We’ve all heard the saying “get your mind right” at some point in our lives. Lately, I’ve been devoting every waking hour to the hustle and bustle of work and also trying to be the best husband and father to my two young children that I can. Every day seems like a non-stop whirlwind of tasks and rushing to meet deadlines.
I finally had a few hours this past weekend to slip into the woods and do some hunting. It wasn’t until I got in the treestand that I realized just how badly I needed to take some time to really slow down and enjoy the little things that I had been in too much of a hurry to notice.
Sometimes we forget that just being in the great outdoors can be the best therapy we can get. I sat and watched squirrels chase each other, spiraling up and down a large oak tree. I noticed the many different hues of the leaves as they rustled with the wind and the sunlight glistening off a spiderweb near the trail where I had walked in.
I thought about what it must have been like for hunters hundreds of years ago before the world seemed to move at 100 miles per hour every day and night.
I recently read an article about Cherokee hunting traditions and how they approached hunting. To the Cherokee, hunting was a serious matter that was vital to their survival. While most of us today get so caught up in chasing trophy animals, we sometimes forget that our true purpose in the outdoors is connected to an instinctual need to harvest animals in order to survive and feed our families.
Historians say that most Cherokee hunters would abstain from intimate relations with their wives for four days prior to embarking on a hunting trip. They did this in an effort to purify themselves and to please the spirits.
Cherokee hunters worshipped two “gods” with one representing the sun and fire and the other being the river or water god. Hunters would go through a specific ritual process during the four days before the hunt which consisted of dipping in water at sundown while singing an ancient chant and other rituals that involved fire and prayers.
During the hunt, it is said that the Cherokee hunters would pray to the wind, rivers, and mountains for success. After killing an animal, the hunters would ask for the gods’ forgiveness for taking the animal’s life while also giving thanks for a successful harvest.
I found the practice of Cherokee hunters to be especially interesting and it helped me realize that sometimes we don’t take hunting seriously enough. After reading this article about Cherokee hunting traditions, I resolved to put part of this mindset into practice and focus more on immersing myself into the hunt.
I put my phone settings to “silent” and tucked it away in my bag so I could sit and take in all that nature had to offer. I found that hunting is as much of a spiritual experience as it is a physical effort to obtain meat for one’s own wellbeing.
There is a sense of peace that comes from silently observing nature and all it has to offer. It has a mysterious healing power for our souls that is somewhat tough to describe to those who spend little time outdoors.
There have been many times that I’ve spent hours in a treestand with my focus on my phone’s screen instead of the world around me. I wonder how much of a more skilled outdoorsman I would be if I put my phone away and immersed myself in the outdoors.
If you’ve read this far, you probably can relate to what I’m talking about. I challenge you to find out just how much you can immerse yourself in nature the next time you go afield for a hunt. You may find that a good hunting trip doesn’t always have to end with a kill.
Fred Bear, a famous bowhunter, once said:
“Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forest and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.”
I didn’t see any deer that day, but the trip was a success in my opinion because it had brought me back down to Earth and reminded me that sometimes, the best state of mind is an outdoor state of mind.