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The Wetland Explorer
Hunting more than the harvest
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 It’s finally Fall at Cheyenne Bottoms. Birds are migrating, days begin to shorten, and hunting seasons begin.

It’s all about the experience. Most hunters are reminded of that as they enter the field, for the first time in months, in pursuit of game. While the tablefare that can result is an added bonus, the real intrigue of the sport and success of a hunt is measured in the experience.

I’m reminded of a story Karl Grover, retired manager of Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, told me of a hunter who came to Cheyenne Bottoms for a duck hunt a few years ago. The man was handicapped and asked to use the handicapped accessible blind that is available at the refuge. The man was excited. After the hunt the man exclaimed to Karl that it was “the best hunt I’ve ever had.” Later, Karl looked at the man’s Daily Hunting permit and saw that he had not harvested one bird. 

There are obviously many ways to measure a successful hunt, and most of them do not involve the kill. I guess that most would argue that harvesting game is relatively low on the list for a successful hunt. Time spent with family and friends, marveling at nature, and the pursuit, are typically the memory-makers for hunters. Just sit around a campfire with a group of hunters and listen to their favorite hunting stories. Very few, if any, involve the harvest.

While it may seem like hunters go through a hierarchy of priorities as they age as a hunter, even the most die-hard, trophy-hunting youngster will agree that a good hunt does not always return home with a limit.

Time spent in nature cannot be underestimated. For many hunters, hunting is just an excuse to get away from the busyness of life. It becomes cliché, but the experiences of just being in nature never get old. Watching the sunrise over a marsh, listening to the wind rush over duck wings in the dark pre-dawn light, or marveling at the effortless flight of 100 pelicans overhead, do not require a gunshot, yet are what hunting is all about.

It is hard to explain, but there is a big difference in the experience one gets from taking a driving tour through Cheyenne Bottoms versus putting on the waders and getting into the marsh. Some might call it emersion therapy.

If you’ve never experienced Cheyenne Bottoms at all, take a drive through Cheyenne Bottoms. If you’ve driven through Cheyenne Bottoms a thousand times, try getting into the marsh for a morning. The difference in your experience will be reinvigorating to say the least. Whether it is hunting or other pursuits that bring you to nature, the most important thing is that you are there. That experience is your harvest.