Tag Archives: man vs nature

Sick in the Woods

Idaho 2016

Hunt Journal Entry: September 11, 2016

I just spent the last few days prowling around Idaho and still haven’t seen any decent bucks. Days are ruthlessly hot and dry, and nights are freezing, which is probably why I languish ahead with a painful head cold. My first step out of the dusty camp and my legs are sore with disease; my joints hurt, my muscles ache, my head throbs.

Foreign lands and no deer sign yet, but this remote valley looks promising. I’m headed toward the dark, north-face timber where I may get some reprieve from the glaring sun. But the route is thick with shrubs, oak brush, and cedars. Endless branches grasp at my body, tripping me and shoving me back down the steep slope.

I stop frequently to mop pouring sweat from my forehead with my camo cap. I’m still wearing the same stinky outfit I’ve donned for three days. Wind is my best ally, and my worst enemy. There’s no point trying to be quiet. I just need a vantage to glass from. I don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll end up; just following my nose and reading sign.

Moments ago something crawled across my neck. I swiped at it and monstrous orange spider fell to the ground. But I won’t be dissuaded. This is what I live for; it’s all I know. Only a year ago my arrow sailed over the biggest velvet buck I ever shot at. He’s long since vanished now, which is why I’m here in Idaho. Redemption. New woods and new hope. I push onward.

Long since out of tissue, both my nostrils drain continuously, leaving a slimy trail of moisture everywhere I go, likely the only moisture this forest has seen in months. Finally some tracks, but small. I follow to see where they lead. Maybe I’ll strap on my release; I hope I brought it. Just yesterday I was hiking in grizzly country when halfway up the mountain I realized I’d forgotten to load my arrows into my quiver. Stupid head cold!

My life has been various attempts at various activities, but bowhunting has been my one true passion, and better yet, the only thing I’m really good at. But here and now, it’s hard to tell. My brain is gripped with pressure, my body is weak. I push on because I know nothing else.

In the pines a squirrel fires up, barking relentlessly, giving away my position. I always carry a squirrel arrow, but it’s all for not; there’s always another squirrel, and the biggest bucks are always in the dark timber with them. During a heavy wind last year, I stumbled upon a giant 4×4 buck bedded in a patch of thick blowdowns. Before I could even pull an arrow, a squirrel fired up alerting the buck who quickly rose from his bed and melted away into the forest.

I try to imagine heavy horns moving through the brush, and then my arrow carrying cold steel through its chest cavity. The only way I win is if I wreak maximum carnage on an innocent, unsuspecting deer. I wince at the thought. Will I ever turn away from this bloody pursuit? Likely not, because life outside the woods has little appeal to me, and even less venison. A predator must eat.

At this time I’d like to formally apologize to my faithful and finely crafted compound bow which I’m currently dragging through an almost indescribable tangled hell. Only five years old and it’s already covered in battle scars; scratches, dents and dings. Sure it’s seen some fine moments, but this year it’s just a hiking companion. Its one moment of glory is a dirty coyote I sniped near camp in Utah.

After weed-whacking for hours I’ve arrived at a fantastic rock outcropping with views of the entire valley. Only an hour-and-a-half of shooting light and still no deer. I glass empty draw after empty draw, stacked in vertical rows below the summit. I want to underestimate the mighty buck; I try to convince myself that he’s just another dumb animal eating and sleeping his life away. But I know better. He’s an ingenious survivor, evading predators year after year with very little effort and hardly a conscious thought. How is that possible? A hunter, no matter his experience, goes to his grave having merely scratching the surface of everything there is to know about these amazing survivors. Outsmarting him is the greatest challenge, and I suppose this relentless pursuit is why it never gets old.

The rest of my first Idaho excursion was nothing short of a grim letdown. The once promised land is mostly bleak, ravaged by human intrusions, just like Utah. ATVs and trash litter the landscape and the woods are devoid of huntable game. Big bucks live short lives hidden away in dark holes far removed from human access.

Prehunt Meditation 2017

Can you feel it? The changing season, a shift in the sun’s angle? Nostalgic aromas of ripening vegetation? We’re almost there, almost in the woods.

