Hunters come in all shapes and sizes, both literally and figuratively. As a Hunter’s Education teacher, we talk about the five different stages of being a hunter. As I have hunted throughout both the United States and internationally, I have had the opportunity to meet, befriend, and hunt with people from many different walks of life. From this, I have seen that hunting is a personal thing to many of us and something that we often hold close to our hearts.
My friend, Trevon Stoltzfus, once said during a speech
Hunters often act like middle school children when their idea of hunting is challenged.Trevon Stoltzfus
I find this to be true and have heard, both of myself and of others, that the offensive party is “not a real hunter”.
In a world where we can choose nearly any label for ourselves, I do not understand why this insult is so common. I felt compelled to write this as I want us, as hunters to take a minute and think about the anatomy of a hunter.
What Does a REAL Hunter Look Like?
What does it take to be a hunter?
It seems like this should be straightforward. You have a weapon, a license (if needed), and you go out in pursuit of game. Hunting for many, like me, is part of who I am. I am always hunting even if it is not in season. I love the interaction with animals, the experience…all of that. This is what makes me a sportsman, it is about the journey. If you go for your boyfriend, or partner, or to be part of a group, or just sit in camp and drink beer, you can still be a hunter. No one should define that for you.
What does success mean?
What if you just saw a deer or turkey? In my early years of hunting, I struggled and every time I had an interaction it was a success to me. When I started hunting, I always said, if I got close, I could kill it. As I became better at filling tags, I realized that my years of hesitation, working on stalking, and patience paid off. One of my closest friends once said to me that if he failed as much as I did, he would have quit a long time ago. For me, not harvesting is not a failure because I always learn something and after time, it paid off. Sometimes, if you have the money, you can pay a guide to cut down the learning curve, and yes people who go with guides are real hunters.
What if the animal isn’t good enough? The next most common thing, I hear or see is that the hunter or other hunters put down the kill.
“It’s only a doe”
“I know he’s little”
“Not the biggest buck…”
If you are not proud of it, don’t kill it. Your purpose in hunting is your own, who cares what those internet armchair quarterbacks think. Anyone who has harvested many animals can tell you that taking, making a good shot, and finding an animal is hard. You can put an animal in front of anyone and unless you have what it takes, you will not be able to follow through. It is a big hurdle to overcome for many and you should be proud that you could do it. You are a real hunter.
How long did it take to get there?
Everyone has a different story. It took me years to successfully harvest my second animal. I chose to only bow hunt and to also be stubborn and do it on my own. Just because someone goes out year after year, hunt after hunt, or even week after week (if that is your attention span), that does not make them less of a hunter. It might mean they are hungry, but they probably don’t know the small things. I was in all the right places doing the right things, but I was stalling. We all struggle, even prolific hunters. If you are there, you are a real hunter, you might just need to ask for help.
I wanted to start here, as a series about what it means to be a hunter. As a somewhat dwindling breed, we need to band together. While we have years of peak hunting license purchases, it is often followed by a quick decline as people learn how much work it can take to be a hunter. It may feel great to put down that annoying person or to take that shot to make someone feel less-than, but I ask you to think about why you would want to exclude someone from something that gives you such joy?
What do YOU think makes someone a REAL hunter?
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