I’m often posed with many questions regarding hunting, “You hunt? Why do you do it? Why do you like it?”
My short simple answer used to be to provide meat on the table, and because it’s fun. After listening to myself talk about hunting stories, and listening to other hunters’ stories, I realized that wasn't really all it; it was just the easiest response to give.
Why do I hunt? Why does anybody hunt?
Simply put... To indulge in nature and all it has to offer. To be able to step outside of society and everyday reality and into the physical world of plants, animals, and the land.
So, what does that mean?
Imagine sitting in the shadow at the bottom of a draw tucked behind a 2-foot sage brush. You just got yourself situated and comfy to begin the waiting game of drawing in that pronghorn you've waited years to draw a tag for. Within a minute you see a buck stand up and come sprinting into the waterhole you've chosen to overlook.
Closer and closer until he's 30 yards from you prancing, snorting, flaring his butt.
He gives you a shot....
you draw your bow back.... screeeeeechhhhh
…the felt was missing on the rest.
He looks at you. You immediately freeze, mid draw; he looks away. You slowly get settled back in. If your adrenaline wasn't pumping before, it sure is now. You almost spooked this beautiful buck.
Now he knows you're there.
He looks at you, then looks away.... Luckily, he’s incredibly attentive to the decoy you put in "his" water hole. Back and forth his head keeps moving.
BUT if you can’t see him, he can’t see you, right?
Every time he looks at you, you close your eyes and hold your breath. Your heart is beating so hard you assume he can hear it.
Finally!!!! He gives you an opening. You draw back (squeal and all), aim, and send it. Thwack! He runs 20 yards and falls!
What you thought felt like 4 hours was 4 minutes! And oh, the magic.
This is the story of the day I fell in love with bow hunting.
And it was just the beginning of it all.
Why did I fall in love with hunting?
First, my ability to take all my adrenaline and anxiety and channel it to stay collected enough to harvest such a beautiful animal.
Second, to just take in the beauty of watching that buck get territorial from just 30 yards away.
Finally, to see nature and the way it works. To have encounters, so up close, is such an incredible, surreal feeling.
Amongst this hunt and other hunts, the one thing I always take away from it all is how beautiful nature is and how magnificent these creatures and their way of life are and how much respect you must give it. I am so incredibly thankful for what nature has to offer.
Nothing can compare to the emotions I feel with every animal I come across. Whether I take the shot or don't. Whether I connect or miss. Whether it's an animal I’m not pursuing that I just happen to cross paths with during my hunting adventure.
The connections I’ve made with animals as a hunter are just the tip of the iceberg. It gets down to the 6-foot manzanita I had to walk through, the natural springs spilling water out of the side of a mountain, the thick timber, steep hills, unshaded sage filled mountain sides, little frogs in a spring, standing 15 yards away from a doe and her two fawns, watching the sun rise and sun set.
Leopold, the second King of the Belgians, wrote, “We can only be ethical in relation to something we can see, understand, feel, love, or otherwise have faith in.” As a hunter, I’ve gained awareness by so closely becoming a part of nature's elements. That awareness becomes a recognition of what I’m accomplishing, long term, as a hunter. A hunter’s involvement with wildlife and the land contributes to the balance of our ecosystem: little things and big things.
Purchasing your license and your tags. That money goes towards protecting, preserving, and restoring wildlife and its habitat.
Understanding that I’m harvesting a renewable resource while simultaneously doing my part to manage populations, to help sustain the ecosystem.
As a hunter, I may play a small part in managing wildlife populations, but my small part supports the BIG picture.
As a hunter, I am aiding in disease control, helping control animal biodiversity, assisting in enhancing food and water availability, and supporting the decrease of habitat loss and destruction.
Fully embracing what it means to be a hunter is important and what hunting means to a hunter is embracing that meaning!
So, when asked, “Why do I hunt?” My response moving forward will be “I hunt because I love continuing to deepen my gratitude for the environment, and enjoy being an active part in protecting and investing in the ecosystem and all that it provides.”