I am not a hunter. I have only shot a gun twice in my life—neither time with very good results. The first time I was 11 and when no one was around, I tried to shoot my 13-year-old brother’s BB gun (yes, in the house) and promptly got my finger stuck in the trigger. There was a lot of blood and it was very traumatic. The next time I was in my early 20s. There was a shooting contest at my second cousin’s graduation party (clearly not your everyday grad party) so I figured I’d give it a go. I made the mistake of resting the rifle on my shoulder and steadying it across my cheek, and when I pulled the trigger, the gun kicked HARD, and holy cow did that hurt my face. Lesson learned? Me + guns = epic fail.
But in Minnesota, hunting is tradition for many families, including mine. Big deer hunters, my dad and brothers cut trails on blazing hot summer days, plant food plots in early fall, regularly check their trail cameras, devote numerous weekends to bow and rifle hunting, enjoy the venison they harvest (and have donated to area food shelves), and spend a lot of money on hunting gear at Gander Mountain and Cabela’s. Every fall—right before the deer hunting season begins—they try to get my husband to go, and every fall he politely declines. “It’s not about hunting to kill,” my dad says. “It’s about appreciating and respecting Mother Nature.”
To understand exactly what he meant, one November day a few years ago I dressed in blaze orange and accompanied my dad to 40 acres of woods that have been in the family for generations. I get why hunting is important, but I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever be hunting my own holiday turkey, like this woman did.
At first, I didn’t understand. I was cold, the tree stand wasn’t very comfortable, I was bored, and did I mention I was cold? But as the morning went on, I realized it was a luxury to slow down and appreciate the great outdoors. I stopped thinking about the temperature and my never-ending “to-do” list and started noticing the birds, the critters, the absence of city noise. Like the famous naturalist John Muir once stated, out in the woods, my cares were “dropping off like autumn leaves.” It was very peaceful, in a back-to-basics kind of way. I liked the idea that my grandpa, back in the 1940s, could have appreciated the same view I was appreciating. Many things have changed since then; the woods really haven’t. I won’t ever forget that experience with my dad.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of private property? The DNR introduced a Walk-In Access pilot program providing new hunting opportunities on private land, and there is plenty of public land open to hunters.
In Minnesota, we have two national forests and 58 state forests, totaling almost 9 million acres. That’s a lot of land. Whether or not you’re a hunter, go for a walk in the woods this fall. Connecting with nature is good for the soul. (And if you want to give hunting a go, here’s a list of hunting and trapping season dates—but be safe!).