I didn’t grow up hunting. In fact, at one time in my life I didn’t think hunting had a place in modern society. I saw it as an ego-driven, redneck, archaic activity that people took part in to satisfy their lust for self-aggrandizement. For those who don’t experience wild places or see wild animals and who are not educated on proper conservation practices, it is easy to view hunting through the lens created by movies and the media. It wasn’t until I was exposed to hunting that I started asking questions and learning more about why people hunt. I quickly discovered that many people hunt, and all hunters have different reasons for why they choose to hunt.
The more I learned about hunting, the more interested I became. However, two experiences had a profound effect on my journey. First, I had someone take me hunting so I could see what it was all about. While I wasn’t hunting for myself at first, going with a friend gave me a taste for what the experience was all about. After seeing the process in person and experiencing the emotions that hunters feel, I knew that there was something to this hunting thing. But I was still hesitant. Honestly, I still had this image of some redneck guzzling beer and driving around in his truck, and that perception held me up. But then a relative introduced me (not literally, unfortunately) to Cameron Hanes. Cam Hanes is a backcountry bowhunter who is also a world class athlete. He trains in the gym and runs to be better prepared to tackle the rigors of hunting in the mountains. And while Cam has taken some monster animals, for him hunting is about the experience and adventure. As someone who loves health and fitness, the idea that a hunter could be an athlete who not only pursues animals but also has amazing adventures appealed to me. The idea that the hunting experience could and should go beyond the kill also spoke to me and drew me in.
With this new-found knowledge in hand, my hesitations disappeared. I wanted to make hunting a part of my life. I knew that a piece of me was missing, and when I was out in the mountains chasing game, I felt whole again. Something deep inside of me, something almost primal, spoke to me when I started hunting. I felt part of me awaken. I wanted to take part in the process of providing for my survival. I was no longer content to hide behind the convenience of a grocery store; I wanted to take responsibility for the life that was ended so that my family and I could live. I wanted to visit incredible places and have incredible experiences.
In becoming a hunter, I also have come to realize that hunting isn’t for everyone. I do not think that everyone should hunt. Some people don’t have access to places to hunt or the resources they need. For some, a lack of time is a hindrance. Some people just don’t want to hunt, and that is okay. But if you are going to begin hunting, you will want to take some time for introspection. Ask yourself and determine, “Why do I want to hunt?”
There are many reasons why people make hunting a part of their life. No reason is better than another. Some people hunt for the food. Wild game harvested by the consumer has begun to fill the demand for meat in the organic food movement. With comparatively low fat content and higher levels of protein per gram, animals such as elk and deer are excellent replacements for beef. Additionally, if you hunt on public land you have the benefit of meat that is free range and pesticide/hormone free. If you are simply hunting for the purpose of putting food on the table, hunting is a relatively inexpensive way to accomplish this goal.
While food is great outcome of a hunt, some see hunting as their way to aid in the conservation process. When I began hunting I knew very little about conservation practices, and I was concerned that hunting would decimate the population. I’ve come to learn that hunting and hunters are the reasons wild places and wild animals still exist. In very broad strokes, conservation in the United States is primarily funded by a tax on hunting and outdoor products. This tax was introduced under the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and includes, but is not limited to, guns, ammunition, and other hunting equipment and tools. This tax was originally self-imposed by hunters and outdoorsmen. A small segment of funding comes from hunting licenses and donations. Almost no funding comes from “animal activist groups” such as PETA. Additionally, many locations that hunters call home are only accessed through small towns that rely on the money that visiting hunters spend in these communities. Many of these towns would cease to exist and their citizens would be displaced if hunters didn’t travel through or to them. For these reasons, many people hunt to support conservation and local economies.
For some people, and this is one of my primary motivators, people take up hunting to have incredible adventures. The stories and experiences that come from hunting cannot be replicated by any other activity. I’ve often told the story of my brother-in-law taking me hunting and having two rutting bulls come into 40 yards bugling like crazy. This was an incredible experience! But as amazing as this experience was, when I finally put a bow in my hand, the experience took on a whole new meaning. Experiences such as staring down a bull elk at 10 yards, knowing that I had won that day, live vividly in my mind and are treasures that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Finally, individuals take up hunting to “get back to the basics.” They want to take their food from field to table. Some will use every ounce of the animal, apply the fat, bone, and hide in traditional manners. Many of these skills are quickly falling by the wayside. People are forgetting how to carry out the activities that man has been performing for eons as technology becomes more and more advanced and people become further removed from where their food and other products come from.
I’ve come to love hunting. I love sharing the adventure that hunting can be. Whether that adventure comes from providing for your family or from exploring a new wilderness, both are important aspects of an individual’s hunting life, and neither is more important than the other. I do not judge what motivates an individual to pursue the hunt; rather, I applaud them for engaging in one of the more challenging and fulfilling experiences this life has to offer. Let there be more sharing and encouragement as we welcome others into this great adventure that is hunting.