Hunting, for most of us, is more than a hobby or pastime. It’s a life-long obsession. The other day, I found myself thinking about some of the joys that hunting has brought me over the years. Before I knew it, I’d come up with ten great things in life that I probably wouldn’t have experienced, if I hadn’t been a hunter. Here they are.
1. Sunrise in the Woods.
I’m not a morning person, and I don’t generally see many sunrises. I try not to wake up that early for any reason; the only exception I willingly make is during deer and turkey season. Sure, sunsets are nice, but they’re a dime a dozen. I see five a week on my way home from work. But the sun rising over a wooded ridgeline, with no sound but the birds calling and the forest coming alive, now that’s something special.
Hunters are conservationists. This might surprise some people, but hunters are the primary conservation tool for wildlife management in many states. Ask any conservation agent, and you’ll find that few people are as attuned to herd management, land improvement, habitat preservation, and environmentalism than deer hunters. Sure, we set out every fall to reduce the deer herd. But many hunters also let young bucks walk past our stand, or buy extra antlerless tags to harvest more does.
3. Age and Experience
Hunting is one of the few sports where you can improve for virtually all of your life. Over time, you learn more about the skills, the lands, and the game, all of which help you find success in future hunts. Top physical condition, while valuable, isn’t required, so many keep on hunting until they’re old and cantankerous. I love seeing young hunters coming into the sport — especially under the guidance of a mentor — because I know they probably have a long, bright hunting career ahead of them.
By the same token, you run into an old timer with a grizzled beard and faded camo, you know you’re probably looking at a serious hunter. Experience is incredibly valuable in hunting, and the more you hunt, the more you get.
I spend a lot of time hunting along the river, and one of my favorite things about it is the early-morning fog. You don’t get this often — and you certainly don’t get it in evening hunts — but every once in a while the lowlands along the river will be blanketed in grayness. It’s like extra camouflage for when you’re slipping quietly through the woods. Fog also muffles the sound around a hunter, and it seems to make the landscape both strange and alluring.
The simple act of picking up a bow or a gun, and marching out into the woods in search of game, is one with a storied history. It’s something humans have been doing since the beginning of our time on Earth. Most days I hunt with a bow, even during gun season. I like to think about how Native Americans must have done this very same thing, hundreds of years ago, possibly on the very same ground. Only they were doing it to eat and survive, and they didn’t have binoculars or pin sights or mechanical broadheads.
Now those were some serious hunters.
6. The Adrenaline Rush
Here’s something all hunters can appreciate: that thrilling moment when a racked buck steps into view, or when a tom gobbles at you from close range, or even when something’s moving steadily through the woods toward your stand and you don’t know what it is. Hours of preparation and exertion and patience come down to those few moments. It’s a powerful adrenaline rush, the kind that leaves you with the shakes afterward as you lower your gun or bow.
I get maybe one or two of these moments a year, if I’m lucky, but they make the whole season worthwhile.
7. One Word: Camo
Hunters have a uniform, one that they not only wear while hunting but use to recognize one another when not in the field. I’m talking about camo, of course. You can get just about anything in camouflage these days, well beyond what someone might wear for, you know, actual hunting. Maybe more important is the fact that you can wear a bit of camo out in public without getting strange looks (thank you, Duck Dynasty!).
When you see a stranger out in public rocking the camo hat or jacket, could be due to convenience or the fact that hey, we like camo. I think it’s more than that, though. I think it’s someone who’s out going about their business, but flying the flag in some small way and saying hey, I’m a hunter.
8. Camaraderie with the Hunting Crowd
There are few communities as tight-knit or welcoming as hunters are. In a sense, we’re competitors: there’s a limited amount of game and number of hunting permits available. In spite of that, hunters are incredibly open in sharing their knowledge, their stories, their successes as well as their failures. They give shout-outs to others who had a successful hunt, even if their own was fruitless. They take noisy and undisciplined youths into the woods to show them the ropes.
And hey, as far as bloggers go, hunter-bloggers are some of the best out there.
Sure, there’s a community of sorts around any hobby or type of sport, but I challenge you to find a better community than that of us hunters.
In spite of our great community, there’s something to be said for going out in the woods alone. I enjoy the simple solitude of it, as do many hunters. Worries and work stresses and all of the distractions of modern life are left in the parking lot. I walk out into the woods, and I’m attuned to everything out there. Some of the most incredible sights in nature I’ve ever witnessed were seen only by me, when I was alone and out hunting.
10. The Ancient Challenge: Man vs. Nature
Last but not least, I love hunting because it brings forth the ancient challenge: man versus nature. The challenge of survival, if you will. We may be highly evolved and heavily armed, but we’re pitted against the best that nature has to offer: game animals who have survived for years of hunting pressure, whose ancestors also survived the efforts of our own to hunt them. Their senses — vision, hearing, smell — are usually better than ours. They’re faster than we are. If you think for one minute the odds are less than even, think about your last few unsuccessful turkey hunts.
I’m reminded most of this when walking into a new hunting area, especially in the evening or early morning. Sure, I have a gun or a bow, but there could be anything out there. I could have stayed home, safe and warm and surrounded by modern comforts. But I go hunting anyway.