Thursday, October 27, 2011

A strange development: Losing my lust for the hunt

Five or six weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that I never published. It was about being such a ridiculously compulsive hunter that I will hunt all the time, even if the freezer is full. Hank, who has always been more sensible than I, doesn't suffer from such a problem.

At first I had delayed publishing that post because I'd been writing a lot and wanted to space out my posts a bit more. Then something happened: I stopped hunting.

I don't mean stopped stopped, like I'm going vegan or something. I just found myself too busy, too tired, or both. Suddenly that post seemed ridiculous.

It's just been a really difficult semester at school for some reason (well, a lot of reasons, actually), and I feel like I've been hanging on by my fingernails. When it came time to meet Hank in Minnesota a few weeks ago to hunt ruffed grouse, my head was so out of it that the only thing I didn't do last minute was buy a new gun case for the flight. (Great case, by the way - SKB.)

Last weekend was the duck opener here and I waited until the last possible minute to prepare for that too, so I was brushing cobwebs off my gear literally late Friday night.

The story of that hunt is my next column for Shotgun Life, but here's the telling detail I didn't put in that column: After hunting ducks all morning and quail all afternoon with my friends Charlie and Monique, we all went our separate ways. Charlie, as always, kept hunting and immediately started texting me about the birds he was seeing at the spot we hunted that morning.

I should turn around.


I could do it - I don't have to get up early tomorrow.

No. You need rest.

I still have plenty of daylight.

I slowed down a bit.

I could be back at that spot in 10 minutes and hunt with Charlie until sundown...

... but I'm so tired.

I kept going, feeling less of a hunter.

Do they make Viagra to revive your flagging lust for hunting? Because I obviously need it.

Of course, this weekend is going to be different, but only because I have no choice.

Deer hunting in my zone closes at the end of the day Sunday, and I can't live with myself not even trying to get a deer this year. Besides, I can see the bottom of our freezer, and it's freaking me out.

So I'm hitting my friends' property - the scene of my one and only deer kill - Friday afternoon, and again Saturday morning if I don't get lucky on the first try.

The place is filthy with legal bucks. The only question is will I see one, will it be in range, will I have a safe backdrop (yeah, it's the place with marble statues), and can I make the shot. OK, four questions.

Then Sunday is going to be the Big Duck Opener.

My favorite place in the world to hunt - the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge - has been closed for the first week of season because the rice harvest is late this year, and the farmers need as many ducks as possible to stay on Delevan and other Sacramento Valley refuges, rather than feast on their crops.

Saturday is the first hunt day at refuges in that area this year, and on Sunday, my friend Kevin has a reservation. It's opening weekend in the Promised Land. If I can't haul my butt out of bed at 2 a.m. for that, I might as well go vegan. Seriously.

But wait.

What if I get a deer on Saturday? Hank doesn't get home from his Hunt, Gather, Cook Culinary Mayhem Tour until next week - I'm going to have to do all that processing by myself, and then get up stupid early on Sunday...

OMG, I'll be so zonked at work on Monday...

But, hey, it'll be Halloween. Who cares if there's one more zombie on campus?

I think I'm feeling better already.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Ryan Sabalow said...

Hope you get a buck, Holly, and get some ducks this weekend.

I've never tried it, but I keep hearing of super-fast ways you can use an air compressor or a truck bumper to skin a deer.

I guess with the compressor (if you have one) all you do is cut a small hole between the skin and meat on each limb and stick an air nozzle in and spray. It poofs up the skin like a balloon. A few slices and the skin falls off like a big jacket.

The other is more complicated, but sounds equally cool. I guess you take a tennis ball, tie it up in a hunk of the cape and tie the skin-covered ball to a rope. You hook the rope to a truck's bumper and slowly drive forward. The skin is supposed to come right off, or so I hear. Since my dumb ass got skunked this season (even after $300 in gas and getting drawn for a premium zone), I never got to try either method.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm working on the assumption that I'll see nothing but does, or a 7x7 in front of a statue. If I actually get something, I'll be getting some Red Bul on the way home...

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Blogger is on the fritz again. I just posted a comment, but forgot to make a copy before hitting the submit button. Sure enough, Blogger ate it. Anyway, the gist was this:

Interesting post. I don't think I've ever had the kind of hunt-lust you often describe. But I've definitely had the oh-my-god-I'm-so-tired-and-heaven-help-me-if-I-get-a-deer feeling.

The past two autumns, I figured I hardly had time to hunt let alone process a whitetail. Somehow I found time for both, mostly because luck was with me and the first event (getting the deer) happened quickly.

