Emotional Investment Required For Hunting

By LW Oakley

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953

While playing cards at the camp, we were discussing building a bridge across a swamp so we could hunt more land.

Someone said that he would be extremely disappointed if that bridge didn't get built before the November hunt. Then another person at the table said, "I won't lose any sleep over it."

When I asked him why he didn't care about the bridge he said, "I don't have the same emotional investment in the camp as some of you."

Just then the action at the poker game picked up when someone went "all in" and the conversation was left behind. A long time went by before I recalled the phrase "emotional investment."

I was walking to work one morning in the snow and the cold and the dark pondering why I spend so much time thinking about the hunting camp when I'm away from it. That's when those two words came back to me.

I suppose they never left me from the time that I first heard them. You store words like that inside, maybe without realizing it. They go on a shelf behind the closed door of a vault in a memory bank. They sit there waiting for the right time to come out. Certain conditions provide the combination to open the door like walking alone in the snow and cold and dark.

Having a good hunt is like having a good life because you must make an investment in both to get something back in return. You invest your time, your thoughts, your money, your sweat and your emotions to make your hunt worthwhile and your life worth living.

If you're lucky, you get to choose the things you invest in. But to get something worth having in life, you have to give a lot, and often you have to keep on giving. At some point and hopefully long before you die you will know if your investment was worth it.

The man who was concerned about the bridge has shot more deer than all the rest of us at the camp combined. The man who wasn't concerned has never shot a deer during his time at our camp.

Emotional investment makes the hunter, and maybe the man.

The emotionally invested hunter not only wants to cross the next bridge, he wants to build it. He has to climb that big hill in front of him to see what's over the ridge. Building the bridge, blazing the trail and scouting the woods is not work to him. It's deer hunting. Over time you often realize that one thing has a way of becoming another, until eventually, all things have a way of becoming one.

Even though he's usually good at it, the emotionally invested hunter does not have to kill a deer to feel good. He enjoys preparing for the hunt, participating in the rituals of the camp, and becoming part of the hidden world inside the woods and pursuing the wild animals that live there.

A trip to the woods any time of day or night, during all seasons, in all kinds of weather, whether hunting or not, is its own reward because seeing wild things and being in wild places connects and energizes you, and makes you feel alive.

Many things in life compete with each other for your emotional investment, especially your family, your relationships, your job, your community, your faith and your free time, which isn't really free at all.

You will be a wise investor in life if you find something like hunting to nurture your state of mind and general well being, which in turn pays dividends towards all those other things that also require emotional investment.

For years I heard stories about the things that where said at the bedside of old dying hunters. They all seemed to have the same last wish. One day I was there to hear it myself. I went to the hospital to see a hunting friend. He told me that he expected to die soon.

Then he said, "I'd like to get back to the camp one more time."

Even though we both knew that he'd never get out of that bed I replied, "Let me know when and I'll come and get you."

I left something else on the shelf beside the words "emotional investment" - a small story a co-worker told me about his aging father.

He said his father never really talks much about anything, except in the fall, and then he never seems to shut up, because he talks about hunting all the time. Maybe it's because the old blood stirs up inside him when the days get short and the nights get cool. That's because hunting is the juice that keeps him going. Like writing, it provides the rage against the dying of the light.

LW Oakley lives in Kingston, Ontario. His book, Inside The Wild, is available at the publisher's website, www.gsph.com