Hunting Rituals From the Ancient to the Everyday

deer young

As I was sitting in my favorite chair the other morning watching the news, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the thought of flooding in the east while people in California are accidentally starting forest fires while sighting in their rifles. Yes, it’s that darn dry.

And then a rather uncommon thought hit me that maybe, just maybe, we need to perform some sort of ritual to make the rain and the deer show up. So I looked at a few traditional methods some hunters use for good luck.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think traditions are a good thing. They have initiated many a new hunter and brought comfort to many seasoned hunters. They were passed down through the ages.

When I shot my first buck, my mentor handed me a knife, a sharpener and then he found a comfortable spot in the shade to enjoy his beer while I attempted to keep my breakfast down. When he produced an old tin cup and told me I needed to drink the deer blood, I didn’t ask why.

So when it came time for me to break in a newbie, I got to enjoy the same creepy ritualistic fun!

Years later, and being a bit wiser, I realized that I don’t really have a ritual on opening day mainly because severe burns and hangovers aren’t as much fun anymore. And it makes it hard to focus on awareness when your head is throbbing.

Still, one of the most time-honored traditions of all is the big bonfire, bottles of cheap booze, bad jokes and belching/flatulence contests. I know this because I pass many obliterated campsites complete with loud snoring sounds on my way out to my spot. I’m already done by the time they wake up and that’s a nice feeling. Year after year it goes on and I look forward to the laughs.

Prayer is a nice way to welcome the opener and it sure feels better than a hangover. Many hunters traditionally get a little prayer circle going before the hunt and after a kill. I love that.

Another one I heard of that I liked was the traditional fire. Some hunters in the Ozark’s cut a small piece of a really old pine tree stump that had been on the property for generations. They used the old wood to start the yearly opening day fire. The family had been doing it for more than one hundred years and apparently there’s enough wood left for many generations to come. Nice.

Another one that doesn’t cause too much damage is the “no shaving at deer camp” tradition. No one is allowed to shave during the entire trip. Doing so would jinx the hunt.

Probably my favorite ritual of all has been going on for almost 800 years in a small village in England. To usher in the hunting season, a group of properly inebriated men dawn lederhosen, knickers and giant antlers and attempt to dance with each other. Although I’m not certain of actual alcohol consumption, I can only imagine it might take several large steins of beer for any hunter to put tights on. Either way, this annual event draws a healthy crowd.

So, as I contemplate what I need to gather for my next hunt, I realize that most people in places all over the world had some sort of ceremony before or after a hunt. This dates back to the earliest times of man. I find it comforting to know that even though hunters often get a “bad rap,” most are aware of how special it is to be a hunter and the feeling they get when they are in a position to take a life.

I was forever changed the first time I killed a deer, or any animal for that matter. Most hunters would agree that the change was always for the better and that they looked at life with more reverence and gratitude—a couple of virtues that we all could use more of these days.

Photo credit: Dreamstime