If you’re like me, you’re already out there, in your mind. Wits sharpening, watching the ground for clues, listening.

The annual ritual of prehunt mediation is upon us. We look like we’re working a job–we go through the motions–but we’re really out there, in the woods, sharpening our Craft–woodscraft, stalkcraft, bowcraft, huntcraft.

As my spirit stretches into the wild landscape, I’m reminded of so many experiences unwritten and nearly forgotten. But the hunter spirit stirs the sediment of the mind into a swirling patchwork of sights, sounds, and smells.

In my next few articles I’m going to reach into murk and materialize some of these experiences. I hope they’ll inspire you to do the same.

Politically Incorrect and Proud of It!

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I’m unofficially declaring December as National Anti-Political Correctness Month! The following has been on my mind lately…

I’m not racist. In fact I’ve had several Hispanic- and African-American friends throughout my life and still do. My best friend growing up was gay as a June bug! Some of my best friends now are flaming liberals. Doesn’t matter to me; I judge each person on his character and not on his color, religion, creed, or political preference. This is normal; this is what nature intends. And for the vast majority of Americans this is exactly what happens, believe it or not.

That being said, I AM prejudiced! I am prejudiced against every “politically correct” person–white, black, green, or otherwise. Politically correct persons (PCs) are anti-American, anti-God, anti-freedom, and anti-Nature. PCs wish to take away your God- and Country-given rights to free speech, free thought, and free expression.

Modern America has been in a downward spiral because of the lies of political correctness for some time now, but it’s getting worse. More and more people are being persecuted for their belief’s, whether religious, political or otherwise. Ironically, if you believe in God or morality then you are automatically a hater. In my lifetime I’ve seen the good, intellectually honest, hard-working American become a persecuted minority!

Innocent freedom-loving individuals are losing their livelihoods and reputations every day because of this persecution. One case that sticks out in my mind is from 2014 when Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich was forced to resign simply because he made a donation to opponents of gay marriage. The evil PCs destroyed his career, not because of his job performance, but his personal values.

Another example of PC persecution is with the Washington Redskins football team and their American-Indian mascot. Today, if I support the Washington Redskins–which I do–then I’m an anti-Indian racist. Never mind that more than half the team is black millionaires fighting along-side their white teammates. Their mascot–the stately and strong, admirable American-Indian warrior–is detested NOT by American Indians, but ignorant, white, PC hate-mongers who don’t even watch football. Fortunately the NFL doesn’t care about their pitiful plight to change the team’s name, especially the team owner Daniel Snyder who in 2013 told USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. … It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.”

Go REDSKINS!

PCs are the REAL hate-mongers. These Godless, uneducated control-nuts are compelled to seek out and hyper-inflate any microscopic social issue in order to give their life some semblance of meaning. They alone perpetuate racism by bringing the slightest black/white race conflict to the forefront of public awareness. They’ve hijacked the media and the University where they elevate these ridiculous, social-non-factor issues above any relevant piece of news or higher education that might actually benefit normal people. They indoctrinate our children with a continual bombardment of liberal values, the highest being the elevation of the weak while suppressing the strong; this being the exact the opposite of Nature and survival of the fittest.

Why is rampant political correction on the rise? This question plagued my mind quite some time. It’s glaringly obvious that widespread racism has been all but wiped out here in the future where we have a black president and many other minority leaders and popular figures. But after observing several PC-driven individuals over the years, it finally occurred to me that political correction is simply a widespread fad; it’s the new “cool”. It’s ‘cool’ to accept everyone and anything with no discernment between good and evil.

For decades American values were dictated by religion and the constitution. But here in the future the bible and the constitution have been abandoned, if not all out detested. It is natural for our children–who are excreted from broken and godless homes–to seek meaning and a foundation of values to base their decisions upon. When they can’t find it at home they glean it from from pop-idols and institutions of higher learning.

Since there is so little for our children to believe in, they buy into the religion of political correction (aka liberalism) which perpetuates the values of acceptance, tolerance, equality, environmentalism, anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and anti-God. Political correctness is simply the new “cool”.

Tragically, what kids don’t realize is that being cool means acting, speaking, and looking like everyone else–in other words forfeiting their individuality. We’ve all been there, and it’s a sham. But if you live long enough you realize that being cool means saying what you think, pursuing your own dreams, and living your own life according to your values.

The major problem with being a cool kid today is that they don’t have a choice about it. One word of intolerance and the coolest cat in class is ostracized. You MUST be PC in order to survive. From cradle to grave you walk on eggshells to protect your reputation and livelihood. Free speech and free expression WILL be punished at all levels. But I digress…

Being a hunter puts me in a minority class. I’ve been judged negatively for many years by the majority of society simply for harvesting the natural, organic, God-intended renewable resource of animal protein. With colleagues, clients, and in many social situations I find myself hiding the fact that I’m a devout hunter. I must continually defend myself against attacks on my lifestyle choice. By definition I am a suppressed minority. NO JOKE!

Well, ya know what’s funny about being a free-thinking minority? I don’t care. It’s a free country and EVERYONE has the right to think and express whatever opinion they want. If someone hates blacks, gays, Jews, hunters, Hispanics, or any other minority on the planet, who cares?! If someone burns a minority on their front lawn, well, that’s a real problem. If they blow up a church in the name of God, that’s an issue. If someone makes a Muslim joke at Thanksgiving, who cares!? Go crazy !

Speaking in poor taste certainly makes you less popular, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Acting on evil impulses makes you a bad person. Say what you think, express how you feel, turn Thanksgiving dinner into a racially- or politically-charged cluster bomb. That’s your right as an American. That’s the definition of freedom. That’s what makes our country great.

In conclusion, I implore you to do your part this holiday season to combat the evils of political correctness. If your free speech or exercise of beliefs offends some mindless PC troglodyte, or if someone gets their feel-bads hurt at the annual Christmas party, just remember that there is only one answer to political correctness: WHO CARES!

MERRRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS!

My Wife’s New Music Video: The Climb

This song and storyline was written by my wife, Esther, and filmed by me.

What does this have to do with Zen-hunting? The concept for this video was inspired by man’s constant struggle between balancing modern life and his inextinguishable desire to return to Nature.

When you achieve this balance, that is Zen. We are not really hunting for animals, we are hunting for ourselves.

Resting on Your Laurels

It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago that this giant, 200-inch monster muley stepped out in front of me at 20 yards. It’s even harder to believe how easy that hunt was! Now, how in tarnation can I expect that to happen every year?

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After an incredibly difficult season this year, I have two words to say:  WHO CARES!?  I spent many, many days afield, marveled at God’s natural splendor, and came out with a rejuvenated spirit…many times. And at the end of the season, with hopes and dreams dashed, I still get to come home to a loving wife, a room full of magnificent mule deer trophies, and countless memories of amazing hunts.

A couple years after getting the infamous Droptine Buck, I remember telling my  brother Russell that failed hunts don’t bother me anymore because at the end of the day I can go home, take the Droptine mount off the wall, and snuggle with it in bed. Russ got a kick out of that.

What really happens is I hobble downstairs on sore feet, cramping legs, and with a broken ego and weary back. I slowly look up from the floor and stare at these magnificent creatures. If their glassy eyes could see my face, they’d see a man with many more questions than answers. A minute later, solemnity fades and I force a smile. I think these masters of the woods deserve appreciation, and I think I deserve some satisfaction, even amidst failure.

Anyway, failure is relative. I failed to meet my goal this year, but in the final hour I still brought home some sacred meat for the family. Guy Eastman once wrote that if you fail to harvest a deer, it’s okay. It just makes the ones you get that much more special. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, and I want to believe it’s true.

With only a week left in the extended hunt, I saw the looming clouds of failure building. Then I remembered Superbuck and asked myself, “How long is a trophy good for?” It seems a buck like that can keep a man going for a few years, at least.

This year, I will rest on my laurels. I think I’ve earned it.

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Understanding Failure in Hunting

Whenever you fall, pick something up. –Oswald Avery

If you are following this blog, then I apologize for my absence. My last post was over a month ago. Work obligations are somewhat to blame, but more than that, it’s been my lack of inspiration following a long and difficult hunting season.

