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My wife and I have this habit wherein we return from vacations wanting to move to the location where we've just vacationed. That bug hit us especially hard in South Tyrol, one of Europe's real gems. Taken from the Austro-Hungarian empire and given to Italy as a reward for siding with the Allies in WWI, it is a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, with distinct character that is both Austria and Italy. Different, but perfect together (haha, did you still live in NJ during the "New Jersey and you, perfect together" era?). It has bustling cities like Bozen/Bolzano and Meran/Merano (everything is in Italian and German, though German is the predominant language), charming alpine towns, and beautiful mountains.

Talk of living in Europe, while impractical, has pervaded our conversations in recent years for... reasons. But hunting in Europe, particularly on the continent, is no small task. And in my beer and schnitzel daydreams, that creeps in every time. I'm told the fly fishing is great, so I could learn that and be very happy standing in a mountain stream hoping for some trout. But I would miss hunting's camaraderie and the solitude. Being somewhere no one else is while the woods wake up, and bing in a farm field on the edge of the suburbs while the humans wake up. Braving stupid weather to try to outsmart an animal with a tiny brain but with wings and a million years of evolved survival instinct. And the dogs.

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Thanks for the last sentence Hank. I was beginning to worry .

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Really enjoyed this post. I am such a fan of your posts.

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That’d be a big change for me. Hunting is a walking meditation. Moving so slow. All senses attuned and noticing - sight, sound, smell. No destination, per se. Being I. That moment. So much more than just a walk in the woods. Even mushroom hunting or foraging — moving faster and relying on visual cues mostly. Hiking to the top of a mountain - that’s all about the destination. Then there’s the whole knowledge layer - maps, firearms, gear, animal behavior, maps and topography. A pretty encompassing pastime for me.

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I guess it means I get deer by being on the police department’s road call list. I get into the woods to hike, bike, etc., but it seems that when I hunt, no matter the quarry, the woods become sterile and it’s hours of being with my thoughts and braving the weather. I will typically see nothing but 2 woodpeckers; not 1, not 3, 2.

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I am connected to hunting through your words. I don’t hunt, but would if I could. Your words explain why I collect red huckleberries. Painstaking, but wonderful bits of delicious surprise fresh and cooked. And, salal berries are ignored. Just learning about them. I need to learn foraging for mushrooms…apparently there are many where I live.

Thank you, Hank.

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(This is kind of a long comment. I hope it repays any time you spend reading.) I experienced this, not as a thought experiment, but as a person who is prohibited from hunting because I am a convicted felon (you can read the whole story in my memoir "Surrender: My Journey from Guerrilla to Grandmother"). Like Hank Shaw, I worked as a chef for a long time, and also, I came to hunting in my adulthood. Like Hank Shaw, I was transformed by the experience of close listening, watching, smelling the world as I imagined the bird or deer that might become my food. here is how I have written about it: "For decades, Ron had hunted deer in the forested folded ridges of the Coburg Hills in September. He showed me how to shoot his extra rifle, and we spent days in the rain climbing up to a crest, dropping down into the valley, climbing again, listening and watching. He knew their habits and ways and had immense patience. I felt lost and utterly incompetent. I looked, and all I

could see was the woods. I asked him how I would spot a deer, and he said to look, see a hillside, and watch for something out of place.

In October, we traveled to Eastern Oregon, Ron’s traditional hunting grounds for pheasant and duck. We walked miles of desert, climbing buttes, listening for a sudden burst of wings. The wide open blue sky, the sunshine-warmed days, and freezing nights awoke me longing for something I had never known I missed. I recognized it as my body’s memory of the feel of Colorado, where I grew up, with the same continental climate. We hunted for food, and, along with some meat that local farmers raised and Ron helped to cut up, it was all the meat we had. Using a gun to hunt never felt remotely like the nightmare of carrying a gun to make a revolution. Walking the desert and the hills with all my senses alert, I felt I was finally learning to live in my body as a genuine part of the natural world. By contrast, buying meat from factory farms seemed to be a gross cruelty."

And here is a poem about what the hunting of mushrooms can be:

I used to see only the far hills.

I longed to be where only magic

or machines could take me

With you, hunting mushrooms,

I learned to see

The view within grasp

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Block island absolutely the best

Used to work there every summer. But didn’t hunt.

Interesting piece.

I do hope the wild animal numbers can keep up with those who want to hunt.

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May 7·edited May 7

Well said, Hank. Thank you. I was particularly struck by your comment regarding the ancestral connection. Our kin first came ashore in what is now New Jersey during the 1650's and every generation has hunted since, albeit for different reasons. Although I currently reside in Missouri, my son lives in Jersey and we are fortunate to hunt waterfowl in the very rivers and marshes from which our ancestors harvested their daily fare. That connection to the past adds a special meaning and purpose to our NJ hunts....one that we consciously embrace on every outing.....and one that I will always cherish. My grandson is just a toddler, but we are already preparing him to incorporate the hunt as an integral part of his life and family heritage.

Very much looking forward to your next article!!

