God’s Country

Today is the second day of the Oaky Woods hunt.  It’s too warm, not wet enough, and too quiet.  There are only about one hundred hunters signed in right now, with two deer harvested so far.  I know that a hundred people on a three day hunt sounds like a lot, but with so many acres…it’s pretty empty.  That would be good, ordinarily, because that’s so many deer per hunter, but with 60degree mornings, it’s way too warm for the deer to be feeling frisky and on the move. 
There are so many things I am learning about hunting just be sponging up all the conversations between the DNR guys, hunters, loggers, and law enforcement officers.  It is such an interesting experience for a girl that has never learned about how to look for sign, or take advantage of deer habits during different weather patterns, or avoid crowded hot spots. 
I love it.  I love how much these men know about the land they care for, how much they understand the animals and ecosystem.  It is days like this that I understand why Leopold captured my heart so with his writings.  His practical knowledge, his passion, his humble, day-to-day understanding of the natural world in which he lives is a gift.  Not many people understand their surroundings quite so much like those that work in them all the time, and not many people will stop and listen through the thick accents and the rough exteriors to see the huge hearts in these men.
Admittedly, for most of my life I wouldn’t have listened either.  However, now, I do.  I hear their consciences so clearly through their words about regulations, safety, scrapes, slues, bottoms, hard mast, and firebreaks.  I hear how much this land means to them, and I hear how much they have sacrificed to keep it beautiful.  Honestly, the jobs these men have are not the most financially rewarding.  They just aren’t.  Having a family on this salary can be tough, unless you’re smart.  But I see these men do it every day.  I see them work the long hours, deal with thankless hunters, put miles and miles of mud on their trucks…all because of their love for the land.
How noble a profession. 
I mean it.  It might sound strange, especially when you look at the weathered, tan-and-green, gun-toting tough guys, but it’s the truth.  I cannot express to my satisfaction the joy I have in my heart because I have had the chance to get to know these men working in bear country.  
You know, Hooker jokes sometimes about this being God’s country, but for me, right now, His presence is so clear, that without a doubt…this is indeed God’s country, and I am thankful to be in it.

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