Hunting For Perspective
By Bobby Jones
It is a beautiful morning; the sun is at your back warming you up as you look over a picturesque landscape from a high ridgetop. Taking in a deep breath the fresh air fills your lungs and as you exhale you think to yourself there is no place I would rather be, than sitting at my desk, at work. No, that has never happened, you have never dreamed of being at work while you were hunting.
For you, hunting might be drinking coffee, bouncing around in a pickup truck, catching up with friends and family that you do not see nearly often enough. If not, maybe it is hiking out of a deep canyon weighed down by a pack full of meat, legs burning, slowly gaining elevation until you finally reach your rig. No matter how you choose to hunt we can agree the cup of coffee you drink on your morning commute is not memorable, but that same cup of coffee while sitting on a hillside waiting for the sun to break the horizon is. These experiences as well as countless others are what hunting is all about.
Hunting is something hunters do, but becoming a hunter is another story entirely. Contrary to popular belief no one becomes an expert in anything overnight, hunting is not an exception to this rule. A hunter is shaped through a process of learning, by making mistakes, and by accruing an ever-growing pile of experiences with each passing season.
For many of us hunters, we grew up spending time outside, and hunting was one of many outdoor activities in which we were encouraged to participate. Whether it was a family member or a friend, someone likely went out of their way to share hunting with us or at least piqued our interest. After that, we completed a hunter-education course, maybe went on a hunting trip or two, and at some point —whether it be a specific trip or experience something changed. Something in our minds caused us to go from “I’ve been hunting before, but I wouldn’t call myself a hunter,” to, “I am a hunter.”
That distinction, being a hunter, is the identity that separates us. Hunters as a proportion of society have made up a smaller and smaller slice of the pie for decades. In 2018, only 3 percent of Nevadans said they currently hunted according to the Nevada’s Wildlife Values report. That same report also cites that 29 percent of Nevadans are interested in hunting in the future. Conservatively, that means about 1 in every 4 people in Nevada are interested in hunting but do not currently hunt. The reasons they do not hunt might surprise you.
It is not because of the cost, a lack of free time, or family obligations—those things can contribute—but most often what really hangs them up are perceived barriers. The fear of making a mistake, asking a question that they think will open them up to ridicule, or feeling they need someone else to go with them. These are the real barriers to hunting; barriers that exist largely in a person’s mind.
The people facing these barriers are your neighbors, your colleagues, and many of your friends. They did not grow up in a family that hunted, and they did not grow up with someone in their lives encouraging them to hunt. They did not have someone to coach them through hunter safety or take them on their first hunting trip, let alone their first camping trip. Even so, for one reason or another it interests them. Whether it was a hunting story that resonated with them or a desire to harvest clean healthy food for their family, hunting is something they could see themselves doing in the future.
This is where you, the hunter, comes into the picture. Why do you hunt? Why do you feel hunting is important to you?
Your answers to these two questions are personal and unique to you; it is the story of why you are a hunter. It is where you draw your motivation to hunt, the reason you wake up before your alarm on the day of a hunt, and the inspiration for daydreaming about the upcoming season. The answers to these questions are why you are the front line when it comes to opening the door and keeping the door open to new hunters.
You can help take down some of the perceived barriers that keep the interested folks at bay. That does not mean you have to share your secret spots with them, that does not mean the hills will be overrun with people if you help someone else learn how to hunt.
It does mean the next time someone asks you a question about hunting to be willing to have an honest conversation about it, maybe even share a little bit of why you hunt, if you are up for it. Be authentic and choose to have a conversation with someone over the phone or face to face. Hunting stories, the emotions that motivate you, the successes, the mistakes, and the lessons learned; these are the messages that resonate.
The excitement in your voice, the roller coaster of emotions experienced through the eyes of a hunter; these stories were not meant to be shared on a screen they were meant to be shared over a campfire. These people interested in hunting, who have not yet taken that first step, are just looking for a reason to do it.
Be the reason they take that first step.
Be the voice that answers the questions they are afraid to ask. Be the person who encourages them to take a hunter-education class or the person who goes with them on their first trip into the field. Be a phone call away when they want your advice on rifle calibers, or where to camp. Maybe they decide hunting is not for them, maybe your colleague, a neighbor, or a friend of yours goes from interested in hunting to becoming a hunter.
No one will ever hold it against you if you choose to keep your why a secret, but if you choose to share it, you might just be the reason, the inspiration, for why someone becomes a hunter.