I am alone, it’s about 11pm, and I am drinking a gin and tonic on my couch while watching The Outdoor Network. I am pondering a strategy for tomorrow. In the morning, I will go hunting.
A lot of planning goes into hunting, and there are many variables involved. A crucial detail is who you go with. It is important that you go with someone you can trust with your life in case anything goes wrong. Where to hunt and the species you are targeting are some other major factors to consider.
For tomorrow, I have a spot in mind in the Exeter/West Greenwich area. I called my friend Jay on his landline (he doesn’t use a cell phone) to see if our loose plan for tomorrow would come to fruition, but he has to work. Too bad because he is a valuable guy to have in the woods. I then texted my friend Nate to see if he was down for a hunt, and he replied about a minute later with, “Yeah, boy!” He is also a good guy to have with you in the woods. One way or another, he and I are going hunting tomorrow.
It won’t be long until I am sitting by a tree in the stunningly silent woods. Fall is beginning to feel like winter. There are still people riding bikes through trails, hiking and even riding dirt bikes. Most of them are wearing orange to be more visible to hunters as required by law. As you walk, you try to be quiet, but every step you take causes leaves to crinkle. You may hear an occasional bird in the distance, light wind, or maybe your own breathing, but for the most part, it is silent. The sound of an occasional leaf falling to the ground is enough to turn your head in anticipation of a game animal.
As I sit and ponder the plan for tomorrow, there is a decision that has to be made. Will I hunt for deer with a black powder rifle, or go for small game with a shotgun? Going for small game would be more of a social experience. It includes you and your buddy walking in short distances from each other while trying to kick up small game animals. If you have good aim, and hopefully you do, you might be eating rabbit that night with a few friends, drinking beers, and retelling the stories of the day’s events.
Hunting with the black powder rifle would be a more serious endeavor. We would, after all, be hunting for deer. They are a large mammal similar in size to a human. They smell and hear you before you see them. With a bow and arrow, I would have to get really close to get a clear shot. With black powder, I can be farther away and still have a good shot. The idea is to post up in a spot that seems opportune and wait for a deer to come by. If nothing comes by for a while, I’ll quietly move to the next spot and wait. If any of us are successful in securing a deer, we will have a long night ahead of us where we will butcher the animal. The whole experience from beginning to end is more involved, but the result is much more meat in the freezer than you would get from small game. There could be enough venison to last my family a few months.
This will be my forth hunting season, and up until now, I’ve only gone bowhunting for deer. This is because my friend Forrest happens to teach the safety course that is required to go bow hunting. I have shot archery since I was 9 years old, and he convinced me to take his course. I scored a 100 on the test, bought a license and some deer tags, and ventured into the woods. To this day I still haven’t managed to harvest a deer.
In my defense, I am usually stalking deer on the ground with a recurve bow. That means I have to get really close. I’ve seen plenty of them out there, but have yet to be presented with a clear, ethical shot. They are usually too far away or behind branches, bushes or other obstructions. Taking a clean, ethical shot is a major focus of the class that Forrest teaches.
Year after year, I considered taking the hunter’s safety course. It is mandatory nationwide for hunters, and teaches very important information about safety, ethics, and the laws regarding hunting. Completion of the course would allow me to hunt with a shotgun or black powder rifle at various times in the season, instead of only being able to hunt with my bow and arrow. My issue with taking the course has always been a matter of time, and not having enough of it. It is hard for me to find a block of nine hours on a Sunday. Like the millenial I am (just barely), I waited until the course was offered online. It is a course that is designed to make sure you understand how to safely and ethically harvest an animal before you wander into the woods with dangerous weapons. Once you pass the online exam, you have to physically drive to a DEM location to take the written test. From there, you need to buy your licenses, tags and stamps for whatever hunting endeavor you want to pursue. There are different licenses and tags for different animals, weapons and parts of the season. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart are good options for getting squared away with all of that in my experience. The counter person in the outdoors/sporting section should be more than happy to help you with questions and details.
I am now fully legal and ready to enter the woods tomorrow. I have made the decision to go with my 20 gauge shotgun. It will be equipped with ammo made specifically for small game.
I finish my gin and tonic and get ready for bed. I am packed and ready for my adventure. It will be hard for me to sleep as I will be thinking about strategies, what to bring, and the excitement of spending the day in the majesty of the outdoors. I feel like I did as a child on Christmas Eve, too excited to fall asleep. Tomorrow should be epic.
If you are interested in hunting in Rhode Island, you can pick up the abstract at various locations. The abstract is the set of rules and regulations typed out in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand way. It varies year to year and I usually pick mine up at Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can get more information on line at dem.ri.gov, or you can always try to talk about it with a stranger who looks like they hunts. In my experience, most hunters are passionate about their sport and follow the regulations. It is an important part of maintaining the balance of various habitats and part of an important heritage and tradition. Good night and good hunting.