The more I hunt, the more I notice that each hunter has his or her own particular quirks and set of wants and needs on a hunt. This is best illustrated by the set of things hunters like to bring with them on a trip to the deer stand, duck blind or the field. I have a friend who slowly peels clementines while waiting for ducks, occasionally sectioning off a wedge to feed to his lab. Another takes boiled eggs and high-quality chocolate.
I suppose that hunting is a good time to show all of our quirks, be real before Mother Nature about who we are and what we need to be content. These are the things that make the hunt especially ours, that make the day in the deer stand particularly satisfying. My day in the woods almost always includes the following things:
A solid pair of waterproof binoculars—Viewing nature through a precise lens—a Nikon in my case—is a beautiful way to pass the time while I wait, to watch the gentle rhythms that go on in the wild that we don’t quite understand, but can at least contemplate for a while. Watching the day unfold in a deer stand is just as gratifying as the moment I harvest my dinner. It is the hunt itself, after all, not the amount of game you take.
A sharp hunting knife—Everyone has a favorite hunting knife. Mine is a laguiole. I like to sit and sharpen it while I wait. The tradition of the laguiole is centuries old, made by craftsmen and still made today in the village of Laguiole in southern France. I like things with a history. But even more I like this knife because it is just the right size for almost everything, and is impeccably sharp. I can cut up an apple or cut out a deer heart with equal precision.
Kitchen shears for field dressing—Sometimes these can be more useful than a knife. When cleaning doves for example, the heads come off with one snip, and so do the wing joints. It is a swift and simple process with sturdy kitchen shears. They can be used in place of a knife in a pinch, not to mention their usefulness in cooking your game after the hunt.
Hand warmers—The way to ruin a hunt for me is to be unbearably cold. I always pack a few pairs of hand warmers, which I activate and stick in the bottom of my boots as well as in my pockets. Having that extra bit of heat makes a particularly cold day very bearable so that I can focus on the task at hand as well as the beauty of my surroundings.
A good book—There are few times in life when I have the chance to completely unplug from electronics and e-mail. The woods offers an escape from these things, often because there is no reception in the wilderness—thank you, Verizon. Sometimes, I like to do nothing in nature but take it in. Other times, I like to read prose that is like a meditation in itself, and I find this most often in any work by Ernest Hemingway.
And so, with a slick pair of binoculars, a copy of Hemingway and the tools I need to make my harvest delicious at home, my hunt is satisfying, for me at least.