As we go into 2017, most of us have had the good fortune of sitting quietly alone multiple times this season in the Deep South winter woods.
Weather conditions we have experienced ranged through every extreme, from wet to dry, from warm to cold, from deathly still to gosh-awful windy and from early morning dawn to late evening dusk.
The consistent thread throughout is the enjoyment felt from just sitting still and absorbing the absolute splendor and solitude nature offers.
I truly pity big-city dwellers who have never had — and possibly never will have — the same experience.
In my book, there is no better way to cleanse your heart and soul than to experience the tranquility and vastness of nature, away from most of the disruptions that, for the most part, pollute the modern human environment.
This is true whether you are on a remote mountain top miles from civilization or just a few hundred yards down an old logging road from your vehicle.
I just can’t help but be a little philosophical about this particular subject, especially when I have just experienced it first hand over the past weeks.
When a man is surrounded by the trappings and marvels of his own handiwork, it has always been easy to feel self-important and all-powerful. But in the quiet expanse of nature, the invisible power and complexity of your surroundings becomes the absolute and undeniable proof of God’s creation.
The sun will continue to rise, rivers will still flow to the sea and the earth will continue to revolve around the sun no matter what calamities mankind perceives or perpetuates.
My now 46-year-long passion for the wonders of nature started with a simple invite while in college to accompany a friend on a deer hunt at the nearby Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. A borrowed gun and totally inadequate clothing for a cold late-December morning did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for a second outing.
I was, in a word, hooked.
The year was about 1970, and the pursuit of whitetail deer was a much, much smaller thing than it is today. Don’t get me wrong: There was a small, dedicated cadre of deer hunters, even though deer back then were only plentiful in a few locales.
Being not yet mainstream, there was really no such thing as a deer hunting industry. Most land was unposted, and a quick knock on a door with a request to hunt was usually greeted by a cordial, “Sure, watch out for my cows and be sure and close the gate.”
I knew absolutely nothing about whitetail deer behavior or how to go about hunting them in those early days of the 1970s.
Watching football a few weeks ago reminded me of the general progression a deer hunter takes, from starting out as a total neophyte to becoming a sage, old, experienced hand.
Stuffed full of Thanksgiving leftovers, I watched a “true freshman” quarterback as he learned his lessons on the field of play. He had tremendous talent and ability but lacked game experience.
I was the same way in the early 70s, with much better eyesight, reflexes and stamina than I have today but dreadfully short on knowledge and experience.
I still have the first book I purchased on the art of deer hunting. It was “Hunting the Whitetail Deer” by Russell Tinsley, first printed in 1965. I eagerly read, and reread, every word in an effort to up my game.
It told of a world that, at that time, revolved around longbows, buck shot and lever-action rifles. When you really sit down and reflect back to those earlier years, the changes and technological advances we all now take for granted stand in stark contrast to our former reality.
Can a young person today even imagine a time when there were no such things as cell phones and smart devices? Back then you had to actually sit in your deer stand and pay attention to what was going on in the woods around you.
Trail cameras had not yet been invented, so a hunter had to “read the sign,” such as tracks and scat, to figure what was going on in a particular area.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.
Would I really want to return to those times? Not really. It wasn’t necessarily better back then: It was just different and more basic.
Now, where did I put my cell phone and trail camera memory cards for tomorrow morning’s hunt? Oh, here they are ....