Photo by Jeff via Flickr

This past fall, early on a foggy September morning, I fell into a deep thought, a thought I’d had many times before: “What the heck am I doing out here?”

It was the opening day of the Wisconsin goose season. In the early morning darkness, just a few hundred yards from the winding Kickapoo River, I tucked myself in along the outside edge of a soybean field, camouflage head to toe and lying on a piece of burlap. To my right, a dozen goose decoys stood where I hoped they’d catch the eye of passing geese on their morning flight.

As dawn broke, my eyes could faintly make out the shapes of trees and farm buildings far off in the distance. The baritone chorus of beef cattle mooing all around the valley grew louder and louder as they called for their breakfast.

Satisfied with my decoy spread and hiding spot, I lay back and listened for the unmistakable honking of the geese leaving the swamp. However, I did not hear the geese. Instead, I heard another unmistakable sound: the growing buzz of mosquitoes rising from the dewy grass.

Anyone who’s lived, camped, or hunted along the Kickapoo River in Wisconsin knows that lying on the ground on a humid and still September morning is far from an enviable situation. I’d hunted these fields for several years and dealt with the skeeters before, but this was different. Soon I was swarmed by a brown cloud of mini vampires that were also ready for their breakfast. No amount of bug spray or wild waving of my arms was going to help. It got to the point where the constant buzzing in my ears outweighed the discomfort of the bites. Most intelligent people would have packed up and headed for the truck, but many times a hunter’s determination will trump intelligent thought.

About an hour into this ordeal, I still hadn’t heard a goose, let alone seen one. Which led me to genuinely question myself: “Why did I get out of bed, drive here, set up all of this gear, and hide myself just to lose two pints of blood? Really, what am I doing?”

I never did see a goose that morning and felt a bit dejected as I walked to the refuge of the truck, away from the hungry mosquitoes that had ruined my morning. On the drive home I continued thinking, “Why did I stay out there?” I remembered all the times when I’d hunted during rainstorms, blizzards, or sweltering heat and my family and friends would say, “You’re nuts! Why would you want to do that?” Great question!

Well, depending on who you ask, the answers can vary, but after some thought I was able to pin down the main reasons I feel most hunters are drawn to the outdoors.

  1. The food!
  2. Spending time with friends and family.
  3. Making a memory or trying to relive a great one.
  4. Challenging yourself.
  5. To have that perfect moment.

Although my goose hunt was a bust, I still managed to cover #3 and #4 on the list because I’ll never forget that day, and it was definitely a challenge.

I’ve been hunting all types of critters for the past 26 years, and just about every hunt could fit into at least one of these categories. Over the next few weeks, I’m excited to share past experiences that highlight at least one of the categories. My hope is to lend some insight as to why we hunters do what we do, and why hunting carries such a rich tradition here in southwest Wisconsin. It may even help you retrieve a special memory you thought you’d forgotten long ago.