I drove around in circles, brush hogging a property that I hunt and maintain, last week. I don’t own this property, but I try to take care of it as if it is my own. I spent several hours in the seat of the tractor, and my mind started wandering. I started thinking … why do we (hunters, conservationists and stewards of the land) do what we do?
It’s mid-summer and the temperatures are in the 90s. I’m sweating, swatting mosquitoes, dodging thorn trees, fighting allergies and scratching at poison ivy, yet, I’m enjoying myself.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I was cutting down what most would say are nasty weeds, I saw the beauty in them, also. There were wild flowers mixed in with all the different weeds that were growing in the remnants of a clover plot. The musk thistles were prevalent in one area that caught fire last year. In fact, there were almost 3 solid acres of these nasty, noxious weeds. Yet, when the flowers of the thistles bloom, they are beautiful. Hopefully, between brush hogging and spraying, I can get rid of them and replace the clover plot.
As I drove my tractor in the food plot, I jumped numerous rabbits. Most were this year’s babies. When I made one pass with the tractor, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. One of the baby rabbits jumped up a couple rows from me. I turned my head forward again, just in time to see a big red-tailed hawk flying right at me. He swept down alongside the tractor and grabbed up that baby bunny.
I also saw a few black snakes, lots of field mice and (I think) some field rats. As big as they were, they must have been rats! As it was getting close to dark, the deer even ventured out to the edge of the opening to feed. There were does with fawns and some young bucks. It made me smile and think about the upcoming fall hunting season.
The off-season is a great time to make sure your tree stand locations are ready for your upcoming hunt. Trim shooting lanes, check tree stands and secure all safety straps, especially if you leave them on the tree year round. Small creatures like to chew on straps, cushions and the plastic on the stands. Also, put some oil on the squeaky spots of your stand. There’s nothing worse than having an animal come into range, and just as you’re ready to shoot, a squeak blows it for you.
Now is also the time to go through all of your hunting gear. Make sure old batteries in flashlights and GPS devices aren’t leaking or corroding. Get your knives out and put them to the sharpener. A little preparation now will go a long way during your first hunt in the fall.
Why do I put in all the blood, sweat and tears? Because, just like one of my favorite camo companies (Mossy Oak) believes, hunting is my passion and my obsession, it’s who I am. I love hunting and I love making my hunting grounds a better place for wildlife. Would the turkey and deer survive on this property if I didn’t put in the work? Yes. Yet, I continue doing my part to make it a better habitat, in hopes that the turkey flocks and deer herd grow, and the quality of the bucks gets better. Brandon, my nephew, shot his first turkey and his first deer with me on this property. I put in all the work so I can share and pass on the hunting heritage.
Some people think hunters are just out for the kill, but not all of us are. Each time I brush hog I worry that I’m going to run over a fawn, a turkey nest or turkey poults. I felt bad for that little rabbit that became the hawk’s dinner. But, I realize that it’s just part of the harsh reality and circle of life in the outdoors. I am honored to be a part of it.