Life, much like the mountains of Kentucky, is full of highs and lows. The lows, the winding roads that seem to take you no where. The highs, the top of the ridge that offers you a breathtaking scenery. The journey between the two is sometimes long. The roads are rough and offer little enjoyment. The ridges are narrow and often dangerous. What is it then, that sends hunters down these roads, up the ridges, pushing our limits? What exactly is it that we are hunting?
I have experienced lows deeper than the coal mines beneath my KY mountains. The lowest was in 2009, when I lost the foundation that my life was built on. The one thing that I could always depend on for consistency, unconditional love and advice, my mother. At nearly 25 years old, I wasn’t prepared to continue life without her guidance. Hell, if we are being honest, I still ain’t. Springtime brings me great sorrow. While the world is awakening with new life, I mourn my loss because it was her most vibrant time of the year. She loved to plant things, to watch them grow and to revive things that others were certain had past the point of resurrection. Her greatness left me empty. The void sent me searching for more, deeper within myself.
I had set out as hunter long before I had lost her. But one of my most memorable hunts came the first season after losing her. I had this encounter with a hawk. To some, it was just a hawk doing what hawks do. For me, it was so much more. My mother had an obsession with birds of prey and this moment gave my heart so much peace. It was like taking the first breath after having the wind knocked out of you. That hawk began to free my from my sadness.
And there’s always the harvest high. Anytime you hunt and are successful, there’s this rush of emotion. The adrenaline, that begins when the animal moves in and pounds in every vein as you ready your shot. The roll of emotions, happiness and sadness, fear and anticipation, that follow the shot. And the recovery brings satisfaction, pride and completion. It all happens quickly and can be exhausting once it has subsided. An unsuccessful hunt also has its course of emotions, be it the disappointment of coming home empty handed or the replay of a shot opportunity gone bad. You walk out of whatever terrain you are hunting, feeling something.
All too often, I become very robotic with everyday life. Wake up at the same time everyday, drop off kids, go to work, pick up kids, cook dinner, go to practice, bedtime. Blah, blah, blah. Its boring, routine and weighs heavy on my adventurous spirit. Its hard to have experience anything other than stress and aggravation on the daily grind. So when I escape to the woods, even just to check trail cameras or fill feeders, I try to soak it all up like a biscuit in gravy.
In the fall, nature resets herself. Like autumn, we all need a way to renew ourselves. In my time of deepest despair, I found my solace in the ridges. I’ve found my serenity in the mountains. And I have found peace in the journey between the lows and the highs. I hunt so much more than large game. I am hunting myself, to find out what I am really made of and how far I can push the limits. I am hunting the emotions, to feel what everyday life steals from me. I am hunting for the highs, for the moments no one can take from me. What is it you are hunting?