Why I Hunt

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 in Hunting | 0 comments

Peace and Solitude: a couple of the many reasons I hunt.

Peace and Solitude: a couple of the many reasons I hunt.

A plethora of people have asked me the question throughout my lifetime, especially lately: “Why do you hunt?” To someone who is as passionate about hunting as I am, the answer is extremely easy, and yet as multi-faceted as the endeavor itself. To try to put into words the reasoning behind the passion is like saying Antarctica is a really cool place. In fact, so much of why I hunt cannot be described with these little devices of human language. Words are best used to describe the physical world, and passion often isn’t of it.

So with this premise in mind, I have broken down the answer of why I hunt into reasons deriving from the tangible and the not-so tangible. Hey, I warned you the answer was easy, not simple.

 

The Tangible:

1.  The Exercise.               A road hunter I am not. For those of you who aren’t steeped in the various hunting practices, I am not referring to sneaking up on and shooting a road, or even the signs protruding from it. I am referring to driving around until you see a game animal, and then either devising a plan to stalk it, or simply shooting it from near the roadway. Depending on what I am hunting, for me to walk a few miles just to reach a hunting spot is commonplace. And walking up and down mountains, stepping over logs and under branches, while carrying 20-30 pounds of weight on my back and a gun in my hands for 12 hours, is not unheard-of whatsoever. I enjoy being depleted at the end of the day, with or without game in my bag.

2. The Challenge.             I wouldn’t necessarily say that I am an extreme hunter, but I have done some outlandish—bordering on ridiculous—things while hunting. For example, how many people are willing to stand in a 3 by 3 foot area for 12 hours when the temperature is 17 degrees below zero? Mere comfort is a luxury most often un-experienced in the course of a typical day of hunting. Dehydration, hunger, and sleep deprivation are normal occurrences in my hunting world, not because they are fun, but because they are often what it takes. Pushing myself to overcome these physical challenges are in-part what drives me.

A second aspect of challenge relates to the act of getting close to a wild animal. Most animals have eyesight that is at least as good as humans, and depending on the quarry, some can hear 5 times as well, and smell 20 times better than we can. Whoever considers hunters as having an unfair advantage over the poor, unsuspecting game animals has never tried to get to within 30 yards of a mature whitetail buck. Animals such as deer spend their lives investigating the slightest of movements and the faintest of sounds, and they simply run off with blistering speed at the whiff of something unfamiliar. That’s just what they do. They have been genetically perfected in true Darwinian fashion to simply survive. Every moment of every day, for their entire lives, and for tens of thousands of generations, they actively pursue survival. To acquire the skills and sensory acuity needed to close the distance on these amazing creatures, is a challenge unlike no other.

A third aspect of challenge refers to the moment of truth. Can I draw my bow undetected, hold it long enough, and finally hit the vitals of a game animal at 30 or 40 yards away, when they decide to turn and offer me a fleeting opportunity? Or can I steady the crosshairs of my rifle scope long enough to make that 200 yard shot in a heavy crosswind? The challenge of achieving the skills necessary to realize the fruition of a hunt is not an easy endeavor, but self-betterment drives me.

3. The Solitude.                                To some, this should be in the challenge category. To me, I welcome it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a raucous party as much as the next guy, but solitude in nature fulfills me. Perhaps it’s being surrounded by the un-abashed purity of the natural world. Or perhaps it’s the lack of another’s ego or attitude.  When there is only me and my thoughts, my senses come alive. I answer to no one, or even consider no one, other than Mother Nature herself. My destiny is completely Her’s and mine, and no one else’s. If I step in the wrong spot or walk in the wrong direction, the blame is mine only. With solitude there is ultimate responsibility, and unequivocal truth.

Alone in the wilderness.

Alone in the wilderness.

4. The Genetics.               Grocery stores and butcher shops have only been around for a few hundred years. Before that, some member of the clan had to go out and get food. Sure there has been some cultivation of crops and raising of domesticated animals for some time, but hunting was as much of the genetic make-up of humans as survival is to a deer’s. It has been only the last couple hundred years that saw the drastic decline of hunting as a percentage of the population, and only in the last 50 or so have we begun to hear the outcry of those adamantly opposed to it.

