Every Wednesday, the male contingent of the English department at my old high school in California would meet at a local golf course for nine rounds of horrible golf. There was a really nice course in town, but we felt the one filled with gopher holes that surrounded a trailer park better matched our level and style.
We aspired to play bogey golf, but there would always be a blow-up hole in which someone would hit a trailer, an oak tree, or the freeway. This dramatically increased the score but being relentlessly optimistic, we cheered on whoever was having the worst day because they were getting more strokes per round. They were making the most of their seven bucks by touring more of the course and getting more swings.
This year my hunting has been the same. I am going out a lot and coming back empty-handed. I’ve hunted 31 days since Aug. 1 and come home with two deer. That’s a 6 percent success rate. The thing is, had I shot every deer I saw, I would have been tagged-out in August. My season would have been over. I would have deprived myself of more time outside. I’d much rather be 2/31 than 4/4 because there have been 27 more days afield. What’s the goal here, to get done with hunting so I can spend more time inside? If I love being outside, then I’d want to be outside more, right?
I really enjoy hiking, but the end is relatively predictable. The end of the trail is on top of a mountain. The variables have to do with wildlife and atmospheric conditions.
When hunting, I am engaged on a level I’m not when simply hiking. My awareness is heightened. I’m paying attention to things like the sound my boots are making, the squeak of my pack, the sound of brush against the gun barrel. I’m not just surrounded by forest, I’m looking through the trees for eyes, ears, and horns.
Doctors and psychologists implore patients and the population in general to get outside and reap the medicinal benefits of just being out. The real out, you know? Not the concrete path that leads to Wifi and 300 calorie coffee drinks. Getting out with recreational and predatory intent is next level, so even if I go out again this weekend and don’t come home with meat for the freezer it will certainly not be a waste.
There will be a day I can’t get outside because I am too old, too injured, or dead. The more I appreciate the process, the better. As is the case with things like golf, much of life is about being blissfully unburdened with the score.
There is a score, and you notice, but that’s not the entire point.