Two weeks ago I packed up two duffle bags into the Subaru and drove north to meet my father-in-law and some other family members to drive out to South Dakota on a pheasant hunting trip. I’d been looking forward to this trip for six years, and when I finished my masters degree this spring, Katie and her dad combined to send me on this trip as a graduation gift. What a treat!
I learned a lot on this trip. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a hunter. So naturally there was a steep learning curve here. I loved every moment of the trip and I was taking mental notes non-stop. Here’s what I learned.
Less is More
I think I packed less than anyone else on the trip. I was taking a lot of pride in “packing light” and making sure I only had two duffles. And that included all my ammo! That second duffle was heavy! But still, I bet each bag I only used half of what I brought. I think a lot of times in life we over-prepare for things. This is a big statement for me. I love preparing. I still have that Boy Scout “always be prepared” motto stuck in my head. I had been making a pack list for over a week to make sure I had everything. But less is more. Simplify, travel light, be flexible, make it work.
Physical Preparation is Key
So the flip side: physical preparation make so much of life better. Hunting is hard work. I hunted hard. When they said to zig-zag those fields and flush out all the birds, I did it. The grasses seem like they’d be easy to walk through – not so much! Grasses were one thing, but reeds thigh-high, cattails chest-high. The places where these pheasants burrow are not easy to get to or easy to get through. Lots of leg lifts, lots of difficult footing. Additionally, I probably had one of the heavier guns. The whole first day I was doubting if I could carry this thing efficiently (and safely) for six days. Each time we got out of the van, I was prepared for what was ahead of me on the next walk. Each time I got back into the van I was thankful for my health and my physical fitness. I never once got in shape for this trip, but because of my fitness I was able to excel physically.
By far the best part of the hunting experience was surrounding a honey hole as a group. All is quiet, a bird could flush at any moment. Some of the elder hunters were giving non-verbal instructions of where to go – yes, it kind of felt military-like at times. I was reminded of Band of Brothers continually. We would alternate roles: sometimes I’d flush, sometimes I’d be a primary shooter. We’d report back how many roosters or hens we’d flushed since we couldn’t always shoot if they were to far away. It was exciting to be on a hunt together. It was truly a team effort to be successful. Most of us work in team environments in some capacity, probably at work. But this trip had such a clear and exciting goal each day, each time out of the van. It was an excellent reminder of the importance of communication and executing a game plan to give us the best possible chance of success.
Family Bonds Are Worth the Investment
Family takes work. I didn’t take work to be with these guys on this trip – it was easy. But it’s essential to take intentional time like this and spend time together; obviously it helps to have a trip to go on and a goal of hunting birds helps too. But coming from a family that doesn’t hang out socially as much as the Robertsons do, it was good for me to just be in community with these men. Friends are good, family is better. Even in-laws;) I jest, but honestly I couldn’t be happier to have these guys part of the family I married into. These hunting and fishing trips are a family tradition. It’s something the guys do. Steve and Paul talked about trips they’d done for 20 years in a row. Memories and experiences are forged on trips like these. I absolutely believe that being on this trip evoked a spiritual revival in my soul. I value this trip for reasons I never saw coming.
The first couple days I didn’t get a bird. Some comments were made, some tips were given, but in the end, I just needed to slow down. One night Grant showed a video from last year. He’s got a GoPro camera mounted on his barrel, so he had some fantastic footage of aiming and firing at these birds. What I watch was very educational. I realized I had more time that I thought to pull the trigger. I had been trying to get that gun up and fire right away. In reality, I had time to aim a little better. Sure enough, then next day I committed to a “one”-count before firing and I got my first bird. Then my second, and then I was a seasoned veteran pheasant hunter. The game gets good when you can slow it down, pick it apart, be methodical and precise. It felt great to slow the game down and win.
Guys, Guns and God
There’s just nothing like a guys trip. Being with men is good because men sharpen men in ways only men can. The great thing about a gun experience is… well, you shoot stuff! And you’re doing it with other like-minded men! And the great thing about God is that as far away from reality as I can get, He’s always with me, He’s always challenging me. I reflect on His Word, His plan, his presence in my life in awesome ways when I’m away from family, when I have good alone time at the start and end of my days. This was a vacation of sorts for me but it didn’t mean I turned off the most important routines to my life. In fact they were heightened in some respects. I’ll leave it at that. Guys, guns, and God was all good.