It’s getting on towards deer season. It is less than a month until the Muzzleloader Opener, and I am feeling less than exuberant. This is going to be a watershed year. Angus announced that he is not going out for smokepole season for the first time. Moose has been missing from October Camp for some time now. It has to do with work. Both of them work in the same factory now. Sleep is becoming more of an issue for them. Don’t worry, I’ll be there. SuperCore is counting the days as well. It is just going to be the two of us.
I never liked the 5 stages of Hunter Evolution that everyone was so hot on about a decade ago. I never could abide the idea that somehow you went from just being happy for a chance to shoot to being consummate outdoorsman in 5 easy steps. It was malarkey from the start and I said so:
The past decade has seen a lot of changes in my life. Angus graduating High School and going to work was not a massive seismic event. Neither is his missing the October ML Opener. However, it will be considerably lonelier at camp without him. It marks a stage in my evolution as a hunter, and I think those stages are far more important than the popular ones.
Stage One: The way I see it, I missed out on this one entirely. Everyone in my family was completely spent on hunting by the time I came on the scene. Grandpa and Dad had been hunters. I did not start hunting until I was an adult. When I got started, it was with a wonderful group of older friends. I was the baby. However, that all started falling apart way too early in my development. The first stage in this is model is Apprenticeship.
Stage Two: The second stage is all about breaking away and individuating yourself. This is where I started. This phase is learning how to do it on your own. Most of my early experience was solo, but in this second stage, hunters start picking their own methods, place, friends, and so on. This is where the average guy is sitting when he has his first child. He may still be hunting the family farm. He may be hunting with Dad, but he’s his own man and knows as much of the mechanics of hunting as he is going to know.
Stage Three: The child-rearing years turn the journeyman hunter into a family man. Hunting usually takes a back seat to being a husband and a father. This is usually when a guy starts feeling his roots starting to grow as well. In these days, divorce and lay-offs and other upheavals can throw a fellow back to Stage Two one or more times. Count me in that crowd. It eventually settles out however. The key decision point in these years is carving out a niche for hunting in one’s life. A lot of guys stop hunting at this point. The sofa gets to be too inviting. For many, this is the time when just getting afield is a triumph in and of itself.
Stage Four: At some point, the little ones start coming online. This is when Dad starts to show the sprouts what it is all about. This is when I started my weblog. I’d just come through the agonizing reappraisal period that had me decide whether to hang it up for good, or leave the sofa behind. My answer came with purchasing 200 acres and deciding my kids were not growing in a Mall. My sons were getting to be the right age. In a lot of ways, this is when a hunter really begins to mature. It is at this point he starts to pay it forward to the next generation. We celebrated 15 years at the farm this month. This is certainly the best 15 years of my life so far.
Stage Five: This is where I see myself right now. I won’t go as far as to call KYHillChick and mI empty-nesters. However, after the kids start embarking on their own Stage Twos, there comes a time when silence descends. This is also about the time a guy starts realizing he’s not 25 anymore, and not even 45 anymore. The big question is What now? Some guys start their bucket lists. Me? This is what I’m starting to figure out. These are the years where you learn to work smarter instead of harder. There is no more bulling your way through situations.
Stage Six: I’m not sure what that is yet. I know at some point you become more dependent on others. Eventually, just getting afield is a triumph in itself again. Six may mark the long slow slide to black. I don’t know. I know I ain’t there yet and don’t plan on being there for a long, long time.