One Man’s Attempt At Explaining Hunting

Properly explaining the draw and allure of hunting to a non-hunter can be a pretty challenging endeavor. I’ve found that it’s virtually impossible for me to truly put the passion I feel for hunting into words. However, my dad recently did a pretty darn good job of doing just that. Below is his attempt at truly explaining to a hypothetical non-hunter why he is drawn to hunting.

For many years I’ve struggled with how to explain why some seemingly “normal” people are so drawn to hunting. I should explain right away that as I use the term “hunting” I’m including all the ancillary activities connected to the actual hunt, such as planting food plots, mowing the roads and open spaces, putting out game cameras, chopping fire wood, fixing the stovepipe in the cabin, and taking the kids up to the hunting property for some fun time while you work.

Even those close to me, who are sympathetic non-participants of hunting, are quite often at a loss to understand how the pull of hunting can be so strong and seemingly everlasting. For those who don’t understand, I’m not sure it is possible to make them understand, but this is my feeble attempt to explain.

The anti-hunting segment of our population just cannot seem to understand why seemingly sophisticated, normal individuals can participate in a seemingly cruel blood sport. However, hunting is so much more than just the killing of animals. As I have proven many times you can have a very successful hunt without ever even seeing your four legged quarry!

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You should remember that humans are indeed an apex predator, the need to hunt is imprinted in our DNA. This is why our teeth and eyes are arranged as they are in our skull. But long ago our need to kill various game animals to just survive became obsolete. But our advanced society does indeed involve a huge amount of killing to support it. However, most anti-hunting individuals (who consume meat) are simply too cowardly to perform the task themselves or they are guilty of gross hypocrisy while insisting that someone else to do the killing for them. Unfortunately, the majority have morphed into nothing more than a sad consumer.

The killing, or taking of the animal (for those who are a mite squeamish) might seem cruel or heartless to non-hunters, but all is not as it seems at first glance. While the actual kill is certainly not the only motivation of the hunter, it is however, an important one and honoring that quarry that has given its life is a very important part of any sophisticated hunting ritual.

As Elgin Gates so aptly put it:

The true trophy hunter is a self-disciplined perfectionist seeking a single animal, the ancient patriarch well past his prime that is often an outcast from his own kind… If successful, he will enshrine the trophy in a place of honor. This is a more noble and fitting end than dying on some lost and lonely ledge where the scavengers will pick his bones, and his magnificent horns will weather away and be lost forever.

One should also remember that wild animals do not have the option of calling the doctor or phoning in a prescription like we humans do. Their options for caring for injuries or dealing with the end of their life are much more limited and generally much more painful than ours. Roosevelt said it better than anyone else I’ve ever read when he said:

Death by violence, death by cold, death by starvation, – these are the normal endings of the stately and beautiful creatures of the wilderness. The sentimentalists who prattle about the peaceful life of nature do not realize its utter mercilessness;…Life is hard and cruel for all the lower creatures, and for man also in what the sentimentalists call a “state of nature.” – Theodore Roosevelt, African Game Trails

So as illogical as it may sound to non-hunters, a strong argument can be made that being killed by a hunters projectile, be it a bullet or arrow, is actually a much quicker, humane, honorable and less painful way for the average game animal to die.

While the killing of the quarry is the ultimate point of “hunting”, it is certainly not the only point. Much more important than the kill, to a true hunter, is that sport hunting is about traditions, values, morals, family and friends.  Hunting camps are one place where important life lessons are taught, and where strong family bonds are built. Kids get to climb trees, build forts, bring in firewood, chase each other around, and generally learn about nature while building strong healthy bodies the old fashioned way. They are where youngsters grow into adults, where lifelong friendships are forged and where wonderful memories are created.

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Only in the woods can you watch the squirrels go about their daily chores undisturbed or see a mother bobcat watchfully leading her two kittens up a logging road as they tussle and play while being taught about survival, seemingly without a care in the world, never having known that their passage was being observed by a fascinated observer.

It is where a father can experience the excitement of watching his son hyperventilating at the sight of his first buck in the wild, or of laughing with him at his reaction to walking into a group of wild hogs before daylight, and having him set a new record for the 50 yard dash while dodging saw briars and oak saplings!

Only in the deer camp can you hear the excited exclamations of a young man who has finally managed to take his first buck, while remembering your own reaction to your similar experience more than 35 years before.

first deer

It is only in the hunting cabin where all the younger hunters, snugly tucked deep into their sleeping bags, eagerly await your getting up in the middle of the night, because they know that soon the wood burning stove will be glowing again after having the old guy replenish its wood supply.

Only at the property can you proudly watch your daughter, ringlets of dirty sweat around her neck, happily digging her own “hole” in the ground, with the only restriction being that she not dig too close to the corner of the cabin, or watching their granddad carve the girls wooden dolls with the chain saw, and realizing that she still has that doll 25 years later!

One Man's Attempt At Explaining Hunting To Non-Hunters

Their is nothing quite like returning to the cabin after a cold rainy morning in the woods to be greeted by the smell of freshly cooked bacon warming on the top of the stove, courtesy of the ol’ man, who has subsequently slipped back into bed after preparing a breakfast for the returning hunters.

Yes, there is a lot more to hunting than most non-hunters will ever know, and that is a shame….they are missing out on a lot of life.

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11 thoughts on “One Man’s Attempt At Explaining Hunting”

  1. John, I totally agree with your dad, there seems to be no explanation to satisfy those non-hunters. Not only did God put this “hunting thing” in our DNA, but He also gave some of us a desire to be in nature whether or not we kill a big trophy or just watch a young yearly trot on by. Animals in nature are smart and that’s why it’s called hunting. We humans as the top predator must learn how to hunt and I think that’s the fun part. Scouting a piece of property, learning where the deer, elk, etc. roam from bedding area to feeding area, when is the time that they (deer, elk, etc.) are looking for that female that they would fight to the finish for, and of course learning how to dress and smell to become invisible to these creatures we grow to love and yes, respect. As technology gets better, we can also become better hunters. There are game cameras, spotting scopes, night vision goggles (I think these are for those dang hogs that tear up everything in their path) and we still have to find just the right spot for our game feeders. Yes, they lure the animals to our spot, but there are places that the food we put out on our property may just be the only food these animals can find, and what about the big water tanks we provide when nature doesn’t seem to provide. These non-hunters don’t care about the starvation or diseases that these animals face, but a hunter does. Maybe these non-hunters were born and raised within city walls and have not had the opportunity that we have to experience nature and all its charm. Outdoor life is something that has to be experienced to fully feel the joy and of course the relaxation and fulfillment of it all. I’m not a hunter but a wife of a hunter and this is what I have learned by watching and going out to the camp with my husband. Because of my love for all aspects of hunting, I have a business in the hunting industry selling hunting and tactical optics. Thanks for your words.

  2. Your dad sounds like my kind of guy. Like Karla I don’t personally hunt a lot but I love going out with the family (kids and grandkids). Hunting camps are a great place to learn and teach kids about nature and wild game, both hunting and caring for our wild animals and our forests. Thanks for the article.

  3. Great article and completely agree with you! Such a great way to teach kids and spend family time together.

  4. HI John,

    I totally agree with your dad. There must be many people like your father, the tradition of hunting can grow even further.


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