The Happy Hunter Who Never Killed Anything
by Dan Blankenship
© 2008 Dan Blankenship
Trekking through wooded expanses, crawling between mocking cattails that are always reminding me of my failure, Iíve become a legendary figure down at Willow Slough Wildlife Area and all over Northwest Indiana. More than 10,000 acres of land and water, more than 200 attempts over the past 15 years, and Iíve yet to bag a single goose, duck, deer, dove, rabbit, squirrel, quail, ruffed grouse (not even sure what that is), pheasant, wild turkey, or a fish of any kind. The boys at the mill, theyíve got a running calendar to log my hunting failures. The local papers have interviewed me more than a few times. Other hunters have offered to surrogate hunt for me.
Now my inability to bring any taxidermists some business is not for lack of hard work. I subscribe to Field and Stream, Deer & Deer Hunting, Real Hunting, Bowhunt America, and Game and Hunting Magazines. Iíve taken shooting lessons and watch every show I can find about hunting and fishing. I might add that none of them mentioned the ruffed grouse. Iíve invested good money in a wide variety of guns, ammo, duck calls, fishing gear, and camouflage. With so much investment in time and money, and nothing to show for it, some might think Iím a fool. But I have my reasons for not seeking a new hobby.
Itís the thrill of the hunt that keeps me returning to a place where the animals and fish have always come out on top. Itís that dawn of a new day in a place untouched by bulldozers and concrete, a place where pine trees, elm trees, and maple trees are not lined up for landscaping decorum that warrants me risking the label of failure being permanently affixed to my name. I hunt and I fish so that I can understand more about my own character. My mom has always told me quitters never win and winners never quit. Good advice, but even mom managed to shoot three squirrels, two rabbits, and one pheasant before she was a teenager. ďThis game of life involves learning how to deal with failure,Ē she would always say.
Yesterday, a man at a gas station two miles north of Willow Slough asked me if I had any luck in the past year. When I told him I had, he replied, ďReally, you finally shot something?Ē
ďNo, didnít shoot anything. You asked me if I had any luck in the past year. And I consider myself lucky every year, lucky the animals arenít able to shoot back. Lord knows I wouldnít stand a chance.Ē
The man began laughing uncontrollably and repeated my words over and over as he made his way to his car.
I may never know what itís like to have a successful hunt, but I am convinced that the past 15 years have given me the patience, humility, and demeanor to be successful in the game of life.
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