Now, I obviously can’t tell you what a woman is feeling when she yearns to be pregnant; a common occurrence that is very real.  But every ounce of my intellect and intuition tells me that it is very similar to what I feel when I yearn to hunt. We can produce healthy babies in laboratories, and no longer require a man’s and woman’s input in the way that it was required only a century ago. So are we then expected to erase the genetic memory that has been in effect for millions of years prior? Perhaps someday sex will become as obsolete as hunting for food already has become, but the desire is there, and I pose that genetic disposition plays a very real role in both arenas.

5. The Food.                       It seems as though I can’t log onto the internet without reading about how our food sources are being purposefully contaminated in the interest of shareholder profit. A huge portion of all the fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats contain chemicals that are killing us. Sound alarming? It is, and I urge you to check this stuff out for yourself. Even pop-culture has known this for decades. I paraphrase the lyrics of a popular song: “I don’t care about spots on my apples, just give me the birds and bees.” A friend told me he learned only a few weeks ago that our generation will be the first generation NOT to outlive their parents. Why? Our nutritional prowess is now surpassed by cancer-causing chemical contaminates.

But this essay isn’t about the real horrors of our food supply, it’s about why I hunt. The venison that is sitting in my freezer at this moment is as organic, as clean, and as healthy as any protein source that exists. Most people already know that venison, whether elk or deer, is higher in protein than domesticated meats, and much lower in fat and cholesterol. To illustrate this, a few years ago I harvested an 800 pound bull elk with my bow, and suddenly my freezer was filled with a year’s supply of meat. As a result, my cholesterol plummeted nearly 50 points; nothing else had changed. And in light of the poison that is engineered into our food, my venison is an untainted God-send. Given that the ungulates that I hunt are born and raised in the mountains, and eat food and drink water that is available there, this meat has realistically never been exposed to man-made chemicals.

Sadly, the same can’t be said about some of the deer population in the Midwest and South. Corn or soybean-fed deer are often eating chemically enhanced grain all their lives, and drink from small run-off streams and creeks that are known to contain contaminates. Now, food plots are all the rage. So in order to grow the big racks, we buy seeds that have been chemically altered or coated, plant them in soil that has been chemically enhanced, and grow pretty green fields of deer food. As hunters, I think we owe it to ourselves to make sure every seed we plant for a game species is as natural and as chemical free as the food eaten by a wilderness elk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The safest, most nutritious form of protein on the planet: wild game.

 

The Not-so Tangible:

1. The Challenge.             Just as in the physical world, there are many challenges in the non-physical world that I face when I hunt. In fact, I suggest that hunting success is at least 50% mental. Remember the part about standing in one spot all day? It isn’t just tiring to the legs or chilling to the skin, a challenge like this is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Overcoming it includes having the mental fortitude required to stay there, to not move, to not get bored, and to stay positive.

I hunt whitetail at 4000 feet in elevation in December, and only 4 miles from the Canadian border. This spells cold. But it also spells danger. The challenge of facing my fears is another real reason I hunt. Carrying nothing but a bow while walking through the dark, cold woods at 5 a.m. in the heart of cougar country, is not exactly soothing. Facing a wounded black bear at 25 feet is not exactly relaxing. I suppose it is in my personality to appreciate these fears, to face them, and to overcome them. I know that any obstacle in the physical world will only be more dangerous if you can’t first control what is between your ears. For me, hunting offers a virtually endless supply of mental challenges, and I strive to master them all.

2. The Peace.                     Because I appreciate the solitude of so many of my hunting experiences, and because I feel as though I am then in tune with my genetic predispositions, I am at peace. So often when I am being serenaded by a spring meadowlark, or being gazed upon by a soaring raptor, or simply being nourished by the fresh, mountain air, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of all is right with the world. When I succumb to the silence, and realize my true insignificance, I find peace. For me, serenity is not found in the din of traffic, or in the clamor of humanity; it’s found in nature’s unscathed, unapologetic quest for noiseless perfection. To be enveloped in this womb of unpretentiousness does not create in me angst; it offers me peace I have yet to find anywhere else.

