I Went Into The Woods: A Hunter’s Internal Dialogue


Examples and figures of speech are tricky because they are not precise. We could be looking at something that appears to be particularly analogous, but it’s inevitably simplistic.

As I walked through the woods on a rainy Saturday September 11th, I tried to put words into what I was doing.

was I recalibrating? Clear the mechanism? Hunters, hikers, and all outdoor enthusiasts have many neatly packaged explanations that are readily available to us, but none of them are accurate.

I’ve given up on being 100% present when I’m in the woods because it seems like some of my best thoughts are being done there, so I’m like, why resist?

There is always something that comes to my mind when I am outside. Sometimes it’s a song, a line, or even a quote from a movie.

Sadly, the last soundtrack of my hunts is eight words from Walker Hayes’ recent hit. Not the whole song. Only eight words. It’s a lesson in marketing – things don’t have to be good, just sticky.

But once I was able to sort this out, bigger thoughts began to spring from below the surface and into consciousness.

Earlier, I was listening to a podcast with Zander Fryer and he was talking about the importance of dealing with negativity by exploring the emotions and feelings that come with it. Negativity that is ignored and covered in false optimism or cliché self-help jargon rots. We have to take care of it. Earthen. Deleted. Once this is accomplished, positivity has, and must take, space to reside.

So, I wondered how much negativity I had to endure as I continued to walk through the woods with my bow. I read newspapers rather than watch television. But I’m on social media and it hardly seems that submitting to the evils and arguments of the world is the key to happiness. It certainly seems like the perfect way to ruin a good hunt. After all, here I am on one of the few rainless days we’ve had in September, and I’m thinking of who can be exempt from the rules the rest of us are subjected to.

It also seems like I’ve taken this route more often (and written about it in this space) because not mentioning or reflecting on trauma, resilience, mental health, physical health, the role of government in my happiness, seems to ignore what I should probably breathe and entertain if only to avoid being a useful idiot.

At this point in the hunt, I had stopped walking because multitasking is a myth. It’s a euphemism for “not doing either good for lack of focus.” I could have walked quietly past a gorilla and probably not noticed.

I let the internal dialogue hang and found a sharper focus on the trees, brush, and the pile of deer stools to my left. The sound of water gushing invisibly from somewhere in the thick woods grew loud.

Movement. I move my eyes without turning my head. Squirrel.

My mind fills with the positivity of the presence. I was back. Just a guy in the woods.

I waited a few more minutes, then continued my leisurely circuit just below the tree line. I saw more signs, but only one lonely doe.

That night I ate grouse for dinner, served on a jalapeno boat filled with cream cheese and topped with bacon. Different from what I had hoped for, but it tasted really good.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. Her book, “A Miserable Heaven: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available at local bookstores and on Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice a month in the Sports & Outdoors section of Empire Juneau.

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