It's the American holiday of Thanksgiving, and a good time to stop and reflect on the past year. Our family returned from a year in Namibia in January, and we are constantly thinking about things that contrast between Nebraska and Namibia.
Just two weeks ago, I took my son, Tristan, on his first deer hunt. We joined some colleagues from my department at the University, and hunted on some land owned by an NGO---it was during 'buck' deer season, but we were limited to antlerless deer by the NGO, to help with population control.
I'm thankful to live in a country where it is fairly easy for Joe Public to take his/her son/daughter hunting for a weekend. In Namibia, there were no public hunting areas, and we had to pay to access private hunting lands. Hunting in Namibia was a thrilling experience, but I can see that it would be very different to live there without the access to hunting lands. Just not the same.
Tristan and I had a great morning, watching the sun come up over the Platte River. We watched ducks and geese fly up and down the river. We were perched on a little hill, and we could see deer walking across the river and through a large meadow that surrounded us (most far out of range).
Tristan had a couple opportunities to learn how quickly deer can turn and run. I remember (not very many years ago) my first deer hunt, and it takes a while to learn the behavior of the species. During a mid-morning break, we were walking back to our truck to meet our companions. I told Tristan to freeze, as I saw a deer bounding through some tall grass in the distance. Soon, we realized it was a buck so we put our guns down (no bucks on this hunt). It kept coming closer and closer...until it jumped a fence and literally stood 20-25 feet in front of us, nosing the wind. What a great experience---both the thrill of being close to a wonderful creature, and a lesson that when you stand still, with the wind at your face, you're pretty much invisible to deer.
In the afternoon, Tristan finally got a shot at a nice doe. He had taken lots of shooting practice, and it paid off. His Dad's shot was not quite as perfect, but we ended up with a couple deer on the ground in a space of 15 yards.
Everyone's hunting experience is different, but I wanted to share my hunting tradition with Tristan, including the 'after shot' tradition. As we stood by our deer, next to the Platte River, we reflected on how thankful we were for the opportunity to hunt. Per my tradition, we also expressed our thanks for the life of the deer, the land that supported it, and the meat that it would provide us.
And then, we started the long process of field dressing and, eventually, butchering. At that point, it was nice to have friends. What a wonderful day, starting with a sunrise with stiff, cold wind in our face. The buck that taught good lessons. The whispers back and forth as we planned our strategy. And, eventual success in the hunt. And, friends to share it with.
Lots to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!