By Mark Kenyon

It might seem a bit weird. I get that. And if you’re not a hunter and you walk into my house, there’s a good chance you’ll be creeped out.

Skulls. Antlers. Stuffed birds. Tail feathers. Full shoulder mounts of deer. There’s pieces and parts of dead animals just about everywhere and for someone separated from the context of these displays, it probably doesn’t make one lick of sense. But to me, it only seems right.

And why is that?

Quite simply, I think it’s because we’re seeing two different things.

Yesterday, I brought home the shoulder mounts of the two bucks I killed last year, Jawbreaker and the deer I mistook for him several weeks later. And after hanging them on my wall, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. The TV was on, I had my usually distracting phone within arms reach, and my dog was nuzzling me for attention. But I wasn’t really there. Not at all. My mind was far, far away.

A hot day in October and a jaw dropping first encounter. November and December sightings, dozens of pictures. A new year and more photos. Days of work, sweat, scouting, planning, preparing. And then finally, there he was. A shot. No recovery and a long, long red-eyed drive home. The rut arrives and redemption too. Here he comes, a second chance, and the shot is true. But unbelievably, it’s a different deer. Months later, shed season, and the question is answered. There he is. He’s been there for months.

As I sat in my chair staring up at the wall, looking at the curves of their antlers, the shades of their hides, the shape of their forms; I was transported back to all of those moments. The ever-swirling collage of emotions, the bitter taste of failure, the blinding rush of success, the heartfelt appreciation, a deep resounding respect.

For someone walking into my house, without these experiences, I can understand why they might just see dead animals on my wall and wonder why.

But what I see is something much different.

It is visceral. Emotional. Alive.