I wanted to start this blog for three main reasons:
- Remember my trip to Oregon in a structured fashion
- Share my experience with my friends and family
- Show other paleo/foodie/urbanites who grew up in a non-hunting households that it IS possible to take up hunting as an adult.
Points 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory so I figured I’d devote my introduction post to point 3.
I grew up in a liberal suburb in the Midwest. I didn’t know anyone who hunted growing up, nor did I display much interest in the idea of hunting as a kid. Being a Boy Scout was as close as I really came to being “Outdoorsy.” In High School, my interests couldn’t have been more divergent, I was pretty focused on three areas, academics, partying, and video games. Guns/Hunting/Outdoorsmanship weren’t really my thing.
In College, thanks to Oleg Volk and his great website, I learned about the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the qualifications to get my first rifle, an M1 Garand. The requirements were pretty minimal save the necessity of shooting an NRA High Power Match for score. Courtesy of the good people at the “Associated East Bay Big Bore Rifle League” (mostly known by it’s acronym AEBBBRL) I was handed an M1 Garand and a given basic instructions by a guy who literally stormed Iwo Jima. It definitely unlocked a passion for marksmanship and competition that I was unaware I had until that date.
My introduction to the gun culture came pretty fast and furious, mostly by meeting fellow members of THR, Calguns, and yes, even arfcom. I shot my way from Marksman, through Sharpshooter, finally leaving at Expert. Around the same time (~2004) I started to shoot USPSA with an 4″ XD40 I’d originally bought as my main sidearm.
Despite being a very avid competitor, I still lived in the Bay Area, where guns were uncommon and hunting was basically unknown. That summer, I knew I’d eventually take up hunting. I was at Burning Man, and I randomly bumped into a girl from Santa Cruz I met months earlier at an outdoor party near Shasta. We were walking around the night of the burn and talking about the future and I said that one day I’d like to go to Africa and take the big five. She thought I was crazy, but I thought there had to be SOME reason why men like Hemingway and Roosevelt decided to go to Africa with big rifles and write about their experiences. I knew that it was a long term goal, and that I’d probably want to be an experienced hunter in North America before I decided to head overseas.
I met one person who hunted, Feral Pigs mostly, in the Bay Area. He had a sweet deal with a farmer enabling him to shoot them at his leisure… and some asshole shot one of his cows, so he banned hunters from his property. Ah slobs…
In 2006, I set aside competition and moved to upper New England for Grad School. There I figured I’d surely take my first deer. I got my state hunting license. I soon encountered my first real problem. Hunter’s Ed classes don’t teach you how to be a hunter… they teach you how to:
- Avoid shooting other hunters
- Avoid being shot by other hunters
- Avoid breaking the myriad of fish and game laws
At this point, I was a licensed hunter, with rifle and tags in hand. I quite rapidly learned that knowing how to competently wield a rifle and knowing how to find the deer without tipping it off are two of the most different task imaginable. The former is the result of many hours of matches and range time. The latter is the result of an almost instinctual skill passed down from parent to child. Acquiring that skill isn’t easy as an adult. Most of the book I perused seemed aimed at experienced hunters trying to take down a once in a lifetime trophy buck and not a cityslicker trying to get cheap meat.
One idea I had was to find a mentor. That was harder than I figured it might be coming from the competitive shooting arena. With High Power and USPSA, I gained mentors very quickly who practically bent over backwards trying to introduce a novice to the sport. Hunting is different. Hunting feels almost like Fight Club. The first rule of Hunt Club is that you don’t talk about Hunt Club.
Moving to Manhattan made things much more challenging. To begin with, in upper New England, you drive two miles in any direction and you’re probably on huntable land that contains deer. There you can walk into a Walmart and walkout with a scoped, boresighted, Remington 700 in 308 Win. and a box of Ballistic Tips. Contrast that with New York City. To begin with
you can’t own a rifle, you can technically own a rifle, but the paperwork and costs are designed to discourage all but the most committed. Secondly, Hunter’s Ed classes (with one important exception) seem to be trying to weed out Manhattanites. Thirdly, finding land to hunt is also a major challenge. Based on my connections with the Long Island shooting community, basically fuggetabout trying to hunting public land during rifle season. Most hunter’s ‘in the know’ join “hunting clubs” and purchase a “hunting lease.” I put “scare quotes” around those two concepts as trying to dig up information about them has proven to be very hard.
Until about a month ago, I’d basically written off the fall season and said that I’d probably have to wait to next fall to get my first deer. Then a friend of mine, Zak Smith, tipped me off that his Suppressor/Firearms Training Company, Thunder Beast Arms would be offering a six day long range precision rifle class out in Oregon. Seeing as Long Range was the main omission in my firearms training I decided on the spot to take the class. Unfortunately, the state of the economy being as week as it was, they decided to cancel the second 3-day portion leaving just a 3-day class. At this point I hesitated: Did I really want to take off a full week of work to get three days of trigger time. I looked more closely at the class’s venue, The Big K Guest Ranch. The place is basically a full service guest ranch that offers just about any outdoor activity one can imagine. When I saw they offered a Blacktail Deer hunt with an experienced guide I was nearly sold. The rifle class came with a 1/2 day fishing trip on the Umpqua river, so I added a 1/2 day Pheasant hunt, along with the Deer and Fishing. I worked with Gary Williamson, the grandson of the original farmer who owned the property to build a 7 day rifle, hunting, and fishing package. When I booked the trip and bought my Oregon license and tags I was immediately fired up. For the rifle portion I’d be borrowing Zak’s AI AW in 308 with a TBAC 30-P can. For the hunting and fishing, I’ll be using the Big K’s guns.
Last week, I got Jackson Lander‘s fine book The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food. I wish this book had been written years earlier. As I said before, most “hunting books” are written for an audience that already has hunting in their blood. Jackson’s book assumes you are a cityslicker that doesn’t know deer sign from bear shit. The book pretty rapidly pointed out the mistakes I made years earlier and why I came home empty-handed after freezing my ass off in a tree stand for hours.
I meant to bang this post out earlier but I was busy getting ready. I’m in Long Beach Airport on my way to Elkton, OR, by way of Portland. My plane is about to board.
Future posts will have more photos.