While growing up, my brother and I ate far more tofu-dogs than we ate actual hot dogs. Our vegetarian upbringing directly influenced our outdoor experiences. While other kids spent their time outside fishing or hunting, the experiences my brother and I had outdoors were far more ‘Transcendentalist’ than ‘sportsman’. Our parents had no greater purpose beyond a belief that “it was good for us” when they took us on hikes, paddles, and camping trips.
There’s no telling which elements of your childhood are going to stick with you through life. How else do you explain how this tofu-dog eating child grew up into an adult who spends the late summer months looking forward to grouse hunting season like a little kid counting the days until their next birthday?
In a world of hunters and gatherers, I’ve always lumped myself with the gatherers. I grew up viewing hunting with a mixture of ignorance and apprehension. Last fall when Andy suggested we go grouse hunting, I looked at him like he was crazy.
Remember how Ron Burgundy in the movie, Anchorman, describes jogging as “basically running for an extended period of time?” That same logic can be applied to grouse hunting. It turns out that grouse hunting is basically just walking around in the autumn woods for an extended period of time.
Last fall I learned that grouse hunting is all about coming around a bend in the path to come face to face with two moose, the musty sweet smell of rotting leaves rising up under your feet, and the hasty pause and breath-holding that occurs when a grouse struts across the path in front of you. At the end of the day, grouse hunting isn’t really about coming home and making some tasty grouse pot pie or homemade noodle soup. Regardless of whether or not a bird is even spotted during a grouse hunting expedition, grouse hunting is always a success because it offers an opportunity to enjoy the world during nature’s final beautiful burst before winter.
While my parents took my brother and me outside simply for the sake of being outside, it seems anymore we need some sort of excuse to get ourselves out the front door. I don’t know why that is. But as we grow older, our lives start to center around a perception of productivity, and time outside often only seems acceptable if we can somehow squeeze a purpose into the outing.
This outdoor delusion seems to infuse our outings all year long. In the spring we go out under the pretense of hunting morel mushrooms when in truth we just want to check on the spring wildflowers. In the summer, the promise of blueberries lures us into the woods.
Maybe I’m not really looking forward to grouse hunting this fall. Maybe in actuality I’m looking forward to shutting off my email program, closing my laptop, and heading out to spend time in the woods with one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. If a grouse hunting expedition happens to lead to a pot pie baking in the oven, that’s just a happy bonus.
Airdate: September 15, 2010