Hunting is no different than anything else for most people. People only work as hard as they have to. Many western, public land hunters hunt within a mile of the road, causing logjams of people at trailheads and campgrounds. On one hand, I can’t say I blame them. For those of you who haven’t done it, can you imagine carrying out an 80 lb. pack, three or more miles, over rough terrain, off trail, perhaps gaining and losing several thousand feet and having to make up to four trips to get the entire elk out? On the other hand, what’s the better experience? What’s the situation you’re more likely to remember for the rest of your life; fighting for space and game with a bunch of assholes (because any hunter not in your party is an asshole) or getting out beyond the assholes and having entire drainages or canyons to yourself?
Technology is another way hunters have started to cut corners. I’m not anti-technology, in fact I think tools like OnX maps are fantastic to have in the field. However, too many hunters have grown to rely on GPS systems and don’t carry a paper map and compass. When you’re hunting in the mountains, it’s pretty simple to read a topo map, it’s not a difficult skill to obtain and it could save your life if the battery dies on your GPS. If you have but a weekend to go out and get meat, do what you have to do, no judgment, but if you’ve got time to give yourself an enriching experience, I suggest you put in the extra effort to do so.
I’ve written several times about how the hunt connects me to my ancestors, but it’s not just the taking of the animals that connects me, it’s the whole experience. It’s sleeping outside. It’s reading the mountains and the weather. It’s the pursuit of the animal. It’s the dressing and carrying it out on my back and the butchering I’ll do at home. It’s the whole experience from the time I leave my house until the time the meat shows up on my family’s plates.
Ultimately, no matter what you’re doing, you get out of it what you put into it. I think most of us take short-cuts every now and again, myself included. I’m trying to be better at being more thorough, whether that is in things I want to do, or things I have to do. As Jesus said, “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:41). You may not always get the reward that you’d like when you go the extra mile, but you’ll always gain something, even if that’s just the pride and satisfaction of doing something the right way. Odds are though, you’ll learn something and be a little bit tougher than you were before.