There is no major league draft, no America’s Best Hunting competition, no election – hunting is something that can be achieved with absolutely certainty and only requires your personal determination. Hunting is one of the most inclusive lifestyles in America. It isn’t reserved for a privileged class of folks. You don’t have to be rich or a rocket scientist, you don’t need an Olympic athlete’s physique or endurance, you don’t have to be the ultimate woodsman. All that is required is a desire to get outdoors, to try your best and to learn from those experiences.
Hunting itself is old school. I’m not talking Johnny Cash or even Abraham Lincoln old school, I’m talking 2-million years ago. It’s a lifestyle that dates back to Neanderthals where even in the absence of a sophisticated language they understood that hunting was necessary for survival. Now obviously, the way we hunt and the reasons we do so have changed. However, the basic principles remain the same – hunting provides subsistence and as time has marched on it also provides us with a conservation tool, a means to manage wildlife populations.
Today, we all hunt for different reasons, with different goals and with different expectations. Some hunters have access to fantastic properties that are well managed and teeming with wildlife. Others hunt highly pressured public lands where seeing any wildlife at all isn’t a guarantee, but it’s the opportunity that keeps them coming back. Some people target and hunt one specific animal only and hold out, even if that means ending the season empty handed. Some hunters are after a particular age or trophy score. Others hunt strictly for meat and are more interested in filling the freezer than inches and scores. Some folks are just doing their best to get outdoors at all – after putting in their 40+ hours at work and spending adequate time at home, their free time is limited to weekends or early mornings and late evenings, before and after work. The great thing about hunting is that there is room for all of these people, and their individual pursuits, under the same umbrella.
There are plenty of people out there that like to stoke the flames of divisiveness when it comes to hunting. Anti-hunters are notoriously brutal when attacking hunters online, all of their vitriol is based on a lifestyle they clearly don’t understand and quite frankly, one they aren’t willing to hear the advantages/benefits of. However, more troubling is the divide among we as hunters. The idea that you can’t or shouldn’t hunt unless you have the physical capacity to run a marathon is ridiculous. The idea that you are less of a hunter if you like rifle or black powder hunting for big game rather than bow hunting is ludicrous, as well. To berate or belittle a hunter that chooses to hunt with a crossbow, whether or not they have an age or physical limitation, is unfair and small minded. It’s also misguided to denounce those that are meat hunters, those that fill the freezer with a doe, cow, spike or anything else deemed less than “fully mature”. Furthermore, it is just as wrong to attack those who hold out and hunt for a trophy animal. Hunters should be supporting each other in their individual pursuits, not tearing each other down. Just because it may not be how you hunt, that doesn’t make it wrong or ridicule worthy.
Today, there are a 11.5 million hunters in the United States contributing a whopping $25.6 billion, a large percentage of which goes directly to conservation efforts. Outdoorsmen and women are the foundation of American conservation and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who does as much for wildlife as hunters and sportsmen do. This should be something that all hunters can take pride in, something that unites them – their passion for the outdoors, wildlife and conservation. With hunting participation numbers declining, now more than ever we should be supporting fellow hunters and encouraging new participants to get in the field.
Don’t set unrealistic standards, refrain from judgement and instead, lay out the welcome mat for new and seasoned hunters around you. Get outdoors, put on your camo, hunt, have fun and enjoy the hunting season, friends.
Hugs, Handshakes, and Happy Hunting