by walking alongside them.

Firsts Break Cycles

The false statistic “20% of the hunters kill 80%” of the game points us to a truth: many will continue to hunt as they always have and come home empty handed. For some, the experience is enough and I would argue they still bagged what they sought. But other hunters get frustrated with their empty freezers and blank walls, until they try something new. That first time its tried nothing may happen, but ultimately it proves itself out and a new skill or strategy is embraced.

Firsts Become Increasingly Rare

I have experienced the hunt in a measure beyond my deserving. My recent bison experience provided me with my most recent first, but I have to reflect much further back to recall the next. The pleasure of hunting changes with the combination of so many elements: age, pursuits, struggles, and locations. We enjoy the hunt in a different but not diminished satisfaction. Finding a new first after so many others renews our love of hunting. Perhaps that's why sportsmen who crown the latest peak immediately look for the next

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