Why do I hunt?

 

As the 2010 hunting seasons come to a close I have come to a better understanding of the things that compel me to hunt. This year I faced more questioning from non-hunters than any preceding season. I have been called “cold-hearted” and have had to explain myself to some that refused to listen. In stark contrast to these conversations I have met and befriended many people this year because of the sport.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

I hunt to connect with the natural world. Hunting puts me into the position to better enjoy things that most take for granted. There are of course the sunrises and sunsets that are more beautiful outside of cities and towns. I love sunrises over the prairie in September. I have stood speechless in the pre-dawn light near the Yellowstone River and watched hundreds of ducks zip through the air, some coming within mere feet of me. The first time I saw geese ‘wicked wing’ into a decoy spread I had goose bumps. There are times when you hunt that although your quarry is in range you do nothing but enjoy watching them. In my mind’s eye I can still see a blue heron perched on the very top of a pine tree on the banks of the Clark’s Fork River. I have the memories of these experiences, because I hunt. Hunting provides the impetus to drive me from bed at 3:45am. Gives me the reason to enjoy the world.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

I love dogs. I am enamored with hunting dogs. There are few things better in life than watching a hunting dog work. When a dog points a covey of Huns or a big cock pheasant there is a surge of adrenalin in anticipation of the flush. It is as if the dog has solved the puzzle and let you in on the secret. I love to watch a dog on a long retrieve either in the field or in water. Dogs are the ultimate conservation tool. The result of a good hunting dog is very few lost birds. That my dogs can perform at this level is a source of great satisfaction and pride. Hunting provides the drive to train and expose your dog to higher levels of performance.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

Wild game is tasty and nourishing. Eating game that you’ve harvested is more honest that buying supermarket beef or chicken. I did not pay to have the killing done by others or to have it wrapped in cellophane and displayed at a supermarket. The T-bones in my freezer did not come from some unseen animal. They are not detached from the reality of death. They came from a buck that stepped into a clearing allowing me to shoot him. That is more real than the supermarket. In many cases the wild game is more flavorful than its domestic counterpart. After eating pheasants, huns, grouse and wild turkey supermarket chicken seems flavorless and too tender. It lacks substance. Wild game has substance. I enjoy sharing this with friends that don’t hunt. I allow them to taste the natural world.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

Camaraderie. Hunting is one of my favorite ways to be social. I bird hunt because it puts you side by side with your friends. Either walking a field or hiding in layout blinds, your buddies are present. You get to joke around, share in success or simply ‘shoot the shit.’ My friends are present for my successes and failures. They have seen the battles with my dogs and seen my dog’s progress and do amazing things. Plainly seeing your friend’s challenges and successes in that fashion brings you closer, gives you better understanding. Hunting builds stronger friendships. When I spend time with my hunting friends we speak in code. The code of the hunt, the inside jokes and comments that only those that go on the hunting trips and excursions understand.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

I am a man. Hunting allows me fulfill some of the requirements of manhood. A man must be excellent at something. As a hunter I have the opportunity to be an excellent shooter, cook, dog trainer, meat processor, etc. etc. Being excellent at something buoys a man’s confidence. It helps him to believe that he can overcome the more challenging things that life has in store. Hunting gives me that confidence.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

Hunting is a tradition. My father, my grandfathers, my great grandfather’s and most of the men before them all hunted. Hunting ties me to my past, to my heritage. The act provides the context for my belonging to this group of men. As a young boy I would sit in rapt attention just outside the group of men as they planned their hunting trip for the coming season. I hung on every word and imagined what it would be like to participate. Hunting is deeply rooted in my concept of family and of manhood.

 

Why do I hunt?

 

I am a hunter. Many people define themselves and seek to define others by their job.  My job is what the Lord has chosen for me, not what He made me. I am a hunter. 

 

This Originally appeared on Facebook on January 12, 2011 and was published in NAVHDA’s monthly magazine that same year.

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