A Brief History of American Hunting
Today, we hunt for sport. That’s why we can get by being Okayest Hunters. If we don’t harvest an animal, our family’s not at risk, and we’re not going to die over the winter. However, it wasn’t always like this. It’s easy to forget that hunting used to be a total badass, a necessary part of life. It’s still badass (obviously), but hunting wasn’t the fun-filled weekend at camp that we’re familiar with today.
To start off, let’s take a look at Native American hunting. Native Americans were probably the least Okayest hunters, in that they found abundant success, and formed a bond with the land they hunted on. We could call them “Exemplary-est Hunters”. Hunting was a core part of their culture and traditions, with the animals they harvested providing them food, clothing, tools, shelter; pretty much anything that they could use the animal for, they would. Little of the animal was wasted, and the tribes paid great respect to the animal, for they understood they could not thrive without it. For the Native Americans, to be a hunter was to be a provider for the tribe, and learning to hunt was a great right of passage in becoming a man.
Fast-forward to the colonial period, and hunting was still vastly important, however for a different reason. Under the British Monarchy, all fish and game were considered to be royal property, and so when the Colonists came to the new world, hunting became a symbol of freedom. In fact, in Plymouth in 1623, a mandate was set in place that all hunting and fishing was free to everyone. While these colonists relied on and coexisted with nature less than the Native Americans, hunting was still integral to their survival, and lasting long winters.
As time passed and hunting in the newly freed United States developed, it began to make a shift and become somewhat sport-focused. In 1887, Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club, the first wildlife conservation organization in North America. The club was formed with an intent to educate the public about wildlife, set standards for hunts that made it into a sport and put a stop to over exhausting the game of the American frontier with rules and regulations.
Other clubs such as the Pope and Young Club came along with similar goals, and over the last 200 years, hunting has become what we know it as today. It’s amazing to look back on this history and admire the contrast between the two worlds. Today, we hunt for the activity, the tradition; we hunt because we want to be hunters. The hunters before us didn’t have this luxury, they hunted for a purpose. To survive, to be one with the world around them, even to proclaim their freedom. So next time you don’t fill your tag, just remember that being a hunter isn’t about taking home a 12-pointer to gloat to your buddies. Being a hunter is about being a hunter.