A couple of years ago a reader complained that she was tired of seeing pictures of dead animals in my column. She made a strong argument that she didn’t actually read my column because I seldom publish photos of dead animals. Her aim was apparently to argue with me. (In the eight months my column has appeared in the Jamestown Gazette, I’ve used such a photo only once.)
Oddly, a newspaper editor once suggested I take the opposite approach and write more about the animals I harvest. He said, “Write more columns about ‘How I got that big buck.’” I explained that the column was called “The Everyday Hunter,” not “The Expert Hunter,” and that I don’t always make a kill and I try not to brag about the kills I do make. I shoot only one or two deer each year, and my bucks are no more impressive than what most of my readers shoot. Even if I add in a couple of gobblers, I’d have a hard time making my success stories into regular fare for my readers.
Besides, the column is not about me. Most readers care more about their own successes than mine, so any tales of my own success are along the lines of one beggar telling another beggar how to find food. In other words, what I’ve learned might be worth something to others, and I enjoy trying to put into words what will help my readers.
Sometimes readers enjoy columns that help them recall their own experiences, so occasionally I take that angle. Several years ago I wrote a column titled “At Last – Opening Day!” which reminded readers of the anticipation a kid has as he eagerly waits for the first day of deer season. It won the 2008 “Best Newspaper Column” award from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association (the second of three times I’ve won the award, so I must be doing something right).
But the greatest goal of “The Everyday Hunter” column is not to win awards, not to wax nostalgic, not to cater to the narrowest interest of any specific audience, and certainly not to brag or to publicize images of dead animals, but to offer a positive view of hunting to readers. All hunters are not alike, and the longer a hunter hunts the more he is apt to see himself as one piece in the complex puzzle of wildlife management. That’s what “The Everyday Hunter” is about.
The ironic truth is that hunters, more than anyone, are the reason wildlife is more abundant and more accessible in North America than in Europe. Few non-hunters realize that in the nineteenth century America’s hunters saw the perils of wildlife viewed as the property of landowners, and that market hunting would bring animals to extinction. In order to preserve wildlife for future generations, hunters banded together, getting the states to establish seasons to assure optimum reproduction, to add bag limits so the resource would never be overharvested, and to use scientific methods to study wildlife and to protect wildlife habitat.
“The Everyday Hunter” offers how-to and why-to, with a view to the truth that hunting is a timeless drama in which hunters have the responsible role of being stewards of all wildlife, not just the animals we hunt.
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, NKJV). We’re obeying that mandate as long as we keep wildlife at healthy population levels in balance with the habitat. Success for “The Everyday Hunter” is in getting people to read and think about the important role hunting plays so that everyone in our modern world can value wildlife.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. To read more of Steve Sorensen’s thoughts about hunting, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com.