If you have hunted much you probably have rituals you go through. Some, like sighting in your rifle, are critical for success. Others, like carrying a buckeye in your pocket, are more mental that critical. But even those mental ones can be important since confidence breeds success.
Being member of a deer club that has a camp each year will introduce you to many more rituals. For years at Big Horn Hunting Club a big iron pot hung over the fire. Not only was a fire burning constantly from camp opening until the time we all left, water was added constantly all week to keep it full for washing dishes or other hot-water needs.
Then we got a gas fired water heater that produced all we needed. Guess what? The kettle stayed over the fire and we still kept if full of water.
Don’t dare shoot at a deer and miss during camp. You have to admit missing when you come back to camp since others have surely heard you shoot. And the ritual at many camps and even in non-camp groups is to cut out your shirt tail if you miss. I’m pretty sure some guys carried an old shirt they didn’t like in their truck just so they could change if they missed a deer.
Blooding is another common ritual. When a youth kills their first deer some blood from it is smeared on their face, usually just a finger mark down one cheek. And the youth will not wash it off for days, it is a mark to wear proudly!
In many clubs it is a ritual to eat the liver of a deer the day you kill one. There are some good reasons for this. It tastes good – if you like liver. It is easy to process in the woods. All you have to do is set it aside when gutting your deer then slice it up.
Showing respect for your kill is another ritual some of us stick with. Most of them come down from Native Americans who depended on killing game for their survival. From the time I shot my first bird with a BB gun I have always felt a tiny spark of regret for killing something. So when I read about ways to show respect to the animal for giving up its spirit for your needs I liked them.
Of course the most important way to show respect is to make a good shot, killing the animal with as little suffering as possible.
As soon as I confirm the deer is dead, as the Native Americans would do, I pause for a minute looking at the beauty of the deer and thank it for its sacrifice, remembering what it took to outsmart it in its natural habitat, or just the luck I had that day.
That makes me even more determined to use every bit of the deer I can and waste nothing. That is another way of honoring a deer or any other animal you kill.
In Europe a similar practice developed. A successful hunter would place a sprig of an evergreen into the deer’s mouth then put a spring of the plant into their cap, connecting the two. The sprig in the deer’s mouth also honored its last meal.
Some of my rituals bring back good memories. On my first dove shoot when I was about ten years old one of my uncles gave me an old army surplus gas mask bag for my hunting stuff. I killed my first dove that day and to this day I carry some necessities for the hunt in my bag. It has my skinning knife, bullets, a couple of plastic garbage bags, some rope and a spool of cord and toilet paper.
I mentioned a buckeye for success earlier. When I was a kid many of us had one we carried for luck. We would cherish it and polish it often, making I shiny and bright. It was as necessary as our pocket knives and we went nowhere without both.
Zeroing in your gun is critical, especially if you have a scope, which most of us do. Old iron sights didn’t change much but a scope can change a lot from year to year, causing you to miss your shot. A few shots fired at the range before season opens, and again if you drop your gun or hunt in widely changing temperatures, makes sure if you get your shirt tail cut off it is your fault, not your gun’s fault.
The Griffin Gun Club opens its range each year, usually the first Saturday in October, and members are there to help you make sure your gun hits where you aim it. They are experts at sighting in a rifle and can fine tune with just a few shots.
Get ready for hunting by going through all your pre-season rituals and zero in your gun. Then, as you hunt and experience your rituals, remember where they came from and why they are important.