Let the Woods Humble You

There are so many reasons I love being in the woods and on the water. So many, I don’t know that I could put all of them on paper. There’s something though that I rarely hear about when people talk about their experiences in the woods, and I didn’t start to understand it until I went on my first solo hunt. That is respect.

When my brother was in 5th grade, his class was taking their annual trip to a sleep away camp in Vermont, the same trip I had taken in 5th grade. Just as when I went in 5th grade, my dad volunteered to chaperone this trip. Unlucky for my dad, the field trip was to leave on the opening day of turkey season. I told my father I still intended to go turkey hunting without him. The night before they left we roosted a turkey not far from our house, where I could walk in the morning. He accompanied me in the dark that morning and left me to get set up.

I don’t really remember a lot of details of that hunt, as it was a blur of excitement and adrenaline, coming home with my first solo kill. What I do remember is being brought to a reality in the woods that morning. I had sat with my father in the woods so many times before, but it was completely different. I was alone in the woods, with nothing in front of me but darkness. I had found a place to sit up against a tree on the edge of the field, in the dark. The darkness consumed everything; the woods were still quiet, and eerie. I quickly realized how little power I had here. I had a gun, yes, but I had no way of seeing what was in front of me in that darkness. At this moment I was frightened. At this moment I was humbled.

This slight fear turned into respect for the environment which homes the animals I hope to harvest. Respect for the wilderness where, in essence, I have no power. To this day, I find myself becoming overconfident before a solo hunt, only to be humbled by the woods. The unknown noises. The eeriness. The solitude. It’s not only in the darkness either. It’s knowing that if something were ever to happen to me that it would probably be a while before anyone came to my aid. The noises of the woods in broad daylight. Let’s be real, the animals I hunt are of really no threat to me; it’s what else might be lurking. The unknown of what might be beyond my sightline. There’s such a deep respect and an acute awareness that I have while I sit and wait for a deer or turkey to cross my path.

I find a large sense of comfort in my fear and respect, and am reminded of it every time the woods humbles me. If you’ve never hunted solo and experienced this, I urge you to try. Not only will you find the same respect, you will find a piece of yourself you didn’t even know was missing until it appears.

There’s nothing like it in the world.

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