By Mark Kenyon

Last night, sitting 20 feet in the air with a light breeze in my face, I watched the sun set on my 2016 hunting season. And as light faded and the past four months of experiences replayed through my mind’s eye, I came to one simple conclusion.

Hunting is awesome.

Admittedly, I sometimes take hunting a little too seriously – maybe you do too. I get too caught up in the details, or too focused on a specific goal, or too worked up over the latest mistake I’ve made. Of course, I enjoy taking hunting seriously. But at the same time it’s important not to forget about that whole “enjoyment” thing too.

Luckily, hunting is pretty damn awesome – and no matter what challenges it might throw at you – that fact rises back to the top quickly. I can’t help but be reminded of that as this latest season comes to a close.

Looking back on the past few months, a few examples quickly come to mind:

  • I sat in the dirt – under a pine tree, on a mountain ridge – with two great friends joking about our favorite movie quotes. Out of nowhere, a black bear emerged on the opposite hillside. He dug up logs under a pine tree. He walked up and down a mountain ridge. He sat in the dirt. We watched for 15 minutes.
  • I slept in the back of my pick-up truck for eight nights in the middle-of-nowhere-Montana. Late at night, there were no sounds, there were no passing cars, there were no lights on the horizon. It was just me and my thoughts, the coyotes howling in the distance, and the mountains peering down from above. I felt so small. I need that sometimes.
  • I watched and studied and hunted and obsessed over a single buck for months. I saw him dozens of times, but never killed him. I’m happier knowing he’s still out there, somewhere.
  • I decided to eat deer heart for the first time. When I removed the heart from the doe I’d just killed and held it in my hand, I noticed how heavy it was. There’s a metaphor there, I think.
  • All the red meat in my home came from a Michigan woodlot, a sagebrush covered ridge-line in Idaho, and a rolling mix of Ohio timber and crop fields. Not an ounce was raised in a feedlot, or sent down a conveyor belt, or wrapped in cellophane.

There’s a lot of things in our lives that don’t go as well as we’d like. Jobs are tough, relationships can be tricky, bills have to be paid, health is fleeting – but there’s a hell of a lot of good out there too. In fact, there’s a whole lot of awesome, if we only open our eyes long enough to see it. Hunting is one such gift.

Hunting provides food, and laughter, and humility, and adventure, and disappointment, and hope, and challenge, and wonder.

This year, keep your eyes open. Things don’t always go as planned, but you can always go hunting. And that is pretty awesome.