Attempts to get a handle on the many ways and the speed at which the world is changing is a bit like trying to grab smoke: You can see it, but you can’t quite get hold of it.
So it is also with hunting.
In some quarters, the world’s oldest “sport” is immutable, providing as it always has opportunities for individuals to immerse themselves in oftentimes physically demanding natural environments while employing a wide range of skills that lead to unpredictable but ultimately self-satisfying conclusions.
In psychobabble terms, hunting (though not only hunting) offers its participants unique, multidimensional opportunities to “self-actualize,” meaning (the Cliff’s Notes version here) chances to leverage their creative and other abilities to their full potential measured by internal goals and achievements, rather than by external motivators such as money or professional or societal prestige.
So it was the other day when our older son, Trevor, called after returning to his home from a mountain goat hunt in the Rockies. A friend of his had drawn a hard-to-get permit, and Trevor had hiked into a makeshift, high-altitude camp to help as necessary.
“It was epic,” Trevor reported, recalling the challenging conditions (snowy), equipment used (Seek Outside backpacking tipi with titanium stove) and outcome (a billy shot on a cliff and successfully recovered and packed out).
Such illustrations notwithstanding, it’s also true hunting is nothing like its former self.
Participation, for example, has declined because of changing societal demographics (single-parent families are common), time constraints (work, school and team sports can be all-consuming) and fewer opportunities (urban hunters are challenged to find rural places to hunt).
Into this confounding matrix of long-standing-tradition-strives-for-modern-day-relevance marches Mark Norquist, confidently.
The founder of a website/digital platform called Modern Carnivore, Norquist is a marketing and media pro whose goal is to introduce non-hunters to hunting.
Norquist’s evangelism isn’t unique among hunters, which is weird in a way because hunters often compete for opportunity, measured usually by places to hunt.
So the idea that an experienced hunter would intentionally recruit others to compete for a finite number of opportunities afield would seem counterproductive.
Yet hunting is, or can be, so self-fulfilling that many of its practitioners naturally want others to benefit from the experience.
In that respect, it’s kind of like yoga, except with guns.
“About eight years ago I was doing a lot of marketing work in the organic and natural foods industry,” Norquist said. “I was in California looking at all of these new food products, and I realized very few involved animal-based protein. The premise was that to be healthy you had to be a vegetarian. I disagreed, and it was then I created Modern Carnivore, which among other things advocates a lifestyle of hunting, fishing, foraging — and healthy living.”
Norquist describes modcarn.com as a digital engagement platform whose goal is to intrigue, entertain and inform its visitors with blogs, stories, videos, recipes and podcasts, all related to the hunting, fishing and foraging lifestyle.
This fall, Norquist has doubled down in his efforts to educate prospective hunters wherever the internet reaches, by introducing a separate learning portal called Hunting Camp Live.
“The course we’re presenting this fall on Hunting Camp Live focuses on upland bird hunting,” Norquist said. “In addition to blogs, videos and podcasts, we’re featuring a six-lesson course introducing newcomers to various types of upland bird hunting.”
Addressing topics ranging from gear selection to field-dressing, ethics and laws, the 12-month program (price: $180) is intended not only to educate and inform plugged-in novice hunters, but to get those people into the field.
“With our videos and downloadable study guides a person can view and read at their own pace,” Norquist said. “Then they can move into our private social media groups, or what we call hunting camp communities, where questions can be asked and answers provided by knowledgeable mentors.”
Ryan Monaghan was living in New York City in February when the coronavirus threat arose. Able to work remotely, he sought relative safety at his parents’ home in New Hampshire.
“I’d never spent any considerable amount of time outside the city during spring, and I wanted to take advantage of the hunting, fishing and foraging opportunities around me,” Monaghan said by telephone this week.
New Hampshire’s turkey season would soon be open, he said. But he had never hunted turkeys. Searching the internet, he found Modern Carnivore’s webinar series on the subject.
After scouting, patterning a shotgun and practice-calling as instructed by the tutorials, Monaghan went afield with his father, and in a storybook ending to what had begun as an online information quest, both men harvested toms.
As a capstone to the experience, Monaghan prepared and served a Sunday appetizer of turkey liver mousse with a charred ramp-apple-maple chutney.
All well and good. But not every novice hunter has a relative or friend to hunt with.
“That’s why in these lessons, such as those on huntingcamp.live, we partner with conservation groups such as the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever and others,” Norquist said. “I call myself a solo entrepreneur. But I couldn’t do it without partners who believe in the mission — our food bloggers, video production people, mentors and organizational partners.”