I have been asked several times, especially after a long week of chasing spring gobblers with nothing to show for my efforts but exhaustion and embarrassment, why I choose hunting as a leisure pursuit. The question used to rattle me, to be honest. For a long time I was certain why I hunted, I just always have. But in my adulthood and as a father, both will make one think about things very differently, I have come to place in my life that I love to answer that question and take pride in doing so.
My go-to response, and one I care deeply about, is the wildlife conservation approach. In short, it is the hunters who pony-up the funds for wildlife conservation. Since 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act establishes a federal funding source for state wildlife conservation efforts. The money does not come from a general tax fund, but it comes directly from a self-imposed tax sportsmen asked to be placed on the sale of most guns, ammo, bows and arrows. The money then gets distributed back to the states based on several factors including how many paid-hunting license holders the state has. In short, if you love wildlife and want to help fund wildlife management and restoration, buy a hunting license. The system works well; just look at the number bears, deer, turkey and other non-game animals thriving today. Simply put, I hunt because I care about wildlife and I am entrusted by wildlife managers to be an active tool in wildlife conservation. I thoroughly enjoy my role.
Secondly, I love to put my money where my mouth is. Or maybe better stated, to support something that I believe in. I love wildlife, public access, public lands, hunter’s education and the freedom to discover the natural world. In America, we are blessed with so much open land to explore. But, it takes money to manage programs and lands. And for someone like me who hunts and in many states every year, I am proud to say I gladly paid for the license and the privilege to do so and like all men and women who hunt, we have always been willing to pay extra to enhance, expand and protect America’s hunting, shooting and conservation heritage.
If that approach falls flat, I reach into my hunter’s bag of knowledge a pull out the connection to nature, wildlife and our culture. Humans have been hunting and gathering food since the beginning of time – it’s simply in our DNA to hunt. I certainly understand that most of us would not starve if we didn’t hunt, but for those who choose to embrace our culture and history by choosing to hunt, fresh venison beats the heck out of any dollar-menu or pre-packaged, frozen dinners.
Lastly, an answer I find to be sometimes seen as a touchy subject, is for the challenge of the sport. The adventure of chasing a mature Tom turkey or fouling a wise, old buck is downright thrilling. It is no means the only reason most of us hunt but, by accepting the challenge of going afield in search of a prized, targeted species adds some spice to the dish. Don’t get me wrong; I spend much more days afield grocery shopping for fresh, hormone-free protein in the form of antlerless deer, squirrels, geese and other non-trophy animals. The presentation of the trophy in the prepared-meal form adds a certain flare to dinner-table conversations when the family gathers for the celebration meal. Perhaps just like our ancestors, truly bringing home dinner is a wonderful delight especially when shared with people you love.
As with most things, maybe looking at the simple answer is the best. I hunt because, that is who I am.