Saturday, September 28, 2019, marked the beginning of Ohio’s Whitetail Deer season. A new chapter begins, in more ways than one. It is the early season and an opportunity to focus on new hunter recruitment.
The beginning of every deer season is what I like to call “New Hope”. Fresh, new, and exciting, it is time to begin the journey. All things are possible this time of year. It is a blank slate, void of mistakes and doubt brought on by the grind of a grueling season.
The term “New Hope” has a double meaning for me in 2019. My youngest son Brian is whitetail hunting for the first time. With declining hunting license sales the need to recruit and retain hunters is more important than ever. This year I begin the recruitment journey with Brian. He along with other first time hunters are our sports “New Hope”. The future of hunting and the outdoors relies on the activation and recruitment and ultimately the retention of new hunters. The 2019 early season is dedicated to exposing him to that world and providing the type of experience where he will enjoy the outdoors and have an opportunity to develop a passion for hunting.
I have to admit that it is not easy for me. As a whitetail hunter, I have a bit of selfishness in my quest. The solo time in the tree is something I look forward to each year. This is my escape from the stress and pressure from everyday life. It is my time to recenter, refocus and recharge. It is my passion that drives me 365 days a year to pursue what I consider the most majestic creature that walks this earth. This is “my” time of the year.
Time to Change
Therein lies my biggest failure as a whitetail hunter. It is not my many missed opportunities at big bucks. It is the narrow-minded point of view that my own passion and drive for success needs to be the axis for which my entire whitetail hunting season revolves. Sure, that passion and drive are important and I pray I never lose that. However, at the seasons’ end what have I accomplished? Maybe I put some venison in the freezer or bone on the wall. I may have experienced the rush of the rut in full glory. It is possible that I might have shown my moxie by sitting all day in the cold, wind, rain, and snow. In the end, no matter my personal success, it all falls short if it stops with me. I need to be more involved in recruitment.
As I age, I will ultimately cycle out of hunting. I hope this is not for many years to come, but age is inevitable. Father time gives no free passes. My responsibility must be to pass on the passion and enjoyment of being in the woods.
Passing it on
Thinking back, my father reactivated back into hunting because I showed interest. While his priority had changed, my father took the time to bring me into the fold and teach me the lifestyle. Dad taught me about safety, responsibility, and respect for nature. We enjoyed the wild game that I harvested, instilling the circle of life values into me as a young boy. He lit a fire in me that burned into a passion that I have carried for over 30 years. My dad once told me that he didn’t have the heart for hunting anymore. He still took me, despite his personal feelings, to offer me an opportunity to experience it myself. The focus wasn’t on him or what his goals were, it was on me and passing the lifestyle down the line. My Dad got it and until now, I selfishly had not.
This whitetail season I chose to be more like my father and forgo my own ambition, with an ultimately more important task in mind. The focus, especially the early season, is on Brian. His safety is my primary concern followed closely by the overall experience he has while in the stand. I will carve out time to get into the woods solo during my rut vacations, but early on it is all about passing it on as my father did for me.
New season, new hunters, “New Hope!”
Good Luck everyone and Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD!