Any time the topic of hunting comes up around a non-hunter or anti-hunter, their first line of argument is usually that hunters are just out to kill something.
They are barbarians just looking to prove their dominance over the other species of the planet.
The fact of the matter is, for the true hunter, the harvest of the animal is only a small part of why they hunt. Yes, if it wasn’t for the prospect of taking an animal that we can use to feed our families, there would be a lot less hunters hitting the woods.
Venison has been proven time and again to be some of the healthiest and most beneficial food on the planet. If you are into organic foods, it doesn’t get much more organic than a wild critter that has never been injected with hormones, steroids or drugs of any nature — not to mention that they haven’t been fed processed, specialized and mass-produced feed to pack on the pounds in all the right places. In most situations, the only food they have ever known is just as organic as they are.
Hunting is so much more than just providing food for the dinner table. There is something mystical about being in the dark and quiet woods well before the first light of day crests the horizon.
It starts subtly and then gradually builds. The woods go from a lightless void to an orchestra of sights and sounds in what is seemingly the blink of an eye. The world around you comes alive with birds and bugs and all manner of creature stirring around going about their daily routine.
These magical moments are what the hunter is seeking, not just the opportunity to kill. It is watching animals being animals without them knowing they are being watched. A hunter observes and watches and is treated to sights and sounds that non-hunters would never believe, much less understand.
The wild can sometimes seem like a cruel and unyielding place, a constant struggle for survival, but when you watch as a group of young squirrels frolic and play along the forest floor, you realize that it doesn’t always have to be a life-or-death battle in the woods.
Mother Nature can teach us a lot of parallels within our own lives and those of the creatures living in the wild if we will take the time to pay attention. The true hunter has figured this out and it is just another reason he sets off into the dense undergrowth in search of his quarry.
Another lesson taught in the woods to each and every hunter is humility. Whether it is big game or small game, even the most seasoned and skilled hunter has been bested by the keen senses and instincts of our quarry.
If you think you are the top of the food chain, have a seemingly innocent grey squirrel positioned in a barren tree in the middle of a leafless forest disappear into thin air and see what it does for your confidence. Or have the perfect shot on the buck of a lifetime, the one you have practiced a million times in your head, inexplicably evaporate or go horribly wrong just before you pull the trigger.
Humbling is only a mild word used to describe the feelings a hunter goes through as these scenarios play out time and again. Never take the cute and furry critters of the woods for granted. They are formidable foes when it comes to the game of survival.
Perhaps the greatest joy that is bestowed upon the hunter has little to do with the quarry he seeks. It is more about spending time outdoors in God’s creation with his family and friends.
I have been blessed all my life to have enjoyed the sports of the outdoors with family and friends. My greatest hunting partner and teacher was always my father growing up and now it is my turn to pass that same passion on to my children.
I have been fortunate to take many deer, turkey and fish from the wilds of the Mountain State, but my greatest achievement as a hunter is getting to share the outdoors with my children. This is what it means to be a hunter.
It doesn’t mean you kill something each time you go afield. It doesn’t mean you shoot a trophy buck every year.
It is all about the hunt. It is about watching and learning from nature. It is about spending time with the ones we love and sharing our passion for the pursuit of the game.
A harvest is just the icing on the cake, but the cake is what we come for.
Roger Wolfe writes about the outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers.