Check out part one of this blog here.
Pursue the Passions.
In North America there are currently 29 huntable big game species. If bird hunting is more to your liking, there are 42 waterfowl and over 30 upland birds. Your pursuits could focus on small game like squirrels and rabbits, or even to the more obscure coatimundi and iguanas. What really matters is the experience that excites you the most. The incredible diversity on our continent affords equivalent opportunities for adventure. I admire those who focus on just one species as they become masters of their game. But don’t think that by being a jack of all trades and hunting many different types is somehow deficient; the fullness of that Shakespearian quote is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” You will find that skills and experiences will give you an advantage hunting something very different than the original quarry.
Measure against yourself, not others.
Use your last hunt as your measuring standard, not the last hunt of someone else. Every hunt is compounded by dozens of variables and the result is not a product that is reproducible. Admiration of the skill, luck, and determination needed on that hunt is fine; envy is not. Instead, reflecting on your past hunts spurs you on to improvement. One writer puts our failures in perspective: “The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” If I embrace the attitude of a life-long student of the game, then the only gauge I need to consider is if I have hunted better than the last time I went out.
Document your journey.
The picture of the first deer I killed is faded, slightly out of focus, and immortalizes the awkwardness of my youth. Yet, it is very dear to me. A small leatherbound journal has some of my earliest hunts along with hand drawn maps. I have recorded myself using my phone, recounting the hunt as I drive home. And then there are the many other mementos on my wall that remind me of the hunt and its achievement. All of these are deeply personal and most will never be shared outside of a visit to my place. My office is somewhat eclectically decorated now, cluttered some may say, by the curios I have acquired during my trips. Take the time to record your hunts and you’ll see patterns develop that will enhance your effectiveness as a hunter.
Consider how you represent the hunt.
If you read the story of Red Riding Hood, the hero was the hunter (today called the woodsman or forester). Society at one time placed a great value on those who would venture into the unknown and return with food. Today the caricature of Elmer Fudd represents sportsmen as bumbling, incompetent, simpletons who fire weapons indiscriminately. This visage is only redeemable by ourselves as hunters. Consideration of how others view hunting and dead animals (or their desire not to see such things) does not mean we must validate their viewpoints. Instead, it allows us to present hunting to them in a way they might be most receptive to learning to understand our traditions and lifestyle. Beyond the posts on social media, how we interact socially as hunters will be most impactful to changing negative attitudes towards hunting.
More than ever the need for sportsman-advocates who are informed and involved is vital to the continuation of hunting. Conservation organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Boone and Crockett Club have carried the heavy burdens of passing national legislation and funding habitat improvement. Local rod and gun clubs speak on county and state issues affecting wildlife and hunting. Howl for Wildlife provides background and actions on legislative issues across the country that needs more sportsmen voices. The great legacy of our conservation heroes obligates all of us who enjoy our wildlife and wild places to engage our decision makers. While most of us still look forward to more hunting, there will be a time when we look back and hopefully we will have left the next cohort of hunters a greater wealth of natural treasures.