What is a measure of success?

As the new year begins, it becomes time to look back both literally and figuratively.

Scrolling through pictures on my iPhone, there are many landscapes, animal signs, harvests, plants and animals. How do we measure a year, a hunt as a success? Is it the food we bring to the table? Or the picture of a taken animal? Is it the tranquility and excitement of being outdoors?

My favorite hunts share a common thread — getting lost in the moment. The moment can occur at any time, but it rarely involves pulling a trigger.

Hunting has afforded me some truly memorable moments that would have otherwise been lost to the winds of time. I measure success in experience and memories. The memories of a harvest will remain, but it’s the small memories that evoke the most joy in reminiscing.

n A rustle in the leaves during a spring gobbler hunt — the chipmunk I’d been searching for turned out to be a blue fence lizard (uncommon in Pennsylvania), who decided that I was warm as he began courting me. His sapphire blue throat flashed with each chirp.

n An archery season deer approaches only to see that it was a protected buck. I rested my head back against the tree and just enjoyed his company.

n The excitement of my first deer hunt, opening day of antlered firearms and the thud of deer hooves through the leaves. Standing 10 yards away, locked into a staring contest was a beautiful doe who sported a coat unlike any I’d seen before, its black tones shining through.

n An orange salamander on a bed of leaves after a rain.

n A mushroom growing in the hollow of a tree.

n The sharp-shinned hawk diving for a meal and coming up empty-handed.

n A ringing in my ears and the sweet aromatherapy of firing a shotgun in a cornfield for the first time.

n The first pair of eyes you spy on a predator hunt.

Watching a pheasant take wing over a grass field with tailfeathers trailing.

n The beauty and power of a released fish swimming away.

I rarely tire of taking my gun for a walk.

When I am old and no longer capable of hunting, I will look back on my successes — the beauty of the dawn, the world awakening, the sound of a leaf liberating itself from a tree — and know that I have been blessed.

Jolene Connelly, an educator from Selinsgrove, is member of the governor’s advisory council for hunting, fishing and conservation. She can be contacted at joleneconnelly@gmail.com

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