Just last week while attending a meeting, my friend Rachelle Johnson solicited my views on hunting. She asked direct and in-depth questions. Me, on the other hand provided fuzzy answers. Most were general in nature and superficial.
I explained several reasons why people enjoy this consumptive outdoor activity, although any one reason should be enough. One of the most general was for the meat; organic, lean and healthy. The woods are filled with those who want prime choice. Although I think some use this reason to bust the first deer that comes by. But I do know a few who are serious meat hunters and have the ability to pick and choose. There are still a few old timers who will pass up a buck for a plump mature doe. They don’t care about antlers because not only have they already taken their fair share, “horns don’t taste very good,” is their common theme.
Then, of course there is the trophy reason. In a shallow context it is a demonstration to exhibit prowess and stature. Aldo Leopold once wrote “People sing and hunters scale mountains for one and the same thing – the thrill to beauty. Critics write and hunters try to outwit game for one and the same reason –to reduce that beauty to possession.” The trophy bucks hanging on a wall may be a hunter’s effort to possess beauty but also to keep something important from being forgotten. And if all those trophies serve as a testament to a hunter’s skill, then why deny it? Many will never take a record book buck but every deer taken should hold a special value, not concerned with length of beams or number of points.
Sharing companionship with family and friends in a natural setting is another valid reason for hunting. Since the beginning of time men have banded together with their own traditions and rituals. And sometimes this camaraderie and customs are as important as the hunt itself.
We discussed the important roles sportsmen play in proper wildlife management and the huge conservation measures and funding only provided through the legal and ethical taking of wild game.
Over the past several decades I think part of modern hunting includes the use of new technologies. There are bows that spit arrows out as fast as light, muzzleloaders capable of shots out to hundreds of yards and clothing capable of turning back the meanest weather. Taking to the woods with new equipment increases the overall enjoyment. At least that’s what I tell myself.
“Do you think that’s fair,” asked Johnson when discussing new equipment technologies. The truth of the matter is we are only part time sportsmen hunting full time game. The fact is all wildlife has an edge of its own and is likely enhanced by our increasing dependence on gadgets and less reliance on our legs, eyes, ears, patience and knowledge that accrues through years of hard work and dedication. A true sportsman will always be constrained by ethics and inherent respect for wild game itself.
“Do you think the desire to hunt something one is born with?” Johnson remarked. “Maybe to some small degree and only in a few cases,” I opined. We all know those who were introduced in their adult years and continue to make it a lifelong passion. They now embrace it with a zeal and zest that is contagious.
We also discussed how one of the most important aspects of modern hunting is about freedom. The virtue of hunting, in today’s world, isn’t so much about deer hanging on the game pole, but the pursuit of it. For many, it’s about spending time in the beautiful places where deer and other wild game live. We are free to take in these opportunities at our choosing. Plus, we get to totally immerse ourselves in outdoor splendor providing physical proof of a being far greater than man.
“But what about those who poach or take game any way they can?” Johnson continued. Unfortunately, as with any classified group like musicians, actors, professional athletes and even politicians, there are always a few bad apples that spread bad light on the rest of the mindful. These are the people we should work against and not tolerate.
When we hunt there is a magic that comes from a direct contact with nature that is not only traditional but healthy. We take to the fields and woods not as a spectator but as an active participant. We are not sitting on the bleachers; we are the pitcher or quarterback.
When trying to describe our real reasons for hunting we can oversimplify our motives into tangible things like meat, wildlife management, camaraderie, exercise, freedom or adventure. But in reality it is hard to explain something felt deep inside, something that rests in our hearts and souls… and fully unexplainable.