Being an outdoorsman comes with great responsibility, not only to the game we pursue or the ground we walk on but also to those around us walking on that very same ground – on our public land.
As an outdoorsman, it’s easy to get caught up in your own hunt. We spend hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years preparing to be successful. Therefore, when that hunt is interrupted by someone else, it’s easy to be disgruntled and act impulsively. I have seen this first hand on public land, either from the group I’m with, or another group we encounter in the woods or on the road. It’s frustrating to watch.
As hunters, we pay to maintain the land, the life within it and the roads and trails through it. So why don’t we seem to maintain our relationships with those around us who also have a right to that land? I am a firm believer that if we are to preserve centuries worth of tradition in the outdoors, we have to become a single fighting force and respect those who share the same passions and may end up side by side with us in the woods.
I have seen the bad. I have seen the people who become territorial and question your right to public land or an area frequented by “regulars.” I have seen and heard the frustration in the voice of a disgruntled hunter while they tried to convince me that I don’t belong in that area and have no business being in their space. I have been annoyed and walked away to avoid conflict and keep my distance.
However, I have also seen the good. I have seen the hunters at the local bar congratulating someone on their recent trophy buck or wall-mounter walleye. I have heard people offer help to a lone hunter or group in need of an extra set of hands. I have seen a gravel road in the middle of the woods packed with two lanes of several parked trucks and a crowd of hunters congratulating one man on his recently harvested black bear, passing around cold brews and toasting to a successful day in the woods.
I don’t intend to make it seem as though most people are rude and unsportsmanlike outdoorsmen. In fact, I notice the opposite in most cases. Regardless, I believe it is important to remind others as often as possible that unity within a community of outdoorsmen is key to the survival of our traditions. After all, in order to preserve our ways of life, we need people to have our backs.