Oct. 1 meant something special for senior Andrew Weaver and his friends: hunting season.
Weaver obtained permission from the Hillsdale College administration to hunt on college-owned property located a few miles off campus. He also hunts on the land of some farmers who each permission individually. In general, farmers welcome respectful hunters.
“Around here, deer are considered a nuisance,” Weaver said. “In places like Hillsdale, you realize [hunting] is a necessary evil. Without hunting, car and deer collisions go up.”
Weaver said he also hunts on a large portion of government-owned property located 20 minutes outside of Hillsdale called The Lost Nations. He said he only hunts at The Lost Nations during bow season to avoid the danger of careless gun-owners.
Weaver says hunting while in college requires a little bit of accommodation — after all, it requires you settle for even less sleep than is originally available to students — but he says hunting is a priority for him.
“It’s a great way to detox and destress,” he said. “It is really peaceful and calm out there.”
Hunting offers the ability to see nature up close and personal.
“Its great to be up catching the sunrise, seeing your breath, hearing the woods come alive,” Weaver said. “It’s good for the soul.”
Sophomore Ian Atherton is originally from Denver, Colo., where he hunts pheasants, turkey, and elk. In Colorado, hunting helps maintain elk populations and prevent the spread of infectious disease.
“Hunting is very much a necessary aspect of nature,” he said.
All three agreed that the early hours at which they typically hunted were the most distasteful element of life as a hunter.
“Waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning is the absolute worst,” Atherton said. “Once you get out there and the sun starts to rise, it’s a really unique experience.”
Senior Robert Salisbury, who hunts with Weaver, said his favorite part of the hunt is after the challenge and anticipation after first catching sight of the target.
“The time passing between seeing the animal and actually getting a shot off is thrilling,” he said. “I do it for fun, but if I just left [the animal] on the ground after shooting it, it would not be worth killing the animal.”
Weaver’s favorite part of the hunt is tracking the animal after his arrow finds its mark. He can tell how true a shot was by the blood trail.
“Dark blood is a heart or liver shot,” he said. “White, frothy blood is a lung shot. If you know you got a bad shot based on the blood, you wait for an hour or two until the animal beds down. Sometimes you trail one for 600 yards and you’re wondering if you killed it. That’s really exciting.”
Junior Katherine Holt went hunting with Weaver for the first time last year. She said she enjoyed how peaceful it was.
“It was nice to sit and relax and listen,” she said. “You have to be completely still — it gives you a great opportunity to think and enjoy the quiet.”
So where does a student store an entire deer on campus?
“If it’s cold enough, 55 degrees or less, I’ll hang it in my backyard,” Weaver said. He then takes it to a butcher on State Street and has it processed and ready for eating.
“The deer around here are all corn fed — they are actually pretty beefy and not gamey.”
Salisbury said he prefers to turn venison into steaks or ground meat, whereas animals like pheasant, grouse, and squirrel are more suited for stews.
Weaver said he prefers to prepare squirrel by either stewing or frying it. Squirrel meat is enhanced by the fat in the nuts they consume, and is, according to Weaver, “pretty good meat.”
Junior Brianna Walden is interested in hunting in Hillsdale, but as of yet has only had the opportunity to skin the spoils of others, a skill she taught herself using Google and a fish filet knife.
Walden said she comes from a small town with “a lot of hunters and rednecks.” The first animal she skinned was a raccoon that had invaded her family’s garage.
“We’d tried everything to get rid of these raccoons,” she explained. “So I get out there, single-shot loading this bolt-action rifle. I’m looking down this thing, and the little raccoon is looking at me with his bandit eyes, and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve never actually shot anything before.’”
But Walden dropped the raccoon with a shot between the eyes.
“I put the gun away and was like: ‘I kind of want to skin one,’” she said. “So I got on the computer, and I Googled ‘how to skin a raccoon.’ I printed off pictures and everything.”
The skinning, though it took a couple of hours, was a success.
“I took the skin and made a hat,” Walden said. “I promised to never wear it around campus because I will forever be ‘that girl.’”
Weaver said around Hillsdale he hunts mainly deer, turkeys, rabbits, and coyotes. Anybody attending school in Michigan can procure an in-state hunting license for $15, a much less expensive option than the whopping $140 due for a nonresident hunting license. The only requirement is a few hunting safety classes.