The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 6 - 10/7/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Bobbi Wade
I don't read hunting magazines anymore. After 22 years spent working in hunting camps, I've heard every story of "the hunt" imaginable. There really aren't many differences between the tales; the only components that change are the characters. Outdoor Life and Sports Afield haven't been able to tell me much about hunters and hunting that I haven't heard before.
Popular hunting publications print the latest updates on weapons, ammunition, optics, and all other assorted outdoor gear guaranteed to make the hunter shoot more accurately, spot game more easily and to stay warmer and drier than great-grandpa could ever hope to with wool and a campfire. The pages are filled with tactics and opinions from an endless parade of experts telling us how to put the odds in our favor while stalking the elusive 30-inch mule deer. The strategies and gimmicks for stacking the deck against the wily elk are spelled out alongside photos of bulls carrying racks most hunters can only hope to see on the refuge in January.
The real subject most of these magazines fail to address so thoroughly is why man hunts in the first place. Most have been able to tell would-be hunters how to go out and make a run at the actual, physical effort, in exhaustive detail, inside of every fall issue. The proper, ethically acceptable reasons that should be the motivation behind hunting have been covered extensively. But what is it that is really behind that desire to pursue and take an animal or, "hunt"?
Based only on my personal observations during my career in a hunting-related industry, I think there are three real reasons that most men hunt, or think that they are hunting.
The first reason is the "feeding the ego" objective. The man who hunts to show off his "toys" or his abilities, whether they are of any quality or not, believes he has the best, looks the best, will only shoot at the best and/or is the best, at everything. He has no real consideration for his quarry or for the others in his party. (These guys always have a group of some kind around for a built-in audience). The regulations sometimes get in his way. His ego and need for the hunt are fed by the exaggerated expectations that bombard him while reading the "Guide to Big Game" issues of the magazines. There is a certain level of "blood lust" and "trophy fever" that is carried into the field. And if he goes home empty-handed, it wasn't because of anything lacking in his effort or ability, only the shortcomings of someone else, or the weather, or . . .
Some men hunt to get away from home. They like to get together with the guys, load up their gear, and head west for a week of pork `n beans with T-bone steaks, poker, a few beers, and some good days on the mountain. These guys truly enjoy each other's company. They do go afield occasionally, packing a rifle in hope of filling a tag with the first legal animal that they cross paths with. All the preparations that take place before the hunt, and the life in camp are as rewarding to them as actually bagging an animal. Sometimes they put so much emphasis on everything except the actual hunting, the honing of their field skills is neglected during the preparations. Wounded game or kills that are not "clean" seem to be prevalent among the guys that go "hunting" mainly for the male camaraderie aspect.
I believe some men hunt for a higher purpose. A man in this category has an ego to feed, but it is not starving. Getting away from home is a welcome break, but going home is something he is anxious to do at the end. He truly enjoys the fellowship of the cook tent with others in camp, yet he finds a calm reward while resting on the side of a hill in the autumn sun, alone. The simple beauty of a twisted pine stump or a chipmunk scolding is a real pleasure for this hunter to encounter. He is prepared to hunt, in every sense of the word. His equipment is quality, but not necessarily the latest rage or most expensive and he knows what it and he are capable of. His physical conditioning is not Olympic, but certainly above average.
Above all, this hunter has respect: for the country, the game he pursues, the people he may have hired to take care of his physical needs, other hunters he encounters, his weapons, and himself. He has decided ahead of time what kind of animal will satisfy him and if he doesn't encounter it, he goes home empty-handed, yet still satisfied that he has had the adventure. Everything that goes into his experience has meaning for this hunter and he appreciates it all.
My dad used to tell me there were two ways to do something he was expecting me to complete; the "wrong way" and "his way." If it were up to me, every hunter would make the last reason I've described "his way."
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