How Hunting Has Stuck With Me
The deer woods call out to me, and I answer their siren song with my bow in hand.
By Will Bowen | PUBLISHED September 28th, 2022
What is it that makes someone a lifelong hunter? Is it something we can utilize for recruitment and pass on to other new hunters? I’m not for sure but I know how hunting has stuck with me.
I believe what I’m about to say will resonate with most hunters.
Hunting is not just what I do, it’s who I am!
Besides the obvious things in my life like my faith and family, hunting dominates most of my thoughts and time. I don’t just think about chasing the trophies or accolades either. I think about the solitude and peace that sitting in a deer stand brings me. I think about the excitement and reward of winning a cat and mouse game with a big tom turkey. I think about the gratitude and pride involved with serving wild harvested meat to my family and friends. It's not just one thought or emotion, it's many, and like I said, hunting is more than a hobby. It is a lifestyle.
I am thankful to be this way and oftentimes I find myself stepping back and wondering what it was that made me this way. There are many individuals out there that have tasted hunting but just didn’t stick with it. Was it the thought of taking life? Was it the negative attention from the media? Could it have even just been out of laziness? I don’t know, but for some reason it didn’t stick for those folks. As for me it is not hard to figure out why hunting has always been with me.
Hunting Was Always a Family Affair
While I have ventured out and taken on a lot of my most recent hunts solo, it is the family dynamic that I’ve experienced in hunting that always made it appealing. I’m very fortunate. My dad, uncles, brother, and cousins all hunt. My wife’s side of the family is the same. This could just be a product of where I grew up but I also think it is a badge of honor that my family should wear. Because if anybody knows the hard work and joy involved with putting a shooter buck in the bed of your truck, it would be your family.
I remember the deer camps shared with my family. I can honestly say that those are some of my fondest hunting memories. It wasn’t the bucks hanging in camp that I think about the most, it was the stories told across the fire. It was the countless hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over the fire with my kid cousins. It was my dad struggling to get us kids up before daylight. One thing is for sure, hunting binds us as a family. It is important to me because it was always important to them. Hunting is the ultimate fellowship and it constantly brings my family closer.
I Was Taught that Hunting is Conservation
I can give my dad a lot of credit for this one. I was always taught that hunting is not just for the good of the hunter but for the good of the animals we hunt. This is a great thing to share with new hunters young and old. Yes, that deer is going to provide a meal for your table but the legal harvest of that deer will also benefit the herd as a whole. Hunting is a conservation effort. Harvesting a shooter buck shouldn’t be just to stroke your own ego. I’m not saying don’t be proud of your accomplishment. I’m just saying that learning to put your harvest into perspective will greatly increase the satisfaction you get from the hunt.
I’ve felt this pride from an early age. The teachings of my dad let me know that taking the life of an animal shouldn’t be taken lightly. We do it in the effort of conservation. There is no need for senseless or wasteful harvest. There is no need in breaking the law to harvest game. There is no need in rubbing your accomplishments in someone else’s face. Selfish, prideful hunting does not contribute to conservation. Thoughtful and respectful hunting does.
Hunting Has Always Given Me Something to Reach for
There is no doubt about it, hunting is hard. Granted there is a bevy of skill levels and individual resources that contribute to the difficulty of one’s hunt, but very seldom is it easy. I like this. As hunters, we enjoy the challenge. Outsmarting your quarry and finding a way to make the impossible seem possible is addicting. And as you hunt longer your goals change. While harvesting a doe might not seem hard for a 25 year deer hunting veteran, it might seem impossible to the adult onset hunter who just learned how to hang a tree stand last week. It’s all relative.
It doesn’t matter your skill or experience level, we are all trying to take that next step. And in hunting I’m not sure I know what the end is. I imagine it is total contentment with everything. I can say this though, I’m not there yet. I still have plenty of hunting goals and places I want to go. Hunting is special and no matter who you are, it always gives you something more to reach for.
Getting it to Stick
I find that the deer woods are a great place to reflect. I often think about the things that make hunting appealing to me, the things that make it a very important part of my life. I don’t have any children yet but I pray that they enjoy the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be in the same intensity that I do, but I want to make sure that they are taught the way that I was. I believe that the way I was taught to think about hunting was vital in getting it to stick. Set goals, hunt hard, and learn to be okay with the outcome. Involve those you love and enjoy being around. Know that you are doing the work of conservation in your efforts. And lastly just learn to enjoy every minute in the woods because each one is a gift. It’s not about being the best, it’s about being there through it all.