When the general season ended with no new venison in the freezer, I was somewhat perplexed. What did I do wrong? Going in, I was convinced I’d unlocked the secret to bagging big bucks. But try as I might, I couldn’t do it. Immediately following the hunt, I  felt deflated and uninspired. Five weeks later, I’m just starting to realize that failure is exactly what I needed to keep my ego in check. How can a person ever fully understand big bucks in the first place? It’s impossible. They are brilliant, highly adaptable survivors!

All told, I spent 13 days hunting hard all over my prescribed unit, but never drew my bow on a buck. At the same time, I could have shot at least a dozen small bucks–mostly 2- and 3-points–but I was holding out for a trophy. This is what caused me so much grief. No matter how much ground I covered, and no matter how high I went, I was disappointed by the low numbers of mature bucks. I knew I could find them if they existed, but they were almost non-existent. Of the 50+ bucks I saw, only two were mature bucks in the 170-180″ class range; barely trophies in my book. Long story short, these bucks were either inaccessible or the stalk failed for one reason or another. Either way, the problem is with how few big deer there are anymore.

In observing so many deer in the wild, I was blown away by the sheer brilliance of the modern mule deer and the ways in which it’s adapted to avoid modern hunters.  Their survival tactics seem well thought out and highly effective. For instance, some of the largest bucks would keep does between them and the timberline as a sort of security fence. Basically, a bowhunter would have to get through a string of does to get to the bucks, making it nearly impossible to hunt them. This and many other evasive tactics were documented and will be covered in my next blog-post.

So the hunt was a failure, but only because I failed to provide meat for my family. At the same time, the hunt was a huge success. The countless hours spent sitting alone in nature, watching sunrises and sunsets, creeping through the dark timber, and observing innumerable animals going about their business–all these things stirred my soul and rejuvenated my being. Life’s daily problems  and stresses melted away. I saw the hand of God through all his creations, and all questions about the purpose of life were answered.

Fortunately the hunt isn’t over yet. The extended hunt began where the general season ended. Now, the extended hunt can be extremely difficult due to high hunting pressure, dry and noisy leaves on the ground, and the low numbers of scattered deer. At the same time, the odds go up when the snow flies and pushes big bucks down from the high country and concentrates them on the lower elevation windswept slopes. This occurs in mid-November, and that’s where my hunt will resume.

Yes, I failed to harvest a deer, but the season isn’t over yet. I still have an unused deer tag and an elk tag in my pocket, and I will succeed in providing meat for my family. I have learned humility through failure. I have found my inspiration and I’m full of hope. I still believe in Zen hunting, and through the process of Zen hunting, success is still a decision.

Hunting: Right or Wrong?

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In the past two years I’ve had the unique opportunity to teach hundreds of people basic archery. Because of the nature of the organization which I’m affiliated with, many of my first time students are left-wing oriented, if not out-right liberals and even anti-hunters. Although this hasn’t been a problem, I’ve had quite a few impassioned conversations concerning the morality of hunting.

As it turns out, many anti-hunters are regular meat-eaters. In conversations about the ethic of hunting, the very first point I make is: “If you eat meat then you are directly responsible for the killing of hundreds of animals. You just have someone else just does the killing. I prefer to take that responsibility into my own hands.” This almost always brings the “offended” into the realm of reality and diffuses any potential negative redneck argument.

Learning the art of archery doesn’t mean you’re suddenly expected to go hunting. It’s just a fun skill to have. But I have to wonder, what drives a flaming anti-hunter to pick up a bow-and-arrow in the first place? In my studies I have learned that almost every culture around the world has used the bow and weapon as their primary source of food and protections for thousands of years. The reason—I think—that so many people from so many diverse backgrounds are inclined to pick up a bow-and-arrow is because it’s already deeply ingrained in their bodies, minds, and instincts. In fact, one in ten of my students becomes masterful at archery within five minutes of shooting, as if they’ve been shooting their entire life, but having never picked up a bow before.

Many first-time archers view bows and arrows as recreational toys. Often times, if I didn’t insist on teaching safety first, people would just grab a bow and start flinging arrows. Consequently, at the beginning of every session I stress the importance of safety. One of the very first sentences out of my mouth is, “The bow-and-arrow was designed for one thing and one thing only—killing!” At this proclamation you can see the slight discomfort in a few faces, but it never deters a person from shooting.

