If you’re at all familiar with our work here at Powderhook, you know we love hunting. But, we loved hunting long before there was a Powderhook, and will love it for decades to come. Most people have something they’re passionate about, but being passionate about hunting offers benefits far beyond what can be simply described. That’s why we believe one needs to hunt in order to understand hunting and hunters. For non-hunters, this simply means they can’t feel what we’ve felt, and it bums me out for them. Here’s what I think they’re missing.
1: Witnessing the Forest Coming to Life
I really cannot explain it any better than movie star Chris Pratt did in this interview. “You walk out in the woods and the sun hasn’t come up yet, and you sit in a spot and your preparation has told you that this is the right spot. And the sun comes up and you are camouflaged, nothing knows you’re there, nothing can smell you, the wind is in your face. You’re a voyeur to the world waking up and the wilderness waking up around you in a way that no one gets to see it, when they drive their car down the road, because they’ve disturbed it. You’ve snuck in. If a tree fell in the woods and didn’t make a sound you’d be there to witness it, because nobody is there, you are not even there. And then the sun comes up and the last stars in the sky go away and the whole world comes to life.”
2: Connection to Your Food
I hunt animals for both meat and the chase, but mostly for meat. Steven Rinella explains it well in one of his Meat Eater episodes. He mentioned how if you forced him to pick between the meat or the trophy, he would always take the meat, but if he could have both he would. The trophy serves as a remembrance of the animal, the hunt, and the accomplishment. There is nothing like filling your freezer full of high-quality meat that will last. Deer, elk, and wild turkey are, in my opinion, the best tasting meat out there and scientifically some of the best nutrient rich protein sources available to every American citizen. The checkout line is just a little different. There is a Locavore movement happening where people are starting to eat local and provide more for themselves. Many state agencies, such as Nebraska Game and Parks, have Locavore classes which highlight hunting, foraging, and cooking. See if there are any in your area.
3: Connecting With Nature
How much time do we as Americans actually spend outside? And when we are outside, how often are we paying attention to nature? Listening to the hefty gust of wind slowly rumble down the treeline until you’re engulfed in the sound of rustling leaves… feeling the thermals rush past your face as you witness the last bit of sun disappear beyond the hillside… attentively looking left and right as the forest speaks through falling acorns hitting the ground and the creaking of the trees when the wind blows… each of your senses are alive. Sitting in my tree stand has turned into a sort of meditation for me where I sit immersed in the present, completely aware of myself and everything that surrounds me.
4: Love For the Animals We Hunt
There are people out there that think that hunters are barbaric humans who love to kill as many animals as they can and feel no remorse about it. I’m sure there are a handful of immoral people like this, but I wouldn’t categorize them as hunters. Hunters love the animals they pursue more than even anti-hunting folks probably realize and are by far the largest group supporting the conservation of public lands and wild animals. Not only do all hunting license sales and the tax on guns and ammunition directly pay for these things, hunters at the grassroots level are improving habitat and planting food sources not because they have to, not because their receiving subsidies to do so, but because they have a passion for and love the animals they pursue.
5: Anticipation of the Hunt
The anticipation that comes along with a hunt is extremely intense and the adrenaline associated with it becomes almost addictive once you get your first taste. Cabela’s put together an extremely accurate video (above) about hunters and the intense emotions following a hunt. It’s the feeling I use to get walking out of the locker room on a Friday night with a stand full of fans and an opponent ready to battle it out. My coach said to us seniors that we will only get this feeling a few more times in our life like when we get married, the birth of your children, things like that. Clearly, he was not a hunter. The feeling of driving to camp with your family or friends piled up in the truck knowing a great weekend is right in the headlights. The sleepless night leading up to the 4 AM alarm set so you can get out before the forest comes to life. The pounding in your heart when you hear the sound of a turkey gobble getting closer and closer, knowing that he will pop out at any moment and your reaction must be sharp and precise.
6: Comradery Developed
If there is one thing that I love about hunting trips it’s that you can really get to know a new acquaintance or someone you’ve been around your entire life. I was fortunate enough to go on an elk hunt with my dad and a couple of locals in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. We went into that camp complete strangers and emerged 4 days later as if we had been hunting buddies for 10 years. Conversations around the campfire after a long day of hiking the mountainous terrain always started with hunting stories but by the time the coals were smoldering, we were talking about future aspirations, families, how blessed we were to be in such beautiful country. I have had the pleasure to hunt with a lot of people that were new acquaintances and I still feel a special connection to each and every one of those people to this day.
7: Stories & Experiences Gained
Why would you go sit out in the 35-degree weather for 3 hours and wait for the slight possibility of a deer to walk by when you have a nice warm, comfy, movie theater showing the latest Seth Rogan movie? There is a reason that hunters expose themselves to extreme conditions when all odds are stacked against them and it’s not because it’s pleasant and inviting. It’s about pushing your comfort zone. It’s about testing your training, your skills, your ability, your intuition. There are so many times during hunting trips where I wanted to stop because I was fed up… even times when I’ve want to yell in frustration. But it was all worth it. Some of the best experiences are cherished in the moment and some can’t be realized until after they have passed.
8: Unique Traditions
My favorite tradition to this day is heading out to deer camp on the night before opening rifle season. Although the people who show up at camp change from year to year based on all of their schedules, I’m always there and I always make a big pot of gumbo. It’s a tradition that my Dad’s friend from Louisiana started when he would come up to hunt in the winter back when I was just developing a love for hunting. I would watch as he meticulously stirred the roux, trying to learn all I could about how to produce this liquid-gold concoction. There is nothing like hitting the stand on a brisk fall morning after eating some thick, rib-coating gumbo to keep you warm. Every group of family and friends have their own hunting traditions they hold dear to their heart and no one tradition is better than another. It is just another thing I look forward to every year!