Along The Trail 8-28-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Every now and then, I’ll receive a letter or comments and questions about the “Along the Trail” articles. To the very last one, all of them have been quite positive, some with constructive criticism, but nonetheless I’ve enjoyed the feedback and hearing from the readers.

But to clear up some misconceptions, I’m the furthest thing from an expert when it comes to the outdoors. I know a handful of fellas that could run circles around me when it comes to knowledge of wilderness and hunting.

I’m quite honestly just a guy who has grown up hunting, fishing, hiking and camping and developed a passion for it.

Over the last 35 years, I’ve spent hours upon hours outdoors. Most of it right here in Southeastern Indiana, but a good bit of time in true wild places.

Alaska, Canada, some rugged parts of Michigan, South Texas and a few other spots I’m sure I’ve missed. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even if it’s a simple squirrel hunt down in the wooded ravine behind my house or a remote hunt for caribou on the tundra in the North of Quebec.

I suppose in that time, I’ve learned a few things about hunting and making my way outdoors. Most of the experience that I’ve gained has came through trial and error.

Early on, a complete novice, a nimrod, I had no real clue how to hunt deer, I just knew that I wanted to hunt. After a few years of failed hunts and a multitude of mistakes, I wised up and put two and two together, figured out what I had been doing wrong and some success followed.

Each time I entered the woods, whether on a hunting trip or just a simple hike, I became a student of mother nature and it’s still the same today.

When I slip into the canopy of the trees, I’m not just focused on one thing. I don’t have a mission or single mindedness – I’m there to hunt, but it’s more than that. I’m out here to learn, to experience, to be as much of a part of it as I can and the hunting is only a piece of the puzzle.

Sure, I watch the deer’s movement and try to make my best guess to when and where a mature buck will make his appearance, but I’m also absorbing the environment, everything around me. Watching to see how the blue jays react when they see something that I don’t.

Are the birds calling out a deer’s location or are they just chatting to each other?

When a squirrel begins to bark for no apparent reason, has it spotted some unseen buck sneaking along a back trail just out of my view?

Which way do I approach my stand in a West wind?

Through years of experience and more time than I can count with my rear planted in a treestand or my back leaned up against a trunk, I’ve gradually figured things out, come to an understanding.

I guess my point is, other than the fact that I’m no authority on hunting, the only real way to learn about the outdoors, hunting or shooting a bow is through experience.

You can’t get it from watching a hunting show on your television and buying a certain brand of bow or camouflage won’t do it for you either. You have to get out there and not be afraid to make a few mistakes, have a few failures. I’ve found that is when I’ve learned the most. I can share my experiences, give a few tips here and there, but for the most part, there is nothing that can take the place of actually being there and doing it yourself.

I’ve gotten questions about treestand placement, recommendations on what brand of boots to buy and how to shoot a recurve or longbow. While I have opinions on just about anything outdoors, they are just that – my opinions and that might not be worth much.

What has worked for me in the past might not be your cup of tea, but I’m always glad to share what I know. But, in the end, there’s just no real substitute for being out there and experiencing it all on your own.

And for those readers that have asked - look for a natural funnel or pinch point, maybe the corner of a field and woodline to hang your treestand, oh and watch the prevailing wind direction.

I’ve always been partial to Rocky brand leather boots and I’m a fan of Muck’s rubber boots for those that are interested.

And when it comes to shooting traditional bows. Keep it simple, start at close range and gradually increase your distance. Imagine you’re fielding a ball and throwing it from third base to first. No aiming, no conscious thought.

Just a natural, instinctive movement. Keep at it and you’ll get the hang of it.

Most importantly, have fun.

Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome any comments, questions or feedback. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get outside.

– David Hewitt