At the same time, I never push hunting on anyone; I won’t even bring it up unless someone asks—but someone always asks. Without getting too much into it, I explain how bowhunting has always been my greatest passion, how it provides the majority of meat that my family and I eat, and that shooting a bow-and-arrow proficiently has nothing to do with hunting well.

Many people from the big city have a skewed view of hunting. They are conditioned to believe that killing an animal is as easy as pulling off the side of the road and shooting some helpless creature to death. And so I go on to explain that hunting is a completely separate skill from shooting, and the hunting aspect requires a lifetime to master.

In the end, I don’t want to kill anything; I don’t glory in shooting some poor creature to death in cold blood. But I don’t want to starve to death either. Nor do I want to wander down the meat aisle at the supermarket and sift through a pile of carefully packaged, hormone-infused, mass-produced, inorganic farm-garbage-salmonella-burgers. What I prefer to eat is purely organic, super-lean, free-range, healthy meat that walks the earth freely as God intended. NOW, I digress.

Overall my arguments for hunting have been met with surprising respect, even from those who “agree to disagree.” Even more, the relationships I’ve developed with many anti-hunters have been mutually beneficial. I’ve been forced to honestly and deeply consider the ethical and spiritual nature of the sport I love so much, and at the same time I’ve witnessed a change in the hearts and minds of those who were previously misinformed about the evils of hunting.

Part 3: Constants, Controls, and Variables

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So, this is a good year; my worst was 2008. I won’t get into the specifics, but rather what I learned as a result of determined contemplation of what adversity means:

Life is made up of three controlling mechanisms. They are as follows:

    1. Constants: Things you cannot change: i.e. genetics, age, physiology, general appearance, I.Q., gender, etc.
    2. Controls: Circumstances or occurrences that are out of your control: i.e. accidents, illness, other people, the economy, death, etc.
    3. Variables: Things which you have control over: i.e. attitude, lifestyle, relationships, career, extracurricular activities, etc.

These three mechanisms of control dictate our daily struggle, mind-set, attitude, and ultimately our success. We can control some things, and are controlled by others. But what I want to focus on today is the greatest enemy of peace, which is Controls. Controls is the great fear and the great unknown. It can change your life in a second and you never see it coming. It is the finger of God. It is fate.

 Some may argue that our attitude can eliminate the effects of controls, or that our happiness is purely dictated by our negative reaction to stressful events. This is the case when, say, your car breaks down or you catch a cold. But if your son gets flattened by a garbage truck or your house burns down, well, positive thinking won’t help much, at least not in the short run. You are no longer in control, but being controlled.

So what can you do to avoid controls?

Nothing. You don’t have to like it; flee from it if you can. We are justified in fearing Controls. You can never control the Controller. But when crap happens, fight it if you can, embrace it if you can’t. Turn tragedy into action, not reaction, and you’ll get through it, eventually, and  be stronger for it.

You will always have controls. This is how we learn and grow; this is the purpose of life. There is no pleasure without pain. The knife is honed by friction.

Click here for Part 4: The Good Fight

Part 2: The Steely Claws

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In my book, Zen Hunting, I address two important life concepts which are linked. The first is what I talked about in my last blog (Adverse Conditions), and the second is “the steely claws of responsibility.”

The steely claws of responsibility represent the controlling aspects of daily life which causes stress and affects our mood in adverse ways. These metaphoric ‘claws’ grasp hold of us when we least expect it and keep us from our goals or happiness. Examples might be a car crash, a serious illness, family emergencies, financial struggles, etc.

How do the steely claws relate to bowhunting? Good question. Allow me to get personal:

This year was going quite well in almost every way, and until recently I thought I’d be going into the bowhunt next month with a stress-free mind and a positive attitude. But, in just the last week or two, I have endured surprise attacks from every direction: financial woes, family problems, work problems, and car problems. As the stress and negativity mounted, I was suddenly hit with déjà vu. This sort of thing seems to happen every year at almost the same time, and in similar ways, and as far back as 1997 when my now ex-wife ran off with another man from her work. That year, I went into the woods feeling like I was going to throw up on my boots every second of the day. The fact is I can’t remember the last time I entered the peaceful woods without some huge, black cloud looming over me.

