Outdoor Recreation

Answering the Call

Fall is the traditional time of harvest-—reason enough for many to look forward to deer hunting season

It’s hard to ignore the impulse to stock up for winter. Plenty of people— especially those who live in the country—have been canning vegetables, drying fruits and curing hams since the end of summer. They’re looking forward to hunting season, too, because they want to put some wild game into their freezers. People are a bit like squirrels in that they seem hard-wired to cache food before the season of scarcity. Many of us also cache a few extra pounds of body fat each fall to help us through the cold months. This phenomenon, popularly known as putting on winter weight, reminds us that preparing for lean times is part of our biology.

People have been harvesting wild animals for as far back as we can trace. Our ancestors were hunters—and successful ones, too, or we probably wouldn’t be here to speculate about them. Anthropologists tell us that hunting likely encouraged humans to cooperate and communicate with one another and that hunting is one of the foundations of our cultural and social evolution.

Hunting may no longer be necessary for survival, but it continues to be a strong tradition. Since settlers first came to Missouri, the spirit and lore of hunting have passed from generation to generation. This month, when the firearms deer season opens, thousands of home lights will flicker on at an unusually early hour, and hundreds of thousands of Missourians will decide it would be fashionable to wear bright orange clothing that day. Each year, they reinforce the hunting tradition and pass it on to their children and friends.

Deer hunting is not just point-and-shoot. It’s far easier to get meat from the grocery store than to harvest your own. Deer hunting usually involves sitting, focused and alert, for long, cold hours. Good hunters won’t even scratch an itch lest they scare away game. Many hunters, despite their perseverance, won’t see a deer, and should one come along they may not be afforded a good shot. The lucky hunters who kill a deer may experience a momentary flash of excitement, but that’s soon replaced by the reality of having to gut the deer, truss it and haul it from the woods. They’ll either render the carcass into steaks, roasts and ground meat at home or take it to a processor, where they’ll pay to have someone else cut it up and package it.

In other words, wild venison must be hard won. The mystery of deer hunting is not only that so many Missourians hunt despite its rigors, but also that even those who aren’t fortunate enough to shoot a deer find great satisfaction from hunting. Given the deep roots that hunting has in our biology and culture, it’s likely that hunters are being rewarded for merely answering the call.

—Tom Cwynar, photo by Noppadol Paothong

For More Information

To learn more about hunting in Missouri visit the link listed below.