It is deer season, a/k/a redneck high holy days. I am trying to be in the woods more and in the office less. Like most of my plans, it is not going as I had hoped.
Folks fall into two sides on hunting- they either love it or don’t understand it. I am specifically not talking about duck hunting which is a sickness that I (and other sensible folk) don’t understand.
The first time I told my wife that I would be sitting in a deer stand in the cold for 8 hours, she laughed and thought I was joking. After more than a decade together, she has learned to disguise her disbelief. She still doesn’t understand but keeps the hunting cabin in better shape than I did without her.
I recognize that this month’s edition will not resonate with many of you, and that in ten years it may make no sense at all. I could say that about most of my writings in this space, but this one for sure. Trial lawyers have a shelf life and are vanishing quickly. Hunters are another vanishing species- it seems the younger folk would rather shoot video games or do pretty much anything other than sit in the cold to hunt. For those of us who fell in love with hunting at an early age, we can’t imagine not grabbing a rifle or shotgun when a season opens. If I were an objective bystander though, I would probably side with the younger generation.
I grew up in a little rural town where many of us hunted for food. That likely sounds more dramatic than it was, but I helped feed the family more than a few times with my shotgun. We probably wouldn’t have starved if we didn’t hunt, but it did stretch our thin budgets. My inner redneck is the part that still chops wood and hunts. I can dress him up in a suit, but he is there just the same.
Carl joined me at deer camp this year. He is a lawyer and a hunter, but the similarities between us stop there. My shirt is buffalo plaid flannel with a tear from a close encounter with my chainsaw, while he looks like he stepped out of a Cabelas catalog (before BassPro bought them) when he comes to deer camp. He has the finest equipment and spends more time getting dressed to hunt than I do for a formal event. That may be due to my shortcomings rather than his fastidiousness, I know, but he truly looks like a bwana hunting on a safari rather than at a deer camp. Trust me, nonhunters, it is weird.
Carl and I were enjoying a dram by the campfire. (That is when men light things on fire as an excuse to spit and poke stuff with sticks, not to be confused with a survival fire.) I asked him why he came out to hunt, and his answer surprised me.
“I do it because it is just like practicing law.”
I laughed, certain he was joking. The solitude of a deer stand is the furthest thing from practicing law. I look forward to skipping out early on a Friday to hunt, but dread leaving the woods early to get back to work. I could tell from his eyes that he was earnest.
“I’ll bite. How are they the same?”
“Well, for starters, you plan exhaustively for both.” I looked at the stack of food and gear in our cabin and thought that maybe he planned hunting harder than did I.
“Even with your best planning, things don’t always go the way you hope. There are prescribed wardrobes and rituals. It is an adversarial system, and a good day for hunter or prey means a bad day for the other. Except for mediations of course- then success means everyone had more of a bad day than they had hoped.”
He had some points, but I wasn’t convinced.
“Hunters and lawyers work under time guidelines, whether it is a briefing schedule or a season. Both are stereotypically macho, but the best hunters and lawyers are sensitive creatures who understand their adversary and respect them. Ultimately, success or failure turns on things not in our control.”
“What about the peace of sitting in a stand in the cold, or the way you are isolated from work in the woods?” I asked.
“Lawyers have lots of time alone with their thoughts. I’ll grant you that enjoying the outdoors is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the courtroom, but I happen to know for a fact that you drift off in daydreams during both.” Carl was right about that.
I learned to hunt from my dad and friends. Hunting has passed down from father to child for generations. I am the first lawyer in my family and neither of my two sons is pursuing the law. One will hunt if nagged, albeit reluctantly. The other looks forward to a trip to the woods. He shot his first deer last year and wept a little when he got to the dead creature. It was far from a stereotypically macho response, and I could not have been prouder.
Carl and I sat around the fire a bit longer before turning in. We agreed that a bad day hunting is better than a good day in the office. For him, a good day means getting into the woods early and shooting the big deer of his dreams. For me, it is just getting into the woods. Actually shooting something means a lot more work, and I go there to unwind. The shots I miss make the best stories anyway, and with no court reporter, the stories only get bigger.
©2019 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He hunts and fishes but isn’t good at either. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.