This is NOT a pity-party. This is just how life works. You see, when I go into the woods this year, I’m going to shoot an innocent and beautiful animal to death in cold blood with a razor-tipped arrow, and then watch it die right in front of me. Do you think that sort of action is free? Do you think the Natural Universe would allow me to do this without some sort of sacrifice? Every culture in the world previous to ours knew this. We just forgot.

Nowadays, a failed hunt results in a little disappointment, and maybe a razzing from fellow hunters. In ancient times, a failed hunt meant starvation. Do you think those ancient peoples—for tens of thousands of years—didn’t experience some level of stress prior to and during the great hunt?

And so I embrace it. The long-term effects of stress can be very harmful, but the short-term effects are good. Stress raises my heart rate, focuses my mind, and separates the trivial from the important. The regular seepage of adrenaline into my blood gives me an energy boost on an otherwise hot and lazy day. My patience is thinner, but my decisions are quicker and clearer.

As dreadful as it might be, ‘the steely claws of responsibility’ exist to help me succeed in hunting and life.

Click here for Part 3: Controls, Constants, and Variables

Zen Bowhunter Blog: Maiden Voyage

 

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It’s happening early this year! That hunter instinct is creeping in, and the bowhunt is still two months away. I guess it’s just been on my mind…

…hence my new bowhunting BLOG.

Welcome everyone to The Zen Hunter blog. The purpose of this blog is not to sell anything, but to help people, bowhunters and Zen seekers alike. In this blog, I wish to share my experience and expertise in the field of bowhunting, while expanding on the subject of Zen, archery, and bowhunting. I don’t want to make this blog all about ME, and in future writings I will try my best to reduce the usage of the word, “I.”

So, you might be asking yourself, “What is Zen hunting?”

Zen, as I understand it, is the grasp of the spiritual universe outside of physical observances. It is a concept (not a religion) based on the Eastern philosophy of achieving a ‘oneness’ with the world, usually associated with meditation, formal or informal. Zen is associated with the sixth sense and allows a subtle command of physical elements outside normal human understanding. Zen hunting is simply the application of Zen to hunting, just as Zen can be applied to archery or anything else we do.

Your next question might be, “What qualifies this blogger to write on such subjects as Zen and bowhunting.”

Simply put, I’ve been an avid bowhunter since 1996, and over the course of these past 18 years I have found my own personal Zen via regular trips alone into Nature. In just the last five years I have arrowed three trophy animals, all within 20 yards, all with very little effort on my part, and all of which were entered into the Pope & Young record books. Throughout this period, I realized that ‘Zen’ is a process of letting go. In other words, the less you try, the more you gain.

As the years pile up behind me, I’m realizing that the natural progression of life is first, to explore ones interests, then to master the things one is passionate about, and finally, to share this accumulated knowledge with others. In 2012 I published my first book on Zen hunting, entitled, Zen Hunting. The idea for this book was first conceived in 2002 after a particularly enlightening and successful hunt. It then took ten years to really understand the magnitude of this concept and materialize it into a sprawling, 200-page book about the meaning and purpose of life!

For today, just remember one thing: hunting is more art than a science.  In order to achieve the greatest success in hunting, you must be willing to expand your consciousness beyond the gear and beyond the basics of hunting.  My mission is to help people along this path.

As this post is now in peril of running amuck, I will digress. Stay tuned for regular postings, and please, comment and/or question at will. Thank you for reading!

Below is a short excerpt from my book:

July

There’s a certain point in mid-July when everything begins to change. Midday shadows grow longer, inch by inch, day by day. The slightest change in the earth’s angle to the sun is detected deep inside of me and it stirs my whole being. A switch is flipped and my senses sharpen with anticipation for something great. The air and the ground comes to life as if charged with an electrical current which flows through all things, and through me, then out again, bringing all of life into focus and oneness.

By August, the weather is hinting of fall and the great harvest. Afternoon gusts of dry, hot air carry with it nostalgic aromas of ripening vegetation that will accompany me into the depths of the woods and back into the womb of Mother Nature.