By Jake Ray
I traded my Nike frees for camo boots.
I traded my backpack and books for a backpack chair and a turkey decoy.
I traded my Under Armour hoodie and Nike shorts for a camouflage coat and pants.
I traded my pencil and pen for a slate and box call.
I traded in my beats by Dre headphones for my shotgun.
And I traded going to work and class to go hunting.
Going to school in Ashland, Ohio, the home of Ashland University (an Amish community), I am not far from fields, woods and animals.
Hunting is a part of people’s lives here. On campus, it is not unusual to see a camo hat, camo backpack, or even a horse and buggy riding up Claremont. Ashland is also home to Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters. This is great for me because it’s a place where I can go and get away from everything – be in an atmosphere that I am comfortable in.
Being here makes me feel at home. Hunting and being in the outdoors has been a part of my family for a long time. This made coming to college easier. Sharing hunting stories, getting permission to hunt on friends’ land, all of this made the transition easier.
Being in school from August to May, I am in Ashland for both major hunting seasons. Even though I go home on the weekends to hunt with family, I have been hunting in Ashland a couple of times. In Ashland, I do not hunt on a lot of land, only six acres, but it’s hunting. Any land is better than none and hunting is, well … hunting!
Hunting has been a way for me to release stress and just get away from the hustle and bustle of the college atmosphere.
I am not a typical college student. I don’t party. I don’t drink. I am in bed before midnight almost every night. I get my work done on time, I study, and I don’t procrastinate.
A lot of other students would dread getting up before the sun rises to go sit in the woods and be quiet for 3 or 4 hours. No Instagram. No Facebook. No Twitter. I don’t care about any of that. I love it.
Hearing the woods wake up and seeing what our wonderful God has created is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Because of circumstances, I was not able to hunt in Ashland the opening week of Ohio turkey season. But I did go back home and hunt on land I am very familiar with.
My dad and I had built a turkey blind the week before, using the knowledge of what the turkeys did last year. This is the spot I sat – my hunch was right. It wasn’t the big double bearded Tom I was looking for, but seeing turkeys made the day worth it. The first one I saw was a hen that I called back and forth in. It came and went with no problem.
About an hour and a half later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a Jake with a hen behind it. They came up the same way the first hen did. I called to them, hoping to lure the Jake to my decoy. It didn’t work, but it did pull the second Jake that I did not seen right to my decoy.
My heart was racing.
Yes, it was only a Jake, but this happens to me every time I get a chance to bag an animal. The Jake was 15 yards in front of me. My safety was off . . . but I went home empty handed. Right after I decided to take this turkey, there was a hen about 30 yards past the gobbler in front of me that made three short “clucks.”
I let the Jake walk away hoping for this hen to bring a Tom into shooting range. She didn’t. I didn’t see a turkey the rest of the morning. I had the opportunity to take a bird, but I passed – the wrong decision. It is okay. That’s why it is called “hunting” and not “killing.”
No turkey or a tagged bird in the truck, but it was a day I got to spend in one of my favorite places – the woods. A day in the woods is never a day wasted.
Yes, I could have slept in. Yes, I could have eaten a good breakfast and worked on homework. Yes, I could have gone to class.
But I didn’t. I went hunting.
Jake Ray is a rising junior at Ashland University in Ohio