Anticipation often best part of hunt

Only a few days left — so much to do, so many preparations, so many details. My trip to Idaho to bowhunt for elk is right around the corner, and even though I have so much yet to do, I am enjoying every minute.

I already have my license, my plane ticket, new arrows and bowheads, new bowsight and I'm practicing every day. I already have my equipment sorted and ready to pack.

I have timed my relatively short hunt to coincide with the peak bugling season. With each little preparation, I visualize a monster six by six rushing to my bugle, sides heaving, nostrils flaring and streaming, reeking from the rut.

I've only bowhunted for elk twice, but that's enough to make the visualization seem real. If there's a more exciting outdoor adventure, complete with exhausting, physical endurance, I have yet to experience it.

True enjoyment

I truly enjoy the anticipation of the hunt, sometimes more than the hunt itself. The practical side of me knows from experience that the dreams (both day and night) seldom come true.

But on the other hand, sometimes they do. One thing for sure — they never come true if all you do is sit in the easy chair and watch hunting shows on television.

An ordinary day in the field is better than watching an extraordinary experience of someone else in a hunting video.

On every hunt there are more ordinary days than exciting ones, but once in awhile, usually suddenly and when least expected, a truly exciting event unfolds.

As I sit writing this, I remember anticipating hunts as a child. Hunts as ordinary as a squirrel hunt with my dad — ordinary to me now, but not when I was 13 years old.

Waiting for opening day was always special. Sometimes my anticipation was so great, I couldn't sleep the night before. Opening day hunts were even more special, because we would make a weekend of it, traveling to Perry County 90 miles away.

I had my dad to myself, and we would hunt every morning and afternoon, with no interruptions of work, school or social events.

Still the same

We'd get up about 2 a.m. and eat breakfast at an all-night restaurant, one of the only times we ate on the road. Even today, over 40 years later, I eagerly anticipate opening days for squirrel, turkey, deer, and dove hunting — sometimes for a couple of months before.

I often wonder, for people who don't hunt, what events kindle their emotion. What would it be like to not periodically experience nor anticipate adventure? Does passive participation, such as watching someone else participate in sports, excite their spirit. Perhaps it does, but still I wonder.

I'm certainly not judgmental about what others experience. People seem to enjoy caravans to watch their favorite team play in some distant place and the tailgate parties before. Superbowl parties are an American phenomenon, so I'm sure they are fun. But for me, these things pale in comparison to a hunting adventure.

Obviously, active participation in other activities is exciting too. I have to admit, my preparation and anticipation of running the Boston Marathon were intense and exciting. I can imagine that other outdoor sports are rewarding, as well. Mountain climbing, bike racing, wilderness hiking (particularly the Appalachian trail), canoeing, kayaking and other active, extreme sports must have their own merit.

Get a life

I guess the people I feel sorry for are the ones whose spirits are never excited by active participation and anticipation. People whose lives are never re-kindled — those whose lives are consumed by work — who never look forward to change.

Funk and Wagnalls dictionary defines recreation as “refreshment of body or mind; diversion; to impart fresh vigor…” I, for one, believe that it's an important part of the human condition, and that without it, one's life becomes stale and unsatisfying.

My dad worked hard all his life — he often worked three jobs at the same time. But, fortunately for me, he believed in periodic adventure — and ever since I was big enough to tag along, he took me with him.

I don't often give advice until I am asked, but forgive me for this exception. Parents, take a day or two off once in awhile, and take your children along on an adventure. Whatever rekindles your spirit, do it — and include your kids. Talk it up, make plans and include them in those plans. Anticipate, enjoy, and reflect afterwards. You'll be doing your kids a favor — and just as importantly, yourself as well!

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