Hunting serves as popular pastime for MHS students
Andrea Hefferan | Online Editor
Most people get their food from a grocery store. Hunters get theirs from the woods.
For a multitude of Mason students, hunting is a way to get out, have fun, and get food in the process.
Senior Trent Hollon has hunted since he was five, having been introduced to the sport by his dad. Hollon said it is a peaceful experience, as he gets to take in his surroundings while waiting for deer.
“Where you’re just sitting there silent, you get to observe all of nature here,” Hollon said. “You can watch not only deer go by, but you’ll see raccoons, birds, and turkey all the time while hunting. It can be very relaxing as well as super intense, especially when you have a deer walk up on you.”
Freshman Emilia Geren, who got her hunting license only a year ago, said that while waiting for deer can drag on at times, the excitement that comes from putting her skills to use makes it worthwhile.
“The whole experience can seem boring at first, but setting up, choosing the right spot, just the tactical and the mental part of it is actually really fun to go through,” Geren said. “Just the whole process of thinking and aiming; actually knowing what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Although hunting season is only a few specific days out of the year, the preparation goes far beyond that. Hollon said getting ready for the season is just as important as the actual hunting.
“Early before season starts, in the offseason, we’ll be making blinds at the ponds and lakes we’re hunting,” Hollon said. “Setting up the deer stands, throwing down the corn, getting the deer to the spot–all that’s super fun because I work on a farm and the farmer’s a big hunter, so I get to help him set up every year. It’s a super cool process, setting up and then watching the ducks start landing at the pond that you’re at, the deer start coming to the spot, just watching everything come together before season.”
According to Hollon, there are many different animals to hunt and weapons to choose from.
“So obviously, there’s deer hunting,” Hollon said. “Then there’s waterfowl hunting, so that’s ducks and geese, and there’s also rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, so a whole bunch out there. For weapons, compound is your regular looking bow that you would think of; the string and then the arched bow. A crossbow is a gun and a bow combined where you pull back a spring and the arch of the bow is horizontal and the arrow sits on a rail, you pull back the string. You use a trigger for the crossbow. Muzzleloader you load from the tip and that’s more like a musket, where you load the powder.”
The skill of shooting, be it with a gun or a bow, does not come naturally. For Hollon, it has been honed through years of practice and intensive training in the days prior to a hunt.
“When the moment comes, shooting at a target’s a lot easier than shooting a deer because when you’re shooting at a deer, your adrenaline’s going and usually it’s not just an easy shot sitting right there,” Hollon said. “You don’t want to shoot a deer in the wrong spot. Then you’d just wound it but it’d live, so hitting it in its vitals is very important.”
Senior Micah Warwick does not take the responsibility of handling a gun lightly. Ever since he began shooting, he has been taught to use a gun with caution.
“I’ve been shooting rifles since I was fairly young,” Warwick said. “My grandpa always taught me safety above anything else and it never has been a problem for me or any of my family. There’s just a respect for a weapon that a lot of times people aren’t taught or just think it’s a toy. It was never instilled me that it was a toy so it was just a tool that has a job. You learn it, it takes time, and (my family) would never let me hunt if I didn’t know what I was doing.”
While there is an adrenaline rush that comes with hunting, Hollon said there is a real purpose behind it.
“I don’t kill just for fun,” Hollon said. “I make sure I make food out of (the deer) and use it for other reasons than just for killing. We’ll track it, find it, and then field dress it. That’s taking out all the organs and intestines, so that’s not too pretty. Then we’ll take it to a friend that processes the deer for us, and he’ll process it into summer sausage, ground beef, all that good stuff.”
Warwick believes there is not anything wrong with hunting, and does not think the people who object to it have valid reasons.
“If you disagree with hunting and still eat cheeseburgers from McDonald’s, it’s just hypocritical because the food industry isn’t very pleasant either,” Warwick said. “Knowing that the animal that you’re eating was wild and taken doing exactly what it would always do and wasn’t put in a pen is a cool experience. I think people are just ill-informed or they’ve had a bad experience with it.”
Hollon said hunting helps the environment thrive and brings balance to the ecosystem.
“(Hunting is) one of those situations where it’s an act of preserving,” Hollon said. “The food chain works in ways that if one population gets too high, then other populations can suffer because of that. Also, it’s limited to how many deer you can take; it’s not like we’re just clearing the population. I would say most deer hunters that I know, not too many guys are going to go out there and just head hunt and try to kill deer and leave them. You go out, you take the meat, use it right and you’re still preserving the population. I think there’s mostly good heart behind it in the fun of the sport.”
With many debates over the moral issues of hunting, Warwick does not ask everyone to agree with his views, but rather to simply listen to him and others. He said he wants people to understand what hunting is truly like before making judgements rather than holding on to their preconceived misconceptions.
“I would encourage people who don’t like hunting or feel something against hunting to go to sit down and talk to a hunter just so they get a feel of what real hunting is like,” Warwick said. “If you don’t understand and if you come in from a third-party view or bad experience it could easily get twisted into something bad. Really, 98 percent of hunters are there for the greater good of conservation, just keeping herd control and everything else. I would just encourage people to talk to somebody, listen to something–there are plenty of resources–just learn what it actually is.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.