Play Ball

What baseball fans and deer hunters have in common.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

New Yorkers are nuts about baseball. So nuts, I'm convinced there's something in the water that makes everyone in the Big Apple a little crazy this time of year, as the baseball season wind downs and the pennant race heats up.

I'm not a die-hard baseball fan, but if you live in this town long enough, you can hardly help noticing (and admiring) the absolute passion New Yorkers have for the Mets and the Yankees. They don't just support their teams, they're rabid about them-all of which got me to musing recently about just how similar these crazy baseball fans are to deer hunters.

Think about it. Baseball fans and deer hunters share the same preseason jitters, complete with conversations about which bucks/teams are still around and might face us in the field this fall. Deer hunters also have their own form of spring training-even if it takes place in August. Maybe you spend a bit more time on the range or shoot your bow an extra time or two to get your arms in top condition. And though I can't say that deer hunting has heroes the way baseball does, Michael Hanback, John Wootters and a few others come pretty close for me.

I recently watched Field of Dreams (one of my favorite movies) with my kids. Near the end of the film Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) talks to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) about how interwoven into the fabric of America baseball is, saying: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball...This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."

To me, those words come pretty close to the way I feel about deer hunting. Things change, times change, but deer hunting remains the same. There are no guarantees, just as there are none in baseball. Every day is a new day.

That optimism is the one thing, above all else, that deer hunters and baseball fans have in common. No matter how bad last season was, there is always a renewed sense of hope that "this could be the season" we take the series or the buck of our dreams. You'll see some who have fulfilled that dream in this month's "Deer of the Year" feature (page 70). And Mike Hanback's "Big Buck Master Plan" (page 48) will help you lay out your strategy so that maybe this deer season will be your season to be a winner. This fall, I'm heading to Montana for what will be my big deer hunt of the year. I've tried to keep my excitement down to a dull roar, but as each day brings me closer to the time, I find myself hoping that maybe this will be the year I'll see something really special.

I'll go and hunt hard, and at night I'll lie in a creaky bed in some quiet little town and listen to the far-off whistle of a freight train passing in the night. I'll smile as I drift off to sleep and I'll dream deep dreams about big bucks and all that is good in the world of deer hunting and will be again when I head to the field... tomorrow.