Taking One for the Team

Hunting in my deer woods is a team effort. Each season brings out the rivalries between rookies and veterans hoping to prove something to no one in particular. Fitness programs ready the body to endure those sits where trees crack in harmony with your neck and spine. Others rely on deposits of buttock fat linked in time to the invention of Fizz Wizz. Strong backs are for lugging tree stands through clouds of mosquitoes. Strong minds are for thinking you know everything. To bring such a diverse and accomplished team together and to accept no responsibility for their actions, this is open season, my friends.

At deer camp, we share in the work and in making work for ourselves. To glean any sense of deer movement, you need to scout throughout the year, decode the food sources, and connect the paths of least resistance. Our enthusiasm alerts deer, but we consider that fair warning. There are no shortcuts here. I hate guys who own ATV’s because none of them are on my hunt team. This ain’t no farm with implements or heavy equipment of any sorts. We carry our tools in and drag our asses out. And the real work begins after the smoke settles. I am confident taking the shot at last light, knowing there’s a team behind me.

All hands get bloodied and all clothing turns wild. This is the uniform. Numbers mean nothing. The stains connect the stories and the burn marks are from the campfires that you fell into. No need to hide your addictions, rather indulge them, at the appropriate time. Those nasty pulls of wide-bodied whitetails through deadfall tangles do not slow until every team member is doubled-over and sucking air. But it takes a leader to recognize when guys are in a slump and need some extra consideration.

I want to cut my tag, but first, I want others to have their chance. I wait in anticipation of deer, but sometimes more so for the wallop of a shot from my hunting party. Taking one for the team means sitting in the worst stand (and later reminding everyone of your sacrifice). Let them shed layers in front of the propane heaters, roof over their heads, swivel seats and padded gun rails. Not enough suffering for my liking. I choose to hunt the less obvious locations, where if the stars align, my woodlot management techniques will lead that double drop tine buck to my shooting lane. This feels god-like.

As tight as the team is, what we do not share are the bragging rights. There is only one carte blanche for trash talk and that goes to the fella who pulled the trigger and made the recovery. Coach is not there in the flashbulbs, posing for pictures and receiving texts all night confirming his awesomeness. Buddy who helped with the haul-out is long forgotten from the story later exaggerated in the man cave to anyone who will listen. There is only one set of antlers to take home, and when it’s your turn, we’ll listen with interest to your lecture on how-to complete the European skull mount. Why? Because hunting is the team sport with individual trophies.

If luck were not at play, you’d know when it was your time to shine, your season to put hands on antler. Buddy was there to help me drag three deer over the past couple of years, and without so much as an opportunity being presented to him. Until last weekend, when same Buddy took a remarkable five-by-five and in doing so, took me down a notch in our all-time big buck rankings. And fine by me. At no time, has an artist been commissioned to place my likeness behind a mature buck and feature it on the back page of a magazine. Nope, last year it was my son and this year you get an illustration of the team member known as Big Guy. May we all bask in his glory. That is team spirit.

Guest artist, David Oro, lives by the formula: Truth+Love+Respect+Learn+Create+Share. See more of his artwork at iartoro.tumbler.com



About Author

John Toone is a writer and businessman from Winnipeg, Canada. His creative work includes books like Fishin' For Dumbasses (Great Plains) and From Out of Nowhere (Turnstone Press). He is a partner in Electric Monk Media, creators of virtual reality and motion picture experiences like the documentary film The Private Lives of Wild Creatures and the video game Phantom of the Forest. John Toone is a hunter, fisherman, gatherer, home-schooler, woodlot manager, green thumb and jack-of-all-trades. Please visit www.johntoone.ca.

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