Following is a story written several years ago by my beloved husband Bob, who died on July 6.
It was written to his son and grandsons.
Why I Hunt
By Robert W. Miller
I hunt because my Dad hunted. He took me with him and so we built a bond that I still cherish, and because his father hunted and his father's father and all of the fathers in my line and yours way back as far as those fathers who invented spears and axes and recorded their adventures with pictures on the walls of caves.
I hunt because I'm convinced that prehistoric man was a hunter before he was a farmer and because the genetic drive remains too powerful for me to resist. I do not need to hunt to eat, but I need to hunt to be fully who I am.
I hunt because it links me with the boy I used to be and with the young man my Dad was then.
I hunt because the ghosts of beloved companions such as Duke and Rowdy and Thumper and Festus prance through the woods, wagging their tails and snuffling, making game and retrieving. I love it because all those dogs loved to hunt more than they loved to eat! Also, because hunting dogs make the wisest friends: They are smarter in many ways than we, and they have taught me things I otherwise wouldn't understand.
I hunt because the goldenrod and milkweed glisten when the early morning October sun melts the frost from the fields and because Wisconsin uplands glow crimson and orange and gold in the season of bird hunting. I sit in darkness in a duck blind with one of my labs shaking in anticipation and cold, hearing the whistling wings of passing ducks in the dark. Later the sky begins to lighten and then a spectacular sunrise appears which takes your breath away with its sheer beauty.
I hunt because one of the most glorious sounds you will ever hear is that of the Canada Goose swinging low over the marsh or corn fields where you lay in wait. I hunt for the whistle of a woodcock's wings and the sudden explosion of a ruffed grouse's flush. For the spectacular sight in the rise of a flushed ringneck pheasant.
I hunt for the pure joy of knowing it is deer season and there is fresh white snow on the ground. For the true pleasure I feel for having introduced my descendants to hunting and having them all join me in this annual tradition.
I hunt for the spring ritual of trying to outsmart a wiley old gobbler. Sitting quietly in the April woods after a long winter. I listen for the distant drumming of a partridge, for the predatory cry of a red-tailed hawk, for the gurgle of a small stream created by melting snow, for the sound of swaying pines and creaking trees in a stout wind.
I hunt because some of the best times of my life were spent in Kansas, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Canada, always with good old buddies on various hunting trips. Many of those old pals are now gone and all my old dogs, but the memories of those times will remain with me always.
I hunt because it is never boring or dissapointing to be out-of-doors with a purpose even when no game is spotted or taken. If I hadn't been there, I would have seen far fewer eagles, ospreys, minks, beavers, badgers, otters, foxes, coyotes, bears, deer and antelope, all of which I enjoy watching even when I don't shoot.
I hunt for the satisfying exhaustion after a long day in the field -- for the new stories that every day of hunting gives us.
I hunt because it reminds me that in nature there is a food chain where everything eats and in turn is eaten, where birth and survival and reproduction give full meaning to life, where death is ever present and the only uncertainty is the time and manner of that death. Hunting reminds me that I am integrated into that cycle, not separate from or above it.
I hunt because it keeps my passions alive, my memories fresh and my senses alert even as my beard grays and my hair thins.
But, the main reason I hunt is I'm afraid that if I stopped hunting, I would instantly become an old man and because I believe that as long as I hunt I will remain young. So as long as I can still hobble and have at least one partner to share a hunt with that is where I'll be when the season opens.