The author was in the right place, but at the wrong time. This typifies his rut hunting program. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

The author was in the right place, but at the wrong time. This typifies his rut hunting program. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went To The Woods: Growing as a hunter

Romanticizing the storm.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

I don’t particularly look forward to raging Southeast Alaska storms, but that doesn’t stop me from romanticizing them sometimes. This of course assumes that I am dry and warm. If I am not totally dry, then I am definitely warm and relatively close to the truck.

Saturday was critically vitamin D deficient and it didn’t take long for my old Gore-Tex gear to give up. If you want to stay dry, you have to go with rubber. Anything that breathes, leaks. That’s just the game. Still, I do feel that there might be an advantage to have a broken outline while hunting and when you’re at my level, those sort of advantages, or perceived advantages, are critical for morale.

So, I walked slow and quiet through the woods on Saturday, which wasn’t always possible for me. I used to cover ground, hoping to flush something. The correct term is “jump” which implies there was some level of surprise. Flush is more reserved for people who are intentionally spooking birds out of heavy cover, then taking aim. My impatient strategy was more like that. It wasn’t that I thought it was a sound program, it just took me a bit to get tired of watching bucks run away.

[I Went To The Woods: Earning the ‘local’ title]

Anyway, I feel that I’m a better hunter because I look and listen and pay more attention not only to see the deer that’s there, but make a plan to put myself into a location that has one to see.

Modern hunting and fishing content is based mostly on the end result, with a casual nod to all that conservation, respect, honor in the woods stuff almost as an afterthought in some cases. A hashtag slapped on at the end to project the attributes that may or may not have been there when the shooting started.

I like reading about older hunters and anglers when it was about good writing first and what you were doing second. It’s almost equal parts philosophy, sentimentality and sport – especially fly fishing.

Maybe that’s where I’ve grown the most as a hunter. Maybe what made me a better hunter now than four or five years ago (I’ve been hunting for seven) was when I started really wondering why it meant so much to so many people and what it meant to me. If it’s just about killing a deer, then if you don’t, you lost. If it’s always about getting a bigger one, then if you don’t, you lost. It can’t be like that. It’s unsustainable.

The social media element of hunting incentivizes bigger, better and more. I get caught up in that too, and I wish I didn’t. Maybe I’m jealous of the influencers who get thousands of dollars just to use products. But like I said, I’m getting better.

Ever since I was a little kid growing up on Prince of Wales Island, I’ve always liked being in the woods. I still like being in the woods, but it’s a little more complicated now, mostly by my own doing. I wander through the woods thinking about an angle, or story or something worth communicating to the audience that reads this space. But I can report that even with my mind scratching out lines and leads, or posting an Instagram story about craving burgers, I do believe that there are few things better than being out in a storm looking for a buck.

As long as I’m warm and dry. Or at least warm.

• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.

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