This autumn is the same. Our brief rifle season is two weeks away...

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

P.S. The other gist? I hope the semester eases up on you and you get some rest!

Barbara Baird said...

Maybe you should go hunting and take a nap outdoors, too. The best of both worlds. ;) Feeling your pain in MO.

Phillip said...

What you're experiencing Holly is one of the big reasons I think many people are dropping out of hunting. It's time (and soul)consuming, and conflicted with all the other things with which we've managed to fill our lives. There's simply not enough time in many people's schedule for something so intensive.

For what it's worth, I've gone through a similar thing the last few years. It's been harder and harder to convince myself to load up the truck and drive three hours or more to hunt for a day and a half and then drive home. Weekends come and I bail on the hunt, or just don't even plan it.

For my part, I'm adjusting by moving to a place where the hunt is literally out my back door. That's how important hunting is to me. But I know everyone can't do that. Just gotta find a balance some other way.

Good luck on the deer!

Mike at The Big Stick said...


Hang in there and you'll no doubt have some experience or moment that revs your engine back up to 90mph. I go through the same highs and lows throughout the season. Right now I am resting between dove and squirrel season and the start of deer season in two weeks. Then waterfowl starts and it's a two month marathon of cold weather, muddy clothes and bruised shoulders. Yee haw!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Tovar, I had the feeling that you don't feel the lust. Personally, I don't understand deer lust, but I think that's a reflection on deer hunting in California. If I could bag 10 whitetails a year, I might feel differently.

Lust for bird hunting, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense to me: There is a LOT of action. It definitely tickles your synapses. When I can't rev up the energy for that, I feel pathetic.

As for my semester, five more issues to go, which means five more grading cycles, which is the really time-demanding thing. And one big long-term issue that nibbles away at my time, but eats large holes in my stomach.

Babbs: You know, I almost put that in the blog post, but I've never fallen asleep on a hunt - I'm way too wired once I'm out there. But who knows, maybe even that will change.

Miss you! Wish we could get together and hunt sometime.

Phillip: I sure can't imagine doing this with kids in the house, which is what most adult hunters have to deal with. It's our childlessness that even makes hunt-mania possible. I can't fathom the extra layer of busy-ness that kids would add.

And "fill our lives" is the right term, for sure. My life is really full right now, and even though most of it is good, it doesn't leave much room for relaxing.

I'm with you on the move - I want to move to a place like that too. But it will take a miracle for that to happen in the next 10 years. I hate feeling trapped like this. I can't tell you how much I envy what you're doing.

Mike, for me, that moment will be the end of the semester. During school I'll generally just hunt once a week because it's all I can take. This weekend is an anomaly imposed by the end of deer season. But yeah, when schools out, I'll hunt three days a week (when refuges are open to hunting) and any other day when I can get private-land opportunity.

Josh said...

Holly, you will love it when you are out there. Ms. Baird is spot-on, too: When Kevin and I were "goose hunting" (as in: that time the geese circled like mosquitos, then landed about 500 yards away), last week, I got in two naps! One is on my list of "Top 5 Naps"... and yes, that is a very valuable list.

Jon Roth said...

It happens. You've been driving hard for your first few years as a new hunter when everything is shiny and new. Now you're moving into the next stage, becoming a grizzled veteran where sometimes life gets in the way of the hunt. It will ebb and flow throughout life. But one sure cure I've found is to drag my sorry butt out one time when I really don't want to, and that usually re-ignites my flame.

joe said...

Hi Holly, it happens to me to. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Work, family, to much beer...Hope you get a deer.

Brian said...

Heres the kind part:

It was either Kelly Slater or Laird Hamilton who said that to be really passionate about something means that you do it because you want to, never because you feel you have to. You can roll with the ebbs and flows like Jon mentioned, without beating yourself up. I have battled with this too; a little in hunting, quite a lot in my OCD for kayaking in the last decade plus.

The hard part: processing what? Shoot it, gut it (10mins tops. I would rather face a deer than a limit of waterfowl!) and hang it. Not need to process it then, other field dressing. Good luck!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, LOL, I can hang a deer overnight, but it's been in the mid-70s during the day here, so I can't hang for very long. But overnight, for sure.

I almost always give in and say no when I'm too tired these days. But last chance for deer and first chance for primo duck hunting are sacred :-).

oldfatslow said...

I've had seasons where
I didn't prepare and wasn't
properly psyched. They
usually followed a year
where the hunting wasn't
that good. I got over

This year, I'm completely
tuned in. The dekes and
the boat got painted, the
boat is running, and the
scouting is going well.
This year can be a great


NorCal Cazadora said...

