Along The Trail 2-16-17

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Social media can be a strange place.

Admittedly, I spend too much time surfing Facebook and some other online sites where fellow hunters and outdoors folks can chat and connect. When used for good, social media platforms are a great way to connect with others. But, when it’s used in a negative fashion, all to often it turns into a place of ugliness, bullying, bickering, arguing and outright meanness. And I’m not even talking about politics!

This past weekend, I had shared a photograph online that included a few deer mounts that had come from bucks I had taken with my bow over the last several years. Most of the folks on my “friends” list are fellow hunters and the sight of a dead animal is pretty common for them, but I’m also keenly aware of the non-hunters that view my postings and I try not to post offensive pictures.

The photo in question was just that, non-offensive, or at least I thought so….

Shortly after that photograph hit my Facebook page, I had received a private message from a friend of a friend. I had made the mistake of sharing the photo publicly rather than controlling who could view it and the sender of the message, well let’s just say they didn’t appreciate the fact that I was a “trophy” hunter and how could I kill those defenseless animals with my bow and arrow?

Now, I’ve been around the block many times when it comes to defending hunting and having an animal mounted and displayed and it was obvious to me that no matter what I said, or in this case typed, was going to change this lady’s mind. The way she saw it, the only reason I had those animals hanging on the wall was to feed my ego and to pound my chest – so I could relish in their death.

There was no arguing with her, but her assumptions of me and my reasoning behind having those animals taxidermied were completely wrong.

For me, making the choice to have an animal preserved through taxidermy is a serious decision. Besides the financial investment, I always ask myself why do I want to have this creature displayed? For each animal that has graced my walls, the answer has always been the same – the memories. The mount isn’t about saying look at what I did or stroking some sort of male ego. It’s about honoring the animal and the memory that was made the day it fell.

Each time I look at one of the game heads on the wall, I can close my eyes and in an instant, recall the hunt as if it were happening at that moment. The sights, the sounds, the smells.

It’s a tangible connection to the events that led up to the moment of truth, that second when the bowstring slipped free of my fingers and the arrow buried itself into the target. The mount brings back everything that went along with the hunt.

The sound of the alarm rattling me out of bed, the walk through the woods to my hunting spot. The birds, the squirrels, chipmunks, every aspect of those days come flooding through.

I can even recall many of the meals those animals provided, sharing a stew or roast with good friends or chewing on some homemade jerky. I have trouble remembering where I’ve put the car keys or finding my wallet, but when I glance at the antlers on the wall or the well done shoulder mount, I can remember a warm October evening or a frosty November morning as if it were yesterday. Each set of antlers, big or small are a trophy to me and each set has a story to tell.

– David Hewitt