Why I Hunt

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When I search for hunting, deer hunting, or bow hunting, I’m amazed at the dearth of related posts out of the thousands of musings, photography, reviews, and commentary.  Granted, it isn’t deer hunting season, but for those of us who take hunting seriously, I’m surprised there aren’t more words out there related to what can be an incredibly challenging and thought-provoking activity.  After growing up in New Hampshire–where there are a fair number of hunters–but not being surrounded by the culture, living in Kentucky eventually inspired me to learn how to bow hunt for deer.  There isn’t anything quite like it. 

An adrenaline related heart attack would be a possibility if I encountered and killed this buck during a bow hunt.

Why I hunt:

1. During the past five years, I’ve become more and more conscious of the source of my food.   There is no better way to ensure you’re eating locally-sourced and organic meat than by killing it yourself.   Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has received plenty of press because he kills what he eats.  I don’t think that everyone should do this but, at the least, everyone should be aware of the environmental impact of eating industrially produced meat, in addition to the filthy and oppressive conditions animals are subject to.  Being an informed meat eater seems to be a reasonable goal if you are concerned about the long-term health of the planet.

2.  I like sustained challenges/processes.  Bow hunting is hard.  It takes patience and a lot of time.  This upcoming bow hunting season, 98 days away from the fourth installment of my hunting exploits, I will learn things that will help me be a more effective, responsible hunter.  I’ve learned that masking your scent is more important than wearing fancy camouflage.  I’ve learned that deer love acorns.  I’ve learned that deer have a sixth sense.  Sometimes, even if you think you are in perfect position awaiting a deer, perched 18 feet up in a tree, downwind, a deer will somehow be alerted, raise its bushy white tail, snort, and sprint away.  I’ve learned that it’s painful to make a bad shot, resulting in a lost animal or a not-so-clean kill.

3.  In many places, there are too many deer due to a lack of natural predators.  How many of you live in areas where, during the fall, you’ll see countless road kill?

4.  Hunting gives me the opportunity to spend hours upon hours outside, by myself, without worrying about my daily checklist of countless things to do as a homeowner, future husband, and teacher.

5.  Hunting is doing something.  It’s learning a skill with tangible benefits, engaging the mind and body along the way.  While technology such as GPS, mapping, and trail-cams can be a part of the process, most of hunting is manual.  You aren’t stuck in front of a screen.

6.  Learning to hunt has connected me to a great and wise mentor, Randy, who is very much old-school. I don’t think Randy cares too much about hunting as it relates to greater food issues, but I soak up his knowledge from thirty-plus years in the woods nonetheless.  He’s all about the scouting, the time spent practicing shooting form, and making sure he does everything to ensure a clean kill.  He’s been so close to deer, so many times, that I’m sure he could write a book about their gestures, snorts, grunts, and other habits.

7.  Lastly, hunting allows me to hear and see things that are foreign and inspiring to those of us who live in urban areas.  Whether it’s the persistent drumming of woodpeckers, the way certain leaves rustle and fall from the trees, or the audacity of a fat gray squirrel peering at you from a bending tree limb, it’s an opportunity to observe and appreciate places that might not be pristine, but where nature’s ecosystems and rhythms are relatively unscathed.

I know hunters who aren’t the most ethical people, and I know hunters who prefer to use high-powered rifles.  I know hunters who kill not for any of the reasons above, but because it’s family tradition.  I used to teach 8th grade students who would simply tell me things like “I like guns” or “It’s cool” when I inquired why they hunt.  Ironically, those same students began stoking my interest.

So there are about 98 days until the season opens.  It’s not too early to get out my bow, begin tuning it for accuracy, practicing twenty and thirty yard shots, and putting out feelers for permission to hunt on private land.  But I’m not as intense as my colleague Tyler, who, if hunting success is measured by the sheer number of harvests per season, is a formidable woodsman.  “Barnwell,” he said the other day, “just hung two stands at Taylorsville Lake.  100 days until the season opens.  You better get on it.”

Do you hunt?  Why or why not?  Are you immersed in a hunting culture at all?  If you don’t hunt, would you kill an animal for food?


  1. Dude, I was just driving I-64 just west of St. Louis. Two dead deer on the side, not 10 feet from each other. Maybe hunters just need bigger cars!

  2. Melaleuca is a tree that produces oil with antifungal and antibacterial properties. There are bath soaps and detergents that use this oil. The urine was used during the male hunting season, such as doe scent. I have cooked with venison quite a bit, though I do not have access to it readily since my father passed.

  3. What is melaleuca soap?
    I actually don’t know many hunters who soak their clothes in urine…not sure my fiancee would like that move:)
    On another note, if you ever cook with venison, we’ll have to swap some ideas!

  4. My dad used to use melaleuca soaps during hunting seasons. The animals didn’t sense it and he didn’t stink which we were grateful for. Of course, he still soaked his hunting clothes in urine, which probably helped more than anything.

  5. Thanks for the comment! I’m not sure deer how smart deer are, especially in the context of living in more populated and traveled areas.
    I-64 just east of Louisville is a freak show of road kill in the peak days of mating season (usually mid November).

  6. I’m not a hunter, but it’s not for “ethical” reasons. In the words of Ron White, it’s cold, it’s dark, I don’t wanna go. But I admire those who can get up at the buttcrack of dawn and be primed to kill something. And deer meet is good.
    As for the road kill question, I live in St. Louis, and i don’t know if it’s overpopulation or what, but for some reason, it’s not all that uncommon to see a dead deer carcass on the Missouri side of the JB Bridge (right by the Mississippi). And as I drive by, I look left and right, across the 6-lane I-255/270, and I ask, where in all the heck are they coming from and why do they think it’s a good idea when flying cars have to be freaking scary?!

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