Why I Hunt
I still remember my first hunt like it was yesterday. It was a cold October morning and the opening day for deer in Idaho. I was finally 12 years old and this was my first chance for a big game hunt. My dad parked the truck and killed the ignition at where we were to begin our hike to a little honey hole we affectionately call "The Knob". My whole family consisting of my mom, dad, older brother, and me were there to be at that inaugural start to my hunting career.
Before we even opened the doors to the truck, my dad made me recite the rules of gun safety. He reminded me of the amount of time we spent practicing shooting and reminded me to squeeze the trigger not pull it. The last thing he did before the journey began was to look me in the eyes and say "Son, I know you are ready".
As we started the ascent up the mountain, I remember trying to keep up with my dad's stride. Placing my feet exactly where he had placed his and trying my best to be quiet and to look for deer. We soon spotted some deer just as the sun was peaking over the mountains. We were able to sneak to a spot downwind of them and get a 100 yard shot. Everything my dad had taught me came rushing together and I laid the hammer down. With that one shot kill, my lifelong hunting addiction began.
One reason I hunt is because of the family aspect. From that first hunt, I spent the next six years following my father's footsteps and learning from the master. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that hunting is not easy. I have many memories of hunting with my dad and brother. I remember hauling an elk miles out of the backcountry with the weather switching back and forth between freezing rain and snow. The ground was so slick it took all of my concentration to not slide down the mountain especially with the added weight of an elk on my back. We were freezing and tired by the time we got back to the truck but the sense of accomplishment was greater than anything I had ever done at that point in my life. And I did it with my dad by my side.
Another memory is the time my brother and I went scouting in 90 degree weather. We got to the top of the mountain just to find that the water source we had planned on using was dried up. Dehydration and heat stroke was a real concern. We stayed smart and were able to find a small trickle of water from the source of a stream. We dug a hole and let it fill before we filtered the water and quenched our thirst. It's an experience that I'll never forget.
It because of memories and challenges like these that we went through together that created an unbreakable bond between my Dad, brother, and me. A bond that playing monopoly would never create. I am a firm believer that a family who hunts together stays together. I can't wait to create my own bonds with my son as he grows up.
All Natural Meat
Another reason I hunt is for the meat. I am going to refer to the wisdom of Steven Rinella, a hunter and writer who I enjoy reading. He smartly points out that the meat we harvest hunting might be best labeled as "free-range, grass-feed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat" (www.nytimes.com).
I prefer to know where my meat came from instead of trusting the grocery store. Anyone who is anti-hunting but pro meat needs to take a look at the cramped dirty feed lots or the packed chutes of a slaughter house and rethink their evaluation. Without question, hunting is more ethical and cleaner.
The other aspect of wild game is the health benefits. Take a look at the image below for some common wild game nutritional facts. High protein and low fat. It's the best lean meat you can get.
Yet another reason I hunt is for the conservation hunting provides. Hunters contribute through state license and fees, donations, and tax on weapons almost $3 billion a year to conservation programs in the United States (nssf.org). There is not a single organization out there that even comes close to making this much of an impact. Hunters believe that these animals were put here for our use and as such we have a duty to take care of them. Take a look at the following stats.
1. In 1907, only 41,000 elk remained in North America. Thanks to the money and hard work invested by hunters to restore and conserve habitat, today there are more than 1 million.
2. In 1900, only 500,000 whitetails remained. Thanks to conservation work spearheaded by hunters, today there are more than 32 million.
3. In 1900, only 100,000 wild turkeys remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are over 7 million.
4. 1901, few ducks remained. Thanks to hunters' efforts to restore and conserve wetlands, today there are more than 44 million.
5. In 1950, only 12,000 pronghorn remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are more than 1.1 million.
( rmef.org )
Without hunters, the wildlife populations we know today would be vastly different. With proper hunting regulations and quotas, hunters also help manage the animal population to sustainable levels. Some argue that we should just let Mother Nature take her course. That may work except for the fact our cities have destroyed habitat and there are fences and roads interrupting migration paths. Human kind's impact on our wildlife would be catastrophic if we didn't continue to manage it.
The last reason I hunt that I'll list here is probably the hardest to explain. One hunting trip my dad stopped, took a deep breath of the crisp mountain air, turned to me and said "This is good medicine". I didn't quite understand what he meant at the time but as I grew older and hunted more I started to understand. Hunting connects to my soul in a way nothing else does. I often joke with my wife that hunting is my anti depression pill. It's the way I ground myself and connect with my primordial roots. Hunting also helps me appreciate the outdoors and creates a deeper, closer feel for the natural world.
I'll once again rely on another's voice who is smarter than me to express my views. Todd Tanner wrote in an award-winning essay the following:
"Even worse, we've turned toward the bright, beguiling, vacuous lights of a culture that no longer revels in the changing of the seasons or the richness of the earth, a culture bereft of the steadying influence of heritage and tradition. In this new reality, where food comes in sterile plastic packages and important concepts like "meaning" and "purpose" grow ever more elusive, far too many Americans are left to hope that each new distraction (or each new purchase) will fill the void they feel in their hearts.
Yet as hunters, lashed to the bedrock of our outdoor legacy and holding tight to the ancestral knowledge that flows through our veins, we retain a clarity that's increasingly rare in the modern world. We see through society's shallow trappings and we know, if not consciously then intuitively, that our time afield is a direct conduit to sanity and balance and tradition, a lifeline running back 10,000 years to an era when humanity could still tell the difference between reality and illusion.
You could even say that our connection to the land lends a special clarity to the rest of our lives. Our relationships with families and friends, our passion for nature, our understanding of how life works and where we fit into the grand scheme of things, our role as stewards and caretakers-all these truly important aspects of our existence are influenced by the fact that we are hunters. We have a purpose, and it's not simply to multiply and consume" (fwp.mt.gov)
Hunting is fundamentally a part of who I am. I am blessed to be in a position to pursue this passion. If this article rings true to you, please join our Facebook group at Facebook.com/groups/BackcountryBrotherhood and help us create a community of hunters. Together, we can continue to make a positive influence in the social and cultural insanity that threatens to take our world over.