How it took the COVID-19 pandemic for this hunter to fully explore the upside of heading afield alone
The folks who study humankind and all its social diversity have plenty to say about the solitary sort, and it’s not all bad. According to psychological studies, individuals who prefer being alone possess superior problem-solving skills, and are able to fully concentrate on a task with laser-sharp clarity. And, no surprise, they are always keenly aware of their surroundings. Those sound like the kind of skills any hunter would like to have.
Studies also claim that the constant input of other people’s ideas, opinions and offers of help merely get in the way of the tight focus of those who cope best by themselves. Solo types seem to be happier and less stressed with the fact that any situation will have to be confronted alone. Perhaps that’s why they’re some of the sharpest trackers and guides out there. Sure, they’re great around a campfire telling yarns until sunrise, but given their druthers, they’d probably prefer not to have other voices muddying up the silence.
Solitary people are often very good hunting companions if the mood strikes them, but most are content to be alone. Solitude is not a sad state if it’s your choice, and it’s more about the pleasure derived from being alone, not lonely. I recall a deer hunter who once told me he was lonelier riding a city bus on a Friday night than he ever was striding along the game trails of northern Manitoba. According to him, solitude was magical and positive, but that feeling seemed to fade if he spent too much time among the masses. Remaining far from the madding crowds was his only antidote.
Indeed, embracing the silence within is how many folks reboot, bringing them clarity and allowing them to push aside much of the pointless static of daily life. Going alone into the forest, with only your own footsteps to be heard, can give you the sharp focus you just might need to set you in the right direction. And should a brace of game birds also come to hand, well, all the better.
A deer hunter once told me he was lonelier riding a city bus on a Friday night than he ever was striding along the game trails of northern Manitoba
People who enjoy the lone life see the big outside through different eyes. For centuries, the forest was the realm of mystery, danger and some very hungry critters. Only a brave person on a quest, or an outlaw, would travel alone through the dark woods. Even today, a good many hunters—if they’re being truly honest—are a tad uneasy in the big woods alone. But for a solitary person, the forest has no dark underlying purpose. Rather, it’s as much a place of solace as it is a source of physical and spiritual sustenance.
Studies all agree that solo wanderers are more cognizant of scents and sounds, taking pleasure from the faintest whiff of game to the roar of a bull moose across dead water. Their forest is a friend, a family member and, sometimes, almost a lover. Ever listen to a long-time lone hunter talk about the woods? If you really listen, you’ll hear a gentle tenderness few of us feel for anything. The Germans speak of Waldeinsamkeit, the sense of peace bordering on spirituality that comes with being alone in the wild woods. For any lone forest wanderer, that explains everything with Teutonic precision.
A very private grouse hunter I know who typically shared few of his thoughts, once took me into his confidence to offer this bit of elder advice: If you want to ruin a hunt, take someone with you. The greatest impediment to a pleasurable hunt, he believed, was the annoying presence of another person. He cherished his silence—he didn’t even put bells on his dogs, as it bothered his concentration. No, the only thing he let break the damp autumn silence was the report of his Fox 16-gauge.