People ask why we hunt. The question is often a challenge—a way of asking the hunter to defend or to justify his hunting. But we don’t need to justify hunting any more than a golfer needs to justify golfing. No primitive man ever justified the thing that sustained him, so why start now?
In the digital age people often expect answers in 10 words or less, but a hunter hunts for lots of reasons. Some of those reasons are common to many hunters, some are particular to individual hunters. So I’ve put together a list of 15 reasons why I hunt.
- I hunt because my father took me hunting. It has been a shared experience, a way of bonding. He and I both treasure those times.
- I hunt because I play an important role in wildlife management. Most parts of the country lack large predators that take large prey. Only man can control the number of deer and keep them in balance with other animals and with their habitat.
- I hunt because I’m a predator. Prey animals have eyes on the sides of their heads that keep watch all around them. People are more like wolves, bears and mountain lions—with eyes on the front of our heads that give binocular vision and depth perception useful in an attack.
- I hunt because I enjoy seeing wildlife. Non-hunters see wildlife in TV documentaries. Hunters watch wildlife up close, and participate in nature’s drama.
- I hunt because I like to understand wildlife. What do deer like to eat? Why, and when? Where do turkeys go? How do animals use their habitat?
- I hunt because hunting is challenging. Every hunt is an opportunity to pit myself against an animal that is perfectly suited for its environment.
- I hunt because hunting is satisfying. A day in the woods can be exhausting or exhilarating. It’s a way to spend myself, and it’s always satisfying.
- I hunt because it’s peaceful. Deep snow is quiet. Overcast skies cast no shadows. Hunting gives solitude.
- I hunt because it connects me to God. Genesis 1:26 says I’m a steward of his creation. God holds me accountable not only to the law and to my integrity, but also to himself.
- I hunt because it connects me to nature in a way nothing else can. I recognize that the human race is not separate from nature, but a part of it. I see the majesty of God in the sunrise, in the cunning of the animals I hunt, and in the beauty of the landscape. Although the woods are not a church, hunting is spiritual.
- I hunt because it connects me to the past. Hunters are in the ancestry of every man.
- I hunt because it connects me to the present. Hunting provides the time and the place to think about who I am, and who I need to be.
- I hunt because it connects me to the future with an opportunity to contemplate my priorities, and why I am on this earth.
- I hunt because it connects me to myself. As an individual, the solitude and the isolation provide opportunity to think without distraction. It’s a clarifying time. It’s a questioning time. What am I facing in my life? Who is important to me? Where is my life headed?
- I hunt because it connects me to the circle of life. A creature is out there that will sacrifice his life to provide me nourishment. It causes me to ask whether I will be willing to make important sacrifices for the sake of others.
I’ve certainly missed things others would add to the list, but one thing is missing that some might expect to see. You’ll see not one word about killing. It is inevitable that killing is a part of hunting, but I never hunt because I get to kill something.
Hunting has its philosophers, and one of the great ones was Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), a Spaniard who wrote Meditations on Hunting. It’s essential reading for the person who wants to be thoughtful about hunting.
Ortega says more eloquently than I can why we hunt. “In our rather stupid time, hunting is belittled and misunderstood, many refusing to see it for the vital vacation from the human condition that it is, or to acknowledge that the hunter does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, he kills in order to have hunted.”
If you want it in a nutshell, there’s just one reason why we hunt: We hunt because we are hunters.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.