The rewards of taking chances
Story and Photos by Chad Love, Quail Forever Journal Editor
In bird hunting and in life, you will eventually move past what you once were into what you will be, and you’ll outgrow that internal space you once occupied so comfortably. Trust me, it’ll happen. It’s an inevitable consequence of the human condition, and a process that never really stops.
Take me, for example. I am — by both nature and inclination — a solitary hunter. I prefer to haunt and hunt places of less obvious, less bucolic, harder beauty; places that remind you of how small you really are. And I generally prefer to do it alone but for the company of dogs.
But something in me changed in this season. Where I once craved only solitude, I now felt the tug to share a field, a walk, and a post-hunt beer and conversation with someone. I began to realize that as you get older, the passage of time inevitably takes people out of your life, and new friends are tough to make when you’re set in your ways. And it’s so easy to make excuses to not try, to retreat into the comfortable shell of the self.
But don’t succumb to the familiar and the comfortable. Fight it. The rewards of putting yourself out there and inviting someone on a hunt, to become a friend and perhaps a mentor to someone new, will be far greater than the perceived risk.
And if you still have doubt and need some inspiration, then use me as a non-cautionary tale.
It wasn’t easy for me. At one point I decided I wasn’t going to hunt with anyone this season. A few days later it was “I’m going to get out and hunt with as many people as possible!” Quite the manic-depressive range, I know. What’s that Whitman line about containing multitudes? Well, mine are exceptionally multitudinous...
But an interesting thing happened as the season started: I found a way to reconcile those competing thoughts. I accepted the fact that things change in life, and I realized that I could neither isolate myself into oblivion nor socialize myself out of the darkness. There had to be balance. And that’s what I found.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve hunted by myself quite a lot this season, as is (still) my custom and preference. But I’ve also hunted with nine new people (and counting) with whom I’d never hunted before. And it was a wonderfully enriching experience.
They range from a stranger I met at the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic who has since become a good friend, to a number of Instagram “friends” I’ve long admired but never met, to several co-workers I’ve known but never hunted with, to a random stranger who walked up to our bird camp one evening and said he’d like to watch a bird dog.
In each instance, I could have said no, made some excuse not to. And in each instance I didn’t, and ended up taking away something incredibly positive from the experience.
That, I suppose, is my rambling point. I’ve tried to be an island (to paraphrase the famous poem) my entire life. But you can’t be an island. You can — at most — be a peninsula. But not an island. So don’t try.
Keep the greatest part of yourself to yourself if you wish. But take another part and reach out with it. Take chances. Meet people. Become a mentor. Share yourself, and accept what others are willing to share of themselves while on a long walk in beautiful country.
Because bird hunting often doesn’t have anything to do with birds, and everything to do with life.
When you pay it forward and recruit someone new into hunting, it can be a life-changing moment for both of you. Take the Mentor Pledge today:
Take the Mentor Pledge
Chad Love is the editor of the Quail Forever Journal, and keen to keep providing non-cautionary tales.