There are hundreds of topics for the well-informed outdoors scribe to write about. I was starting to think I would have to call one of those for some ideas this week.
I was contemplating the blank screen of the computer for maybe the second hour or so when Cedric banged on the door. Cedric is the belabored intern the newspapers use for all the miscellaneous jobs around the office, meaning all the stuff no one else wants to do.
"Mr. Case?" he halfway asked with a whine. "They told me to bring you the mail bag. The editor said there are at least five letters here that need to be answered."
That can't be right, I thought. I haven't checked the mail bag for months; there must be dozens of letters. Grabbing the mail bag (it was plastic and said Walmart on the side) from his hand, I noted there were seven pieces of mail and only three were bills.
Here was my column salvation! Letters from faithful readers!
Dear Outdoors Writer That I Read in the Paper Sometimes,
My wife claims the only reason I go to deer camp is to carouse with my buddies, smoke cigars, play cards, tell lies and drink whiskey. What should I tell her?
Nervous Hunter in Meadville, Pennsylvania
Dear Outdoors Writer,
I am 32 years old and have never been hunting before. My family didn't hunt, and I was never exposed to it. The guys I work with talk about hunting all the time, and it has me interested. Not knowing anything about it, it is kind of intimidating, with all the terminology and guns and gear that they talk about. Do you think I could learn to hunt? I have never asked the guys I work with — are hunters generally OK with taking inexperienced people with them? In all honesty, one of the things that interests me is this seems to be a way to get a lot of free meat for the freezer. I mean, a deer is like 150 pounds, right? Please advise me; I don't know where to start.
New Guy in Dalton, Georgia
Dear New Guy,
Of course you can learn to hunt! Hunters are made, not born. You can learn to hunt just like most anything else, and you can learn at any time in your life. Simply ask some of your friends at work. I am betting they are going to be more than happy to show you the ropes of hunting; most hunters are. Now, about that free meat thing: It is true that if you tag a deer it is yours, and depending on the size, you might get a lot of great free-range meat.
You just need a few items of gear and equipment to get started hunting. You need a rifle for deer hunting — and you will probably want a telescopic sight on it — several different forms of hunting clothes for the different types of weather you will encounter and some hunting boots, of course. You will need to check on license requirements in your state and how much those cost. After you start hunting on your own, you will probably be looking for a four-wheel drive vehicle to get you to those special hunting spots. These are just the basics, you understand; once you get into deer hunting, you will start looking at other forms of hunting such as upland birds and turkeys. This will require a shotgun or two (you can't really have too many) and possibly something else that will change your life forever — a hunting dog.
So yeah, you need just a few items to start hunting, but all the wild game meat you get is free.
What is the meaning of life? Is professional wrestling real? And what is actually in potted meat?
Searching for Answers in Chattanooga
Those are great questions, and you came to the right place. Some say the meaning of life is to hunt well and truly (Hemingway touched on this), and I would throw in to accumulate as many shotguns as you can while you are here. Professional wrestling is absolutely real — if you believe (like Santy Claus). Now on this potted meat thing, that is a broad subject that we will have to address in the next edition of Letters to the Outdoors Writer!
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.