Friday, December 28, 2012

Hearing the Great Spirit Speak by John O'Connor

This article is from John O'Connor, a guest writer this month.

Hunting season is in full swing and in some regions has come and gone.  For most hunters, hunting season brings about a time of sport and hobby, while for others it brings about a time of spiritual connectedness and ritual while out in the field. My father was one of those hunters who not only hunted for sport but also because he felt a great spiritual connection while out in the field.  While always making sure to have the proper equipment with him such as his guns, ammo, camouflage and hearing protection he often took to the sport of hunting as a way to releasing himself from the outside world and to just get away and relax for awhile.  Owning his own business for 30 plus years he would often say that some of his best ideas and thoughts came from times when he was out in the field or in the woods on a hunt.  With the beautiful scenery, crisp air, and feeling of quietness he felt that he was always at ease out in the field and his head was always clear from any distractions he may have.  In the field there were no phone calls, appointments, meetings or conventions to attend, just him, his hunting buddies and the woods. 

Much like my father many other hunters feel a strong spiritual connection while out on a hunt.  Some hunters prior to heading out into the woods like to say a prayer to ensure their safety or pray for the animals and nature as a whole. Whatever their own rituals may be one thing they all have in common is that they feel whole while out in the field and at the same time extremely connected to the earth and its surroundings.  My father often said “while on a hunt, it can be seen that this world was made this way for a reason, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to explore and connect with it in my own ways.”

Although hunting has always been a huge part of my father’s life he does have some complications now that can be related directly to hunting.  Often times when out on a hunt he tended to neglect his hearing protection.  He didn’t think he needed any and also thought that it took away from the whole natural hunting experience.  Almost making the hunt seem fake or artificial.  Due to the lack of hearing protection my father is affected severely by hearing loss and uses hearing aids to help amplify the sounds around him so he can hear better.  Although hunting is not the only cause of his hearing loss, his doctor did say that it played a major role in damaging his eardrums. 

Although my father still occasionally hunts and enjoys heading to the range to keep his accuracy up to par he always remembers to have his hearing protection on at all times.  Even though he still feels that it takes away from the spiritual side of the hunt, he understands that his hearing has suffered enough and preventing any more loss is the only thing he can do. 

Hunting is a great pastime and a sport that’s popularity will live on well into the future. Ensure that you are teaching your kids or grandkids the proper and moral ways of hunting as they become more and more interested in the sport.  Teaching youngsters not only the needed skills but also the just skills will ensure proper and ethical hunting for many years to come.  

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out my new blog at!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Short Winter "Tail"

In December, to celebrate the end of the year, I like to walk through the pines in the snow. The light shines through the boughs in columns of white gold and tinsel snowflakes slough off of the branches and sparkle in the sunlight. I wear my favorite old flannel shirt with the frayed collar under my canvas coat with the game pouch. Walking through the winter woods, I listen to the styrofoam-like crunching of my boots on the carpet of white. A gentle North wind carries the scent of the lake as it begins to grow dormant on its surface. When I am in this sacred place, isolated from the world, it feels as if I were trudging through the boreal forest a thousand miles to the North. 

I duck under a tangle of vines with bright red berries, and as I bend toward the ground, I see the forked tracks of Bonasa Umbellus, the King of the Northern Woods. I slow my pace and begin scouring the immediate neighborhood for a hidden enclave where he might be hiding. I pause to let him know that I am seeking him. The moment is wrought with tension. I shoulder my old shotgun and rest my finger on the safety. As I position my weight on my left foot, it happens.

A burst of russet wings fills the air. “Whhhhrrrrrrrr” and the ruffed grouse explodes from behind a deadfall, tearing down a hallway of pines, swaying from right to left, like an expert fighter pilot escaping enemy fire. I have no time to aim or calculate lead. I instinctively pull through his line of departure and my gun barks a sharp percussive tone.

The ruffed grouse plummets to the ground and comes to rest on a sprawling juniper bush. I breathe a sigh of gratitude and reverence for this beautiful animal.

I approach him with respect and hold him in my gloved hands. I stroke his bronzed head and fan his tail to admire his magnificent body. I think to myself “Someday my time will come and I hope that someone will admire my life as I do his.” His power and grace are nothing short of miraculous. He is a gift to us all. He will nurture the spirits of my guests on New Years’ Eve and be given the highest praise as we thank the Great Spirit for his offering.

Bonasa Umbellus, better known as the ruffed grouse, is a medium –sized bird that has a hunting heritage bound to the hardiest of souls, willing to traipse through the thickest tangles and densest pines. Males and females weigh approximately 1- 1 ½ lbs and the tails of both are a banded brown and black with a white bar. Females can be differentiated from males by identifying a single white “dot” on the rump feathers of the female and multiple white “dots” on the male.
Locally, we refer to the bird as a “partridge.” We know it is not an actual partridge, but it’s fun to “ruffle the feathers” of those “proper” folks.