Funny, I think I do better when I wait until last minute to prepare. It's part that I avoid overthinking anything that way, and part that I'm a lifelong procrastinator and I'm VERY good at it.

Michael said...

Hi Holly,
I'm loving your blog posts! Makes me wish I got out more this year for a buck... they won. I got skunked. That said, where are you hunting that let's you hunt through this weekend? Did I read this wrong? I thought all zones were closed on Oct 23rd??? What am I missing out on? Good luck none the less, then get some ducks.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm hunting D4. D3-7 are open through Sunday.

Didn't see any bucks tonight, but I saw a ton of does after dusk. I think this property hunts better in the morning, anyway, so I'm hoping for better luck tomorrow. And if not, I'll just come back home and go to bed!

Chas Clifton said...

One reason I quit college teaching was that it interfered with big-game hunting, but this year my freelancing (and a big, wet snowstorm) is killing deer season, since I am on deadline with a editing/design job.

You really just have to budget the time and let nothing else interfere, it seems, in order to get your mind into the right space.

It's easier to dash out for quail or rabbits or whatever for an afternoon.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yeah, there was one other weekend I could've gotten out, but I had a chance to do a photo shoot that's exactly the kind of business I want, not to mention it paid nicely.

Teaching is definitely a hindrance, but alas, it pays the bills.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I was almost relieved to read this post. We've taken on so much, and I'm finding it hard to muster the kind of enthusiasm that gets you prepared, equipped, and focused for hunting.

We're taking rifles to Vermont this year, though (hear that, Tovar?!), so I'm hoping it kicks in soon.

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Heard that. Where in Vermont are you hunting?

I'll be lucky if I get 4 or 5 mornings in the woods in the 16-day season...

Anonymous said...

Holly, try switching it around- too much hunting to do to get much work done right now. I know life doesn't work like that but at least it sounds good!


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Holly, you don't mind if Tovar and I have our own little conversation on your site, do you?

I'll be in Bondville, VT, a few miles outside Manchester. We have a friend who lives in the woods up there, and there's an abandoned apple orchard nearby. We'll be there opening day for rifles, and a few days after that.

Damn True said...

Interesting stuff. I used to be a very passionate and competitive cyclist. I lost the "lust" after spending a few years working for a major bike company. In my situation it was the transition from avocation to vocation that turned my hobby, my reward for a hard day/week of work

I wonder if the desire/need to use your hunting as muse for the creation of online/print content hasn't had a similar effect on you? Perhaps it might serve you well to keep a few hunts to yourself as reward for your "day job"?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Boy am I behind on responding to people!

Tamar (and Tovar): I hate how overcrowded our lives are. Sadly, my day job is still necessary. And yes, you and Tovar are welcome to carry on a conversation here.

Softshell: I'm trying! What I want is for hunting to be the inspiration to get stuff done more efficiently.

Damn True: On Friday, I will have been running this blog for four years, and it never makes hunting feel like work. Quite the opposite, in fact: It serves as an inspiration to think more about what I do, which is really enjoyable for me.

Perhaps if hunting entailed working for someone else it would take away some of the pleasure of writing. But I do this for myself. I never write out of a sense of obligation; I write when I have something to say and time to say it.

And once duck season kicks into full gear, believe me, I will keep a lot of my hunts to myself. If you hunt two or three days a week and blog every hunt, you really run out of things to say. Especially if they're all great hunts. BO-RING!

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

I've never hunted down that way, Tamar, but an abandoned apple orchard sounds promising. Good luck!

sportingdays wife said...

Really interesting conversation. I came back here tonight to read this post b/c PT brought it up in our conversation last night. Which was not so much about losing the hunger for the hunt but about how to fit the demands and logistics of feeding that hunger with family life and life beyond the field. You see those Kaiser Permanente billboards up? "FIND YOUR THING." All I can say is, lucky are those who have a thing.

sportingdays wife said...

Really interesting conversation. I came back here tonight to read this post b/c PT brought it up in our conversation last night. Which was not so much about losing the hunger for the hunt but about how to fit the demands and logistics of feeding that hunger with family life and life beyond the field. You see those Kaiser Permanente billboards up? "FIND YOUR THING." All I can say is, lucky are those who have a thing.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Probably not a day goes by that I'm not 1) frustrated about how many things I'm trying to fit into my life and 2) grateful that I have so many things that I love to do.

I know there are many people out there who feel bored and aimless. But I can't fathom it.