I missed a buck this weekend... and it hurts. Laugh if you like—I get that it’s trivial. But know this: hunting is like love.
I risked and I failed at something that’s important to me. And over and over I’m told, ‘well, at least you got to see a buck; the other day you were whining about not seeing anything— isn’t this better than seeing no bucks at all?’ Or, ‘But at least you got a shot at it–- isn’t that better than not getting the chance at all?’ And immediately I want to snap at them and say ‘No.’ ‘No, it would have been better to never have seen the blasted buck at all.’ And that’s how I truly feel, initially. But it’s not objectively true. Because really, if I was forced to think about it, I am glad. I am grateful. And I’m better for it…
Hunting is like love.
When a man goes hunting, he puts his reputation on the line. He puts his pride on the line. He puts his manhood on the line. To many men, hunting is a test of all these things, and it’s a sink or swim proposition. No guts, no glory. Hunting is a risky undertaking for a man. But so is anything worthwhile. So is love.
When a man thinks he’s in love, if he’s any kind of man at all, he’ll risk open rebuke to get beyond the wish of a woman. And if he gets that rebuke? Well, his friends will think they’re helping by saying ridiculously true things like, ‘But at least you got a shot at her – isn’t that better than not getting the chance at all?’ And the man will think, ‘No. No, it would have been better never to have met her.’ But if allowed a little time to heal, a little distance, and perhaps even a smidge of pity, he might just eventually agree with that famous line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem— “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Why? Because, despite the losing, he still has loved, and despite the failing, he’s still put forth his best. It’s a better thing because, despite the pain of failure, he’s effectively quashed the nagging leech of ‘what if?’ through the only means truly possible-- he's taken what he has and put it on the line.
This is what happens when a grown man fails to impale a deer with a straight length of razor-tipped carbon guided by plastic feathers–- he waxes philosophical about the deep things of life. Call it a coping mechanism, I don’t care— if something’s discovered to be ‘True,’ it’s true despite the medium of discovery— and what I’ve discovered to be true through the mediums of hunting and love is that risk is often the secret to eventual success, rather than the end of it. Because when you risk, you either succeed or, by failing, narrow down the number of land mines to step on the next time around.
Matthew West, a popular Christian artist, writes these lyrics about living a risk-filled life for God in his song called ‘The Motions:’
I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"
Hunting is like love. And like life…
Never risk, never know.
Never fail, never grow.