As hunters we all have those hunts that are considered to be dream hunts. We have all grown up watching and idolizing people like Jim Shockey who are able to travel and participate in exotic hunts all over the world. I used to dream about Canadian moose, wolf, or bear hunts. While other children were dreaming about baseball, and football visions of axis in Hawaii were frolicking in my head. I would love to be able to travel to Africa for some exotic hunts.
Earlier today I was presented with a seemingly simple question. “What do you value more the thrill of the hunt, or the thrill of the kill?” This query set off a myriad of thoughts fighting through my mind. Although I realize there is no right or wrong answer to this question. My instinctive reaction was that they are one in the same. If you don’t have the hunt, then you most certainly will not have the kill. Then I thought about how much of a blessing it is to be able to sustain life by taking a life, so I must value the kill more, right? Not so fast. After a long battle in my thought process I came to the realization that the hunt is the most important part to me. This for now is my final answer.
What finally led me to this answer? I am glad you asked. I thought about why I hunt, and I realized that I don’t kill everything I see while I am in the woods. I enjoy the crackling of leaves as squirrels play. The song of the cicadas soothes me like no other tune ever written. The rippling creek melodically charms any work related stress I might have had away. So with this I formed my opinion that the hunt is more valuable, and the kill is just an added blessing.
This led me to think about my dream hunts, and what those would be. Now that I realized I’m doing it for more reasons than just taking a life, do I still consider those exotics to be my dream hunts? No, I don’t. Now don’t get me wrong. I would love and cherish the opportunity to do those hunts, but they are the hunts that fill my dreams at night. I often replay my first deer over and over in my head, but the dreams do not end there. One of my favorite hunts to reminisce over was unsuccessful, or so I thought. I can remember being maybe 10 years old following my father and grandfather walking through the woods scouting. At that time I didn’t realize what I was learning, but I still remember many of those teachings.
I also love to remember shooting my grandfather’s .270 for the first time. I had probably put close to 200 rounds through a .30-30, and it couldn’t be much different right? My first thought after squeezing the trigger was “man this thing is loud.” Through the laughter and the throbbing of my eye I realized that most of the sound derived from the scope connecting with my skull. After making sure I was conscious my Dad and Papa laughed harder than I can remember them ever laughing. For a brief moment my Papa wasn’t sick. Seeing turkey in full strut for the first time was another amazing memory.
My little cousin and uncle called in two nice sized long beards my first time ever turkey hunting. My cousin and I posted up and waited, the show of strutting and gobbling those two birds put on, was nothing short of astonishing. I of course missed mine. One of my favorite most unsuccessful hunts was sitting in a ground blind with a new girlfriend. We had the perfect set up. My blind was on a ridge overlooking a flat with a creek and a persimmon tree. It was a beautiful silent morning. As we sat there in the dark silently waiting for day to break I started noticing this strange noise.
If I had to describe it I would say that it sounded like what I would imagine a hog and a bear fighting sounded like. The second time I heard it the sound became clear. My belly was screaming for help. I was so embarrassed. Then to my surprise her stomach started speaking back. Our bellies were singing Bohemian Rhapsody in some strange foreign language that we could never understand. We sat there and laughed the whole morning. I later made that beautiful huntress my bride.
If you consider the kill to be the measure of how successful a hunt is then you would consider these hunts very unsuccessful. I on the other hand realize that I learned lessons that transcend the realm of hunting from all of these encounters. To me these are the most successful hunts I’ve ever been involved with. That in turn makes these my dream hunts. These are the hunts that have created the man that is putting this in to words. I often pray that I have many more hunts like this small sample. I long for the day my daughter (and one more if the Lord willing) can join me for these adventures. I can not wait until I have the opportunity to sit in a blind with my wife again. These occasions are what I fantasize about as a hunter, and no exotic animal will ever replace them as my dream hunts.