As is often the case, social media has been a wellspring of inspiration for content on this site, and in this case I was moved to start thinking about motivation. More specifically, I started thinking about what really motivates hunters. You see, for the last few days I have been seeing all sorts of pictures, and memes, and slogans, and catchphrases from dozens of people about “Why I Hunt”, and two things are baffling about this to me.
First, all of them seem to, at least in part, ascribe the sole motivation of going hunting to items that in my mind are simply component parts of the whole.
Second, since when was an explanation necessary?
To the second point first. You see it isn’t that I don’t care why you hunt, it’s more that I don’t consider it to be any of my business. So long as you are doing it within the confines of the law and your outward representation of the hunting tradition isn’t negatively influencing non-hunters and/or baiting anti-hunters, then my stance is that you have no call to justify yourself to me. In fact, unless you are trying to simply get attention for the generally commonplace fact that you went hunting or you are trying to soft-serve the anti-hunting community with more palatable explanations for why hunting is important, I can see no real reason why you need to crow about it.
I appreciate now if anyone wants to point out the irony of my blog/social media presence as being hypocritical to what I just wrote, but read on and you’ll see what I’m driving at.
I, of course, have my own thoughts and standards about what some might call ‘acceptable practices’ or ‘ethical hunting’ and I may not even personally like how, where, or what you use to do it. But what I think about you doesn’t matter, and I frankly don’t really have to justify my actions or impress anyone else. Because despite the mass-social-media, let-me-take-a-selfie, bigger-is-better, and gosh-I-hope-the guys-at-Realtree/Mossy Oak/Remington/Under Armor-see-my-feed-and-offer-me-a-sponsorship mentality that seems to be at the corporate root of all things in the modern hunting world, how I choose to commune with nature and find my happy place does not concern you at all, and so long as you’re okay and your actions don’t jeopardize my ability to independently pursue game in the outdoors, then I have no real right or desire to lecture you about what you are doing. I truly could not care less, in the best, most benignly friendly sense of that statement.
Let’s discuss it over a beer some time.
But to the first, and to my mind more troubling point, is my confusion with the willingly or ignorantly delusional stuff I see used to justify or purify the hunting experience. I see things like (and I’m paraphrasing) “Frosty fall sunrises are why I hunt” or “Seeing game in its natural environment is why I hunt” or “Spring sunsets are why I hunt”, or “Supporting conservation is why I hunt” or my personal favourite “Being outside in nature is why I hunt” and, frankly, you can do all of those things without actually hunting. In fact, if they are the prime motivator to what you deem to be the hunting tradition, then you can be a hiker, or a birdwatcher, or a nature photographer and (provided that the memes that you have been posting are true) I can assure you that you will get precisely the same level of fulfillment from any of the above activities, and you won’t get any blood on your hands at all, I swear.
Now, all of those experiential and conservation-themed items above are vastly important and I love all of them probably a little too much myself, but they are not the primary reason that I’m out there. They are a happy benefit to being out there and they are to be cherished and shared in my mind, but if you are hunting…truly hunting… then you are out there to find and to kill game.
Let that sink in. Not because I’ve just turned you on to a fact you did not already know and have been perhaps in denial about, but rather let it sink in because if you are saying that sunsets, and sunrises, and pretty birds, and peaceful reflection, or money in the conservationists coffers are the things that get you out to hunt, then you can either leave the rifle at home next time and have a less burdensome walk, or you can start to speak in actual truthful terms and not clichés. When someone says “I hunt for the meat” or “I hunt to challenge myself against wildlife” then they have my undivided attention. Even people who say “I hunt for a trophy” or “I hunt to make myself feel important” get a bit of my time because although I can’t say I share their motivation, I can be relatively certain that they are telling the truth and to do those things in the above paragraph you actually have to, you know, hunt.
If you’re proud of being a hunter and want to tell the world about it, knock yourself out; I do it all the time and very much to the displeasure of my friends, coworkers, and loved ones. But paint the whole picture.
Tell that story about the time you sat for eleven hours in a treestand during a snow storm and saw screw-all. Tell that story about the time you got lost and tasted those first sickening pangs of fear and confusion. Tell the story about the time you made a snap shot and then had to track a gut-shot deer for hours before giving up and losing sleep fretting that it probably died in agony because you made a mistake. Explain the inner workings of what it takes to gut a moose or skin a squirrel. Be not profane, but tell the tales about the shitty side of things and make it real, because it is never always a steady stream of magenta sunsets, meditation to a birdsong soundtrack, and one-shot kills.
And if you think it is or that it will be, I’m sorry, but I’ve got news for you.