While recently throwing a few back at the local tavern, I started a friendly conversation with a gentleman who eventually circled back to “Oh, so you hunt and stuff? I’ve never tried, but I don’t have a problem with it.” I immediately found it interesting that a non-hunter felt the need to qualify his comment with “but I don’t have a problem with it.” Is the average American’s perception of hunting so jaded that even people who don’t partake in it (but do support our rights in this time honored tradition) feel like the rest of the world is against it? Or do they not have a good enough grasp on the size, strength and history of which our hunting community is enveloped? Either way, at least I know why I hunt.
Have you ever felt the mind rattling nerves of trying to re-nock an arrow as a big buck nervously stands and wonders what made the leaves behind him explode from the forest floor? Has your heart ever stopped for a split-second as a rooster gave way to flight just inches from your boot? Can you still hear your friends heckling you for missing what should have been an “easy” shot at a late season Mallard? If you’re able to answer "yes" to any of these, then you understand the rush that comes with the highs and lows of hunting. But even so, I’d make a guess that if someone were to ask you why you hunted, you wouldn’t answer with any of those descriptions.
Chances are, if you hunt it’s because it’s in your blood. You were raised in an environment in which Mother Nature was your classroom and Respecting the Land, Rejoicing in Moments Afield, and Reveling in Camaraderie were the “Three R’s” you studied. Anyone can ride a bike to work and claim to understand and care about our natural world, but only hunters understand what it really means to be a part of it.
I enjoy paddling wilderness areas, camping in the backcountry and hiking remote trails, but nothing makes me feel more alive and more connected to the world around me than giving into my primordial urges and putting wild game on the table. It’s that escape from society’s “reality” into what is truly real that brings me back year after year.
Next time you’re walking through a remote field with gun and dog in tow, simply stop moving for a second. Take a deep breath and take in the sights and sounds. Remember that feeling because one day you might have to answer the question of why you hunt, or better yet, you might have to teach a young child why WE hunt.
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