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May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

At 73, still in pretty good shape for an old guy with 60 years of hunting trailing back into my past, I find myself at an inflection point...making a choice. My constant partner of the past dozen seasons is in her last years. So new dog, or more Viking cruises with the wife?....because if it's the latter, the safe will stay locked until deer season, and bird hunting will become a memory. No fun without a girlfriend along. My wife, also 50 year habit, would be fine with that choice, though she has loved all our pups.

So, I decided this morning after reading your article, and the comments. New dog. We can certainly use the companionship and the forced exercise. I cannot give up the wonderful addiction of a half century if I want to be asking myself this same question at 83. Or if I want to expire as I crest that last hill, looking at the Prairie vista, gun in hand and dog out in front. We'll fit Viking in somehow, along with the rest. And I will hunt while I can. So, thanks for that.

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author

Thank you for this. It's touching in so many ways. And yes, I know several people who have hunted into their 90s, so maybe one last good dog? Also, the movement required of upland bird hunting will keep you moving when you're not hunting. #moveordie

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May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

As a not so successful hunter, I can still second the fact that I experience things and go places I would not if I didn’t hunt. I do see pressure on the hunting community causing opportunities to dry up, and I know I will be spending less or nothing toward conservation where that happens.

What are the unintended consequences?

How many times do you hear “found by hunters”?

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author

Whoa. Good point. I had not thought of that "found by hunters" thing. But you're right.

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We take in lots of true crime shows. It seems to come up a lot. I hope to never come across one.

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founding

Curious. What does “not so successful” mean? As much deliberate hunting as I like to think I do these days I still experience more “dry” days than not to remind me I will never really understand anything, that most of my theories about quarry behavior is wishful thinking based on my idea of self rather than actual fact. I know a few hunters who are almost always successful in some way but there are not many of them in the world period. I’m not one of them and as passionate as I am I doubt I will ever be.

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founding
May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

I’ve lived through periods where I’ve had to rein it in a lot but still tried to maintain something that wasn’t too gear or time intense and that kinda powered me through to the time where I could expand hunting again.

In hindsight it was a really educational exercise that asked some hard questions about what I really enjoyed and how I would need and want to organize my hunting going forward.

While I wouldn’t want to have to give it up entirely, hunting less (or not at all) for a while can, from my experience, be a positive thing.

An added bonus is that I now enjoy myself far more (both in the moment and in the form of gratitude for having come back into something I love) and bring home more game with less work.

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author

I'm finding this, too. That hunting less, and "cleaner" in the sense of not taking more than I need immediately, has been liberating. I am good enough at what I do where I know I'll be successful again before I get hungry, and that has freed me from freezer bondage.

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founding

Yes. And being able to choose your quarry (by that I don’t mean solely the game animal) at every step of the process in a much more conscious way. Why do I hunt, what do I hunt, why is that what I enjoy most and then more deliberately executing in relation to the answers to those questions. Scarcity can teach you that focus and not hunting can be good for your hunting. I think it is the same with any creative endeavor. Limitation is key in many ways.

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May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

I am currently in "that spot". Not by choice, but by tenure on earth. As I've aged, though I've managed to remain alive and in fairly good health, several of my closest hunting partners have not. Gone. And those who remain have become disinterested and traded in their guns for beach towels and golf clubs.

And the younger ones now have their own hunting partners.

Last season I was reunited with folks I hunted with in the 80s. What a Christmas! It was an awesome gift. I'll make the three hour trek again this year. And as long and often as I can.

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author

I love this. That sort of reunion hunt can become a touchstone for a whole year.

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May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

Great job. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. Please keep up the good work.

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May 7Liked by Hank Shaw

Hank, you have a gift for bringing into sharp focus the thoughts and emotions that connect us as people. It is rare that I sit, thinking about something I have read and how it affects me, but it is a common reaction after reading one of your posts. Thank you.

I agree with your comment that we hunters see, smell and experience things we would not otherwise. In fact, it is often these experiences that live in our memory far beyond the outcome of the actual hunt. Seeing a meteor shower in the early pre-dawn on the way to a duck blind...watching a hummingbird build a nest in the woods, or hearing the woods come alive with the calls of wood thrushes while turkey hunting. Seeing the phosphorescent droppings of snow geese in the rice fields of south Texas, or the way the clouds move in and out of the mountain passes in the early dawn, almost as if the mountains were breathing after spending a night "sleeping" in the rocks on a mountain in Alaska. Finally experiencing the Northern Lights from the boreal forest near Hudson Bay, or seeing a Roe deer and newborn fawn in the brush just yards from the blind in the early morning light in Germany. Life is so much more rich with these experiences, perhaps we should refer to hunting "seasonings".

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I hunted when a young man, and I cherish the memories that came from getting out in wild places during difficult times of year and day, and from having my senses heightened by the hunt. At a certain point, though, I realized I could do all that without the kill, the meat-eating, and the associated baggage of hunting. For me, hunting was a means to an end, and I learned to reach the ends without it.

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