Logging thousands of sky miles and sharing my personal space with strangers is one of the less glamorous parts of my life. One cool part of traveling is meeting people with which I have nothing in common. After the “Hello, how are you, can you believe we were delayed?” bit the conversation turns to work.
I talk about my job in the outdoor industry, my side gig as an outdoor writer, and that I live to hunt and fish. The reaction is mixed, everything from “cool” to “you are a heartless idiot and the anti-Christ.” The most common question from those who do not hunt is “why?”
That’s a question hunters have pondered sitting on the stand or walking behind bird dogs. It is fair question that deserves some thought and an honest answer. Having hunted all my life I ask, “why not?”
Most Americans are far removed from the woods and state of mind that leads me to hunt. They drive past the woods on their way to the grocery store and don’t put two and two together. I eat the animals killed and prefer venison to beef and doves or quail to chicken. When I go to the woods, it’s a trip to the grocery store and that is the way it has been since man stood upright and could carry a pointed stick. Man and man’s ancestors have always hunted and, no matter how far removed from the food chain people think they are, man is still an integral part. Someone kills the cows and chickens you eat, I eliminate the middleman.
Hunting is an important wildlife management tool, especially in the case of white-tailed deer. Evolving with one another, we have always been predators of deer and helped keep things in balance. Deer, or too many deer, destroy their habitat and make it untenable for other wildlife. My subdivision and your subdivision are part of the problem, and hunters are part of the solution. Hunters pay for the privilege and can have an immediate and positive impact on an ecosystem.
Most importantly, I love hunting. Some are content to observe an ecosystem through a pair of binoculars or from a trail thousands have trod. I prefer to be an integral part or active participant as nature intended. Stone Age man hunted to feed and clothe himself, his family, his tribe, but I know he felt the same sense of excitement, satisfaction and sorrow that I feel today. Long after animals were domesticated and grain filled earthenware pots, people must have felt relief to pick up their bow and quiver or atlatl and spear and head away from the village into the woods for an afternoon hunt.
When I was five years old, I stalked buffalo on the Great Plains (large boxwoods along the sidewalk) with my Sweetgum-sapling bow and arrows made from Nandinas in my front yard. I think some of us have the hunting gene, and it’s something we have to do. I understand how it can be hard to understand for some people, but it’s something I know I could never live without.