3. The Camaraderie.       I make no bones about appreciating hunting alone. That in no way means I don’t enjoy the camaraderie of the fellow hunter or huntress, and appreciate the synergism of joy that accompanies it. Working together to a common end is sometimes as challenging as the hunt itself, and I constantly learn from those around me.

Waking up at 4 in the morning and walking an hour in the rain is sometimes more enjoyable with someone to which I can complain, and with which I can commiserate. On the other end of the spectrum, joys shared afield comprise some of the greatest moments of my life. The old saying “Joy shared is twice the joy, and misery shared is half the misery” is spot on. At the end of a long, tiring day traipsing through the mountains, there isn’t a whole lot in this world I find more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire with friends who share my passion.

4. The Spirit.                      For those that know a little bit about me, it is no mystery that I consider myself somewhat of a spiritual man. For those that don’t understand hunting, this creates a conundrum. How can a self-proclaimed spiritual individual take the life of an animal, when our greatest avatars have taught us we shouldn’t even hurt a fly? To me the answer is quite simple. But in order to accept my answer, you must first accept this premise: all things (namely animals in this context) are composed of both physical attributes and non-physical qualities. “What?” you may be asking. “You kill a deer when you believe that the deer is also a spiritual being?” Let me explain.

As long as we are in human form, we have to eat. Whether it’s a deer or a head of lettuce, it doesn’t really matter in the realm of the intangible world. They both contain the same amount of spirit, if you will. I believe that if we kill the head of lettuce, the life that was once contained in it, is now released, but NOT destroyed. Remember that real, quantifiable science mandates that energy cannot be destroyed; it simply transforms. What is life, if not a form of animating energy? So, just as many Native Americans believe, the life-energy of the bison, for example, has been “set free” upon its physical demise. Although this is putting the premise in very simple terms, it illustrates the gist of my answer. When I kill an animal, I kill the physical body of that animal. But I am not able to halt the existence of the Beauty that encompasses it. As long as I in earnest A) put forth effort to not commit waste and to B) honor and appreciate the animal, then in no way am I harming the universe. In fact, I’m confident that the act’s positivity is much greater than anything negative about it.

One very small example would be conservation. More money used for conservation efforts in this country—those efforts that serve all citizens—comes from hunters and hunting organizations than from any other group. I could also go into hunter-spearheaded and funded programs that feed the poor, or the necessary management of a balanced wildlife system. My point is, I believe that hunting is a good thing, with or without my passion entering into the equation

Another reason: Beauty.

Another reason: Beauty.

Many hunters understand there’s more to taking an animal’s life than simply pulling a trigger or releasing a bow, as they find themselves walking the tightrope between elation and sadness upon harvesting an animal. I’ve shed very real tears over the immense weight of harvesting the flesh, while knowing the truth of the beauty that can never be captured or taken away. And I never feel badly about how I take an animal’s life, for using a bit of logic, one can easily ascertain that how an animal reaches its demise in the wild is most often a much more terrifying, painful experience compared to careful harvesting by an ethical hunter.

Causing the death of any animal by my own hands isn’t a fun thing in and of itself. But it is an act of ultimate responsibility. So please, don’t berate me for hunting, while you pawn the killing of your hamburger off on a nameless butcher, somewhere far away. To say “All you have to do is just go to the store” is insulting; not as much to me as it is to the animals that have sacrificed their bodies. 

If you were to ask the next hunter you meet why he or she hunts, I’m confident the answer would contain both similarities and differences to my own. In part, that’s the beauty of this natural endeavor. We may be all created equal in terms of importance, or even in our non-tangible constitution, but the reason hunters hunt is as unique as the individuals themselves. Sure, I am a champion for the sport and I will happily defend it, but not without trying to first instill an understanding of why. Not everyone will appreciate it as I do, or even “get it” on any level. And that’s ok. We aren’t supposed to be exactly the same; we’re supposed to celebrate our differences.

 

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