Believe it or not, last weekend was the opening of archery deer-hunting season in California, and it won’t be long before rifle hunters also take to the woods in search of deer and bear.
I know that a lot of folks hate to see summer go, but I love the coming of all the seasons. I love the cool mornings that are the first hint of fall, the first frost that warns of the coming of winter and the warm afternoon sun that signals the advent of spring.
Way back when almost everyone was a farmer, the fall harvest and the fall hunting season went hand in hand. As a people, we were all aware on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis that we were part of God's grand scheme. Just as droughts, spring floods or an especially bitter winter created lean times for farmers, so too the whims of nature meant lean hunting or a bumper crop of game for the winter.
Times, of course, have changed, and we are predominantly an urban society instead of an agricultural one. Rather than living and working on farms, most of us live in cities and work at jobs that leave us out of contact with the workings of nature and her eternal cycles.
One touchstone to the natural world that many urban dwellers retain is our hunting heritage. Every fall, millions of Americans take to the woods and fields and experience being a part of nature, rather than being insulated from nature. Indeed, many Americans who are neither farmers nor hunters seem to feel they are above nature, rather than part of it.
To succeed as a hunter, you must know something about the game you seek and the environment that surrounds it. You must study the terrain, the vegetation your quarry needs for food and shelter, and age-old migration routes. You must be aware of the importance of a shift in the wind or a subtle rustle in the leaves.
While in an urban environment, you can pay no attention to the weather and only suffer inconvenience or perhaps a cold; when afield, ignoring nature’s warning signs can prove fatal.
If you get too wrapped up in tracking a deer and fail to notice the wind shifting from west to south, you might just get trapped in the first blizzard of the season.
Every farmer knows he or she is subject to the changing moods of nature, that a freak storm or frost or rain can spell disaster. Yet citydwellers have become insulated from the real world. The seeming security of our comfortable homes and air-conditioned cars and processed TV dinners has lulled us into forgetting that we are still a part of that esoteric " balance of nature."
We know that water springs clean and clear from our kitchen tap, that milk comes from the supermarket and that meat comes in plastic wrap.
I honestly believe that a large number of us have forgotten that water must come from a well or a river; that milk is the product of a living, breathing animal; and that if we eat meat for dinner, some animal had to die.
It seems to me that those millions of Americans who go afield each fall probably have a better understanding of the value of clean streams or the importance of a meadow where deer can have their fawns.
Whether seeking deer with a bow, bear with a rifle or ducks with a shotgun, hunters realize that we must kill if we are to eat meat.
Each fall, those of us who hunt have re-educated ourselves and once again learn that we are indeed a part of this planet on which we live. When we miss a shot at a buck or a rising iridescent pheasant, we learn that we are fallible and not the masters of the universe. When we succeed and sit down to a dinner of pheasant or quail or venison, which we have been fortunate enough to put on the table, maybe, just maybe, we might be a little more likely to give thanks for our meal.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer is president and CEO of a consulting firm and has decades of experience working with the outdoor recreation community, including anglers, hunters, backpackers, environmental groups and the public. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.