“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion”
-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Have you ever had a song come over the radio that instantly transported your mind back in time to a moment in your life? Or maybe you have walked into a bakery and smelled something that took you back to grandma’s kitchen when you were a kid. Sensory triggered memories happen to all of us, probably on a daily basis, and maybe sometimes only passing through your mind for a second before you get back to sending that text message or punching the time clock. No, I am not a scientist, but I do spend a lot of time reflecting on what connects me to my passions on a deeper level. You can’t truly understand your passion for anything without really knowing what drives it beyond the basic reasons.
On Christmas Eve morning I took my favorite 4-legged hunting partner, Remi, out for an early pheasant hunt on land I grew up hunting in northwest Kansas. I generally enjoy pheasant hunting with Remi and at least one additional human for the entertainment factor as hunting birds can be nothing more than long walks with little action. However, on this cool and quiet morning I enjoyed watching Remi work in solitude as my mind raced with memories. As soon as we walked away from the vehicle into the fields I saw the sun crack the horizon above a small bluff to the east and I was immediately taken back to the pre-dawn hours of November 2, 2013. My brother Travis and I had quietly made our way through the dark and were sitting amongst a group of locust trees on the edge of a shallow creek a few hundred yards west of that bluff. I had filled my buck tag the previous day along the same creek and we were again out in the crisp morning air trying to fill Travis’ tag. As the sun began to illuminate the ridge of the bluff in glowing orange and dark red the silhouette of the biggest muley buck I have ever seen walked up on the highest point on the bluff as if he had just conquered Everest and stood there like a monarch looking down on his kingdom. It was one of those truly magical moments where you want to see a tag on that beast but, at the same time, you are thankful for a brief moment in life that perfect and majestic.
As Remi was quartering back and forth on this cool, damp morning the smell of wheat stubble, dust, and clean Kansas air took me back in time to bowhunting as a kid. I started bowhunting Kansas muleys when I was 14 years old. Besides the night before excitement that always filled my head with visions of big muleys and my stomach with pre-hunt butterflies, one thing I will always remember until the day I die is the smell of fall archery season. The sweet smell of wheat stubble, the sharp smell of the native weeds, and the dry, dusty smell of corn fields being picked by combines hold a special spot in my hunting memories equally as important as any tag I filled there. Anytime I go home in the fall or early winter I smell these familiar smells and it’s like I jumped in a time machine for a moment in my mind.
These two sensory triggered memories, one based on smell and one based on sight, flashed through my mind for a few moments that day. There were others that day as there are every time I hunt in Kansas or anywhere. Sometimes it’s a smell, a sight, a sound, a feeling, or a taste (yes, even a taste) that takes me back to a memory that is forever burned into my mind and soul. In a day where hunters are constantly judged by those that don’t understand and attacked by anti-hunters that don’t want to understand, it is important that you understand what binds you to your passion. Some hunters are superficially “passionate” about hunting and may be doing it for reasons most of us would judge as wrong. I am not a religious person, not at all, but hunting is a spiritual thing to me that runs through my sensory cortex and beyond. Find your true passion and you will find this in yourself.