If anything, I think the recent, very public case of an American hunter poaching a famous Zimbabwe lion has really shone a light on poaching and hunting in general. What I found the most interesting was how hunters approach hunting so radically different. Just from a bystander’s view, I could see all these guys arguing about the “true nature” of hunting, what it meant to them, and how this Dentist was violating what they held sacred. Most of these hunters held their own personal beliefs as the “true nature” of hunting and kind of looked down on other hunters if they didn’t hold the same belief set. I thought it’d be interesting to catalog the different kinds of hunters as I saw them, and their usual belief systems so that I’d have somewhere to point people when they were getting self-righteous about their beliefs about hunting. Keep in mind that while I’ve made some nice, neat categories here, most hunters are a mix of some of these categories and some might not be like anyone I’ve met before.
Hunting as a Tradition
I feel like this is the biggest reason why I hunt because my dad took me out hunting all the time when I was young. While I’m a pure modernist in many areas of my life, I still go hunting each November. My dad no longer hunts with me, but he still takes part: giving advice: wanted or not, and helps butcher and participate. Now I’m starting to take my boys hunting and pass on the tradition. I don’t need to hunt and neither did my dad; we can both get meat from the supermarket. For us, hunting is mostly about tradition in what we’ve done in the past that we continue to do.
Hunting as a Spiritual Event
Some people treat hunting as a really spiritual event. I can’t say I can relate very well, as I’m not a spiritual or religious person myself, but I can see why. I’ve hunted with people who said a prayer before the day’s hunt (Christians) and I’ve hunted with people who said a prayer when they killed their animal (Muslims). Some first-time hunters get blood spread across their forehead, some people cry; there are a whole lot of people who treat hunting with a lot of spirituality. Killing an animal on your first hunt can bring with it a rush of emotion, whether it be sorrow for the animal, excitement and rush from the culmination of the hunt, or relief that you don’t have to get up at 5:00am another morning 😉
Hunting as an Experience
I love the experience of hunting. Crisp mornings, walking out to a stand in the dark, seeing every sunset and sunrise; hunting offers a lot. Hunting the same land, year after year, is really rewarding as well. Hunting it connects you with the land, shows you how animals use it and prepares you better for next year. I live in a city, so hunting gets me back to the land. For at least 1 week a year, the reconnection to the land makes me wonder why I live in a city at all.
Some hunters take challenge as part of the experience. They use a compound or recurve bow for more of a challenge. Some people go the opposite direction and train and gear up for long distance shots. Taking a shot within your limitations, hunting can be a great motivator to get better at your bow and arrow or practice more at the range.
I think Chris Pratt’s description on hunting does a nice, concise job of explaining some of the environment and experience when hunting.
Hunting for Organic, Lean, No Additives Meat
Some new hunters are in it for the meat. Within this category, there’s the rural and urban segments. I know, this is a really terrible way to draw lines, but I had to segment somehow.
Urban organic meat hunters want to live as healthy as possible and they’re worried about how industrial-scale farming may be adding hormones, poor quality feed, etc into their meat. For them, hunting is the ultimate way to get organic, grass-fed, locally sourced meat. These people are really different than traditional hunters because many come from families that haven’t been hunters and many are coming from cities. Some are not well prepared for hunting, but they’re eager and quick to learn.
Many rural organic meat hunters may hunt as a way to add inexpensive meat to their diet. It’s hard to crunch the numbers on hunting and beat supermarket beef until you’re taking a shot out a few hundred yards from your backyard with your grandpa’s 303.
I can’t say I know a lot about trophy hunting. If I see a herd of whitetail deer and there’s a big buck in the group I’ll take him out, but I don’t go out hunting with the sole intent of getting a buck with a big rack. Experience and tradition mean more to me in my hunt than a rack on a wall, so I end up with a doe some years and I’m fine with that. That all said, what I do know about trophy hunters is that they drive major parts of the hunting hobby: spending big bucks on guided hunts, gear, etc. In regions like Zimbabwe, where money for conservation is hard to come by with their massive inflation, the massive licensing fees for safari hunts really help with injecting needed dollars into wildlife conservation. I can’t speak well to the motivations for trophy hunters without taking massive guesses, but I can appreciate their contribution to the sport.
