Autumn 2006: A washout or wonderful?

To some, the term ďhuntingĒ implies a vision of the hunter being totally consumed in his or her quest of the prey. In reality, though, what occurs during any hunt is a cornucopia of lateral interests and activities of which the actual pursuit of game is but a very small part.

Take, for example, the average squirrel hunt I often partake of in autumn. On the walk to the woods Iím forever gawking at the distant hills that are ablaze in autumn foliage. Then I may be distracted by a passing flock of Canada geese or a small group of Monarch butterflies, gathering and preparing to migrate. Looking downward, I may spot a small white cluster of meadow mushrooms or puffballs, and the lingering memory of tasty fried fungi stirs me to make sure I take time to harvest some on my way back from the hunt.

Once in the squirrel woods, I try to concentrate on the task at hand, which is to add a couple bushytails to tomorrow nightís dinner menu. An acrobatic nuthatch thatís adeptly scurrying up and down a tree trunk, in search nearly invisible insects hiding beneath the bark, interrupts my concentration. I then marvel at how the tiny bird seems to defy gravity and wonder if the blood rushes to its head when itís clinging upside down to the tree. A rustle in the nearby fallen leaves catches and refocuses my attention. Then the tiny grey head of a shrew appears from under the edge of a leaf, like a tank commander peering out from the top hatch of his vehicle. The shrew, on a hunt of its own, reminds me that most of what occurs on this planet has to do with hunting, in one form or another.

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