Hunting season’s here again

I love getting outside and tromping around in the wilds. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what I’m out there doing. If I’m outside, I’m happy. Even when I get a little turned around and realize I’ve gotten myself lost, I love it. In fact, if I’m lost, I tend to be even more excited about being outside. There’s nothing like the realization I might get a few unexpected days away from work to brighten my mood.

But of all the excuses to get outside, hunting is my favorite. The idea is to get closer to nature, try to get inside the minds of the animals you’re pursuing, and eventually bring home some lean, healthy, tasty meat. Those animals nearly always outwit me, but that doesn’t dampen my spirits much. I freely admit I’m not as bright as a bull elk. I’ve made my peace with that.

Then there’s the adrenaline rush you get when you finally do get to draw down on that critter. Whether it’s an antelope, an elk, or even a pen-raised pheasant, you can’t beat it.

Here’s the weird thing. I love the hunt, I love the stalk, and I even love the shot. But I always feel a twinge of remorse when the animal goes down. I think that’s why I don’t often hunt critters I’m not going to eat, like prairie dogs. Knowing I’m going to put that animal to good use does a lot to temper that guilt.

Another thought that helps is knowing without hunters, those game animals would have it pretty rough out there. It’s already pretty tough to scratch out a living in the wild, but if we didn’t hunt, there wouldn’t be nearly enough food to go around. Hunting is an essential part of wildlife management.

Today’s the first day of the archery antelope season, and for the next several months, there’s another opener about every two weeks.