What Other People Say About Hunting
I asked some fine folks on Gun Owners of Canada why they hunt and I’m happy that they shared their thoughts:
Rory McCanuck: Hunting is life or death, an absolute.
When you are hunting, nothing else matters.
It connects you to the chain that stretches back to before we even had language.
Zog and Urg sitting around their fire in the cave would nod along with a knowing smile at the stories we share over a dram.
kennymo: Time in the woods, personal reflection, family heritage and my favourite, that chance that 10,000 years of instinct will kick in and you’ll know EXACTLY what that snapped twig means and where the animal is going to appear. It seems to happen pretty rarely, but every once in a while I find I can just stop overthinking things, let primal instinct kick in and BAM! Animal down. I love it. People who’ve never experienced it tell me I’m ridiculous….
Laramie Longhorn: What they said as well as a chance to quiet myself. In our busy lives we are constantly bombarded with stimulus. It all goes away when you are out in the field. For me, takes a couple days before I can truly unplug and focus on what I’m doing. Best feeling though.
lone-wolf: Grouse/partridge hunting, a chance to hang around an old buddy and waste gas & time.
Deer hunting, a chance to wander different woods than normal, relax and live simple for a week, and hang with my family.
Coyote hunting, a chance to wander some local land, and sit on the cold wet ground for a while for a chance at a nice mount or hat.
Haywire1: While I enjoy getting out into nature, and the thrill of the hunt, for me it is meat in the freezer plain and simple. Yes I could go buy meat from a supermarket pumped full of growth hormones, steroids, water (to look plumper), and not know where, when or how it was slaughtered, I prefer to go out into the wild, and harvest something that wasnt injected by everything someone decided was necessary. My family and I orefer the taste of wild game, the texture of meat from an animal that wasnt fattened up and penned prior to slaughter.
Yes tradition is a part as well, since I hunted with my father and grandfather, but like I said before the main reason is meat.
wolver: Yes, quite and alone to contemplate. And no GD motorized vehicles within sight or earshot.
Candychikita: Hunting is walking in a forager’s smorgasbord but it also holds the possibility of bringing home fresh succulent rare ingredients. I get bored with the supermarket same old same old and the uninspired recipes. What would it taste like if you wrapped it in bacon and cedar planked it like a salmon? What about a pairing with a foraged berry…saskatoon/cloudberry/salmonberry? Could it end the search for something to make soapberry or salal more palatable? Each individual flavour blended with another in an edible duet, the ultimate matchmaking adventure that can make someone salivate and take so many helpings they need to undo buttons. Taking the herb jars one at a time and smelling which ones make the perfect “chord” of scent that pull everything together. I LOVE to cook bahahaha.
Also. It’s just a good reason to be outside. None of those shallow reasons like “lets go to the beach and soak up rays” or “lets go for a hike up this big hill and then come down” You are out there for a purpose…actually absorbing nature too. You look at the scrapes on the trees, poop, footprints, the types of foliage. You listen to the deafening honking of geese, the crashing of falling leaves, the mice squeak, the snap of a twig 30ms to your right coming over the hill, thudding of grouse. It smells like chestnuts, acorns and christmas trees, ripened berries and damp earth, broken grass and ferns.
mavrik9: With the price of beef, it’s about filling the freezer plain and simple. Getting back to nature and slowing down so you can hear everything is an added bonus.
Hornychief: My dad didn’t hunt. I am the first. I only came about hunting because I used to shoot lots of clays, natural transition I suppose. I love being in nature away from the busy and overly hectic life we live today. Love game meat, as for my wife not so much lol.
Whether I’m out hunting big game or shooting pigeon its about providing, relaxing and love of the pastime.
What I wanted to come out of this article with was a big pile of different reasons why people hunt, and I think I got a good chunk of opinions. Hunting means different things to different people and within the scope of the law, it’s all good. My opinion: everyone pays their license fees, those fees go into conservation, and that conservation helps ensure that there will be lots of game available today and many years from today. I welcome all those types of hunters from above, because even if I don’t quite understand why they hunt, they’re still putting in their fair share with their license fees. More hunters is a good thing.