Monday, March 27, 2006

Hog season

There must be something in the air these days, as two recent stories about hog hunting have appeared. The first follows Red Sox pitchers Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield on a wild pig hunt in Florida. The other, a piece in the NY Times Magazine wherein the author tries hunting for the first time (wild pigs in Northern California). He self-conciously avoids venturing into Hemingway territory (for the most part), and at one point really captures how one feels in the woods when hunting: ears and eyes started tuning in — everything. It was as if I'd dialed up the gain on all my senses, or quieted myself to such an extent that the world itself grew louder and brighter. I quickly learned to filter out the static of birdsong, of which there was plenty at that early hour, and to listen for the frequency of specific sounds — the crack of branches or the snuffling of animals. I found I could see farther into the woods than I ever had before, picking out the tiniest changes in my visual field at an almost inconceivable distance, just so long as those changes involved movement or blackness. The sharpness of focus and depth of field was uncanny, though, being nearsighted, I knew it well from the experience of putting on glasses with a strong new prescription for the first time. "Hunter's eye," Angelo said later when I described the phenomenon; he knew all about it.

I found a shaded spot overlooking the wallow and crouched down in the leaves, steadying my back against the smooth trunk of a madrone. I rested my gun across my thighs and got quiet. The whoosh of air through my nostrils suddenly sounded calamitous, so I began inhaling and exhaling through my mouth, silencing my breath. So much sensory information was coming into my head that it seemed to push out the normal buzz of consciousness. The state felt very much like meditation, though it took no mental effort or exercise to achieve that kind of head-emptying presence. The simple act of looking and listening, tuning my senses to the forest frequencies of Pig, occupied every quadrant of mental space and anchored me to the present.

Deer hunting in winter in Western Massachusetts I've also found myself feeling this way. Arriving at your spot before light, you sit there and just listen and look as the sun comes up. The stars start to fade into the coming daylight, as do the lights of the town down below the mountain. Being there in the forest you feel like a part of it. Your senses are almost overloaded and you truly do reach a sort of meditative state. This state is broken by the appearance of deer if you're lucky and the rush of adrenalin is even more pronounced coming out of your recent state of quiet. It's a unique experience.


Post a Comment

<< Home