A nanny and kid cool down on a patch of snow near the author. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

A nanny and kid cool down on a patch of snow near the author. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: The (Hunting) New Year

Of all the ways to begin a new year, the agreed upon one is the least interesting.

That is not to say the historical reasoning for starting the new year Jan. 1 isn’t worth knowing, it’s just that we don’t perseverate over Jan. 1 like we do other days of the year.

Teenagers look forward to, or dread, the first day of school. The new year. The chance to begin anew with two months more life experience to impress that girl, that boy or coach at tryouts.

For teachers the new year starts with meetings, new acronyms and mass-produced coffee that is much appreciated, but just isn’t the same as the cups you’ve been perfecting over the summer. Jan. 1 is more like a halfway point.

Aug. 1 is the new year for many hunters in Southeast and around the state.

Sure, there are other dates that provide intrigue such as the day the draw hunt results are released, which I have not only referred to as the day of disappointment, but I am considering permanent capitalization to further emphasize the feelings of that day.

I do really like spring bear hunting, as well as searching the woods for hooting grouse, but Aug. 1 is the day, August itself is the month. A 31-day fresh start. An opportunity to experience the bliss of getting away and tending to the embers of our adventurous DNA.

In many cases, hunters enter the woods with all the fresh new gear and optimistic attitude like a teenager ready to dominate senior year. I don’t have any new hunting clothes, but I do have a new sleeping bag and I have every intention of making the most out of this year.

As far as a specific plan, opening day often matches the needs of a hunter.

Some are simply looking for the familiarity of the old honey hole. The friendly confines of a mountain that may or may not be as productive as it used to be. Its prime may have passed, as it has for the hunter, but they are both there.

Another year.

Some places are new and exciting and mark the latest desire for boldness in a coming-of-age hunter or new hunter. Other big adventures are done with a sense of urgency for the hunter who feels things slipping away.

I’ve started my hunting year on solo hunts, but this year I am taking a friend who is just starting his hunting career. He’s the type who cares greatly about self-sufficiency, healthy food, exercise, and overall optimization. To him hunting is a no-brainer, he just needed an opportunity.

My wife is excited for the opposite experience. I’d like her to come with us and have invited her, but the days off don’t match so she’ll be the one hunting solo. We went up a bunch of peaks and have put our eyes on some nice bucks this summer and she wants to take the next step by herself. She’s taken elk, antelope, mule deer and packed the blacktail she tagged last year off the mountain herself. So it’s nothing new. But it’s the next step and I’m excited for her.

The confidence built through tasks that require enduring or the application of grit have strong staying power.

Those who think hunting is just about killing are missing out on the depth that hunters always struggle to articulate. Even though I’ll write about it, post about it and talk about it, it’s still pretty personal.

There really is nothing like the anticipation of the new season.

Happy New Year.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

A deer walks by on the snow. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

A deer walks by on the snow. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

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