WON Landing Page March 2022

Sara Ahrens’ OffBeat: Hunting — not just about the harvest

Fall has always been my favorite time of year, even before I began hunting. Later in life, when I began hunting, fall soon became the fixed point upon which the rest of my year orbited. Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of solitary time working on my land and preparing for this hunting season. During that time, I have been able to reflect on my initial motivations to hunt, and how those motivations have changed over the years.

In my youth, I would have never imagined that someday I would willingly hunt animals, let alone look forward to the act. Even though I grew up in Wisconsin, I had no exposure to hunting during my childhood. I do remember spending a lot of time at my grandparents’ house as a small child. They owned a substantial plot of land where my siblings and I often played, watched wildlife and helped with yard work. Ironically, my favorite childhood memories aren’t of vacations, trips to amusement parks or zoos, but of the time I spent working outdoors, at my grandparents’ home. This is where I bonded with my siblings, my grandparents and nature. It was a phase in my life where I spent time reflecting on the present, past and future, all while helping the grandparents I adored. I believe that during these formative years, the foundation was set for me to eventually take up hunting. I always experienced peace at my grandparents’ house, and when my husband and I acquired our own land, I experienced that same sense of peace.

Photo by Mike Ahrens.My husband introduced me to hunting. When he initially invited me to go hunting with him, I had lukewarm interest in it. Over the years, however, I witnessed the annual-hunting rituals shared by my husband and his father. I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the significance of these events, so I asked my husband about it. He told me that hunting was the one activity that brought him and his father together, every year, without fail. Hunting was an obsession for his father, and in order to maintain a close relationship, they would go hunting together. I began to understand their relationship once I looked at it from my own, similar childhood paradigm. I discovered that hunting provided my husband the same peace and bonding opportunities that I experienced as a child when I spent time helping my grandparents on their land.

After the birth of our son, I accepted my husband’s offer to teach me how to hunt. Initially, my interest in hunting had little to do with desire to harvest game. My interest stemmed from a desire to have an activity that we could participate in as a family. I wanted our children to grow up having the same happy childhood memories that my husband and I both experienced.

My family was fortunate to have the use of my in-laws’ hunting land for many years. Nearly a decade ago, we had the opportunity to purchase part of that same land, and we did. The land is something my entire family cherishes, even more so since the passing of my father-in-law. Since his passing, my feelings of hunting have changed again. Every time we go to our land, we are reminded of my father-in-law. We find tree stands that we did not know existed or find work that he did to improve the habitat. My husband makes certain to share stories and memories with our children about the experiences he had with his father on that land, while simultaneously creating new ones.

Having access to our own land has allowed my husband and me to spend countless hours together. We take our children with us, when we can, and we hope to build a small cabin there in the near future. It is the one place where we always feel legitimately happy and balanced. As much as I love hunting, for me, it isn’t just about harvesting game; it’s about the awe I feel just seeing animals (regardless of my intent to harvest them,) the peace I experience working on our land, the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family (without distractions) and the celebration of our loved ones’ memories.

The Conversation

One Comment
  • Jenny Smith says: October 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Sara, great article!

    You nailed it. My extended family has been so disjointed and dysfunctional, that I mourn not having the kinds of shared ideals and experiences that you have with your family. Instead, I work to create my own, rather like if I can’t find an opportunity, I’ll try my darnedest to create one! 🙂

    What you have is truly a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing it in your article!

    –Jen. 🙂