HILDEN – No matter how much time passes, Rick Hill will never forget his first big game hunt.
The sights, sounds and excitement he felt as a 10-year-old boy in the wild surrounded by skilled hunters such as his father, brothers, uncles and neighbours surface this time of year on the eve of the general deer hunting season.
“It was an exciting day,” said the Hilden resident. “It was a big deal. I felt like I was finally part of the group.
He’s been closely watching the ivy climbing his front porch change from a deep green to a bright, crimson red, a symbol he’s recognized since childhood marks the arrival of hunting season.
Hill, 57, said he grew up in a “very rural area” in Ontario where hunting is a part of the lifestyle.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said. “We’d bring home meat for the family and split it up. That’s the way I was raised, if you were lucky enough to get one, you shared it.”
During the opening day of big game season this year Hill will be on the sidelines, recovering from a minor surgery. However, he has been sorting through his hunting gear, aiming to participate later in the season.
“It’s about reminiscing,” he said. “It kind of kickstarts the memories. It’s a different form of photo album I guess, but all the photos are in your head.”
Picking up one of a few sets of trophy antlers he’s kept from past adventures he said each one is loaded with memories about the time, place and people involved in the hunt.
The veteran outdoorsman said there is so much more to hunting than killing an animal. The sport gives people an opportunity to experience nature in a way like no other.
“I’ve been back in the woods archery hunting and I’ve had chickadees land on my arrow while I was sitting in the tree stand,” said Hill. He added that many people go hunting just to spend time outdoors.
He’d like to see more young people develop an interest in hunting to carry on the longtime Canadian tradition and encourages experienced hunters to act as mentors.
Since Sept. 9 people holding an archery and muzzleloader licence could hunt deer but only with bows until Sept. 23, when crossbows and muzzleloaders could also be used. As of Friday, Oct. 25 hunters holding a general deer hunting licence can use rifles.
Jen Wiles, clerk at MacKay's Wild Outdoor Store, said Thursday they were going “full tilt” selling hunting liences.
“It’s like last minute shoppers, people are coming in making sure they have enough ammo,” she said.
She added that bait and scents were also in high demand.
The bear and the general deer hunting seasons end on Dec. 7. Anyone holding an archery and muzzleloader licence can hunt deer until Dec. 14.
By the numbers:
Total registered harvest in the province in 2012: 9,036
Total antlerless deer harvested: 2,736
Licences sold: 35, 732 (the lowest number sold per season for the past nine years).
Overall hunter success: 25.3 %
Deer harvest numbers for Colchester County:
2011: 1, 114
2012: 1, 131