I did not grow up hunting or fishing, though I have always loved the outdoors. I did not have a father, grandfather or uncle who were hunters even though we lived in a rural area. I came to hunting on my own in my 20s (and am only now coming to fishing in my 30s) through several unconventional ways. I believe that part of it was living in urban metropolises and seeing some people’s negative views of rural people and their practices, it was beginning to care where my food came from and it was, perhaps most importantly, just getting to know myself for who I really am.
As a boy, I loved being outdoors and I had a BB gun, though that was the only gun that was in our house. I liked the idea of hunting and fishing even back then. I remember seeing A River Runs Through It when it came out and ever since then I’ve had a desire to learn to fly fish and go to Montana. The books and movies stuck with me and I was always drawn to the Mountain West, it just took me a long time to get here.
Living in Chicago from 2004-2009 really hardened me in a lot of ways and forced me to figure out who I really was. All these people were talking about “organic”, “sustainable” and all the other buzz words but when I’d bring up hunting, many people would become disgusted with me. It never made sense: deer who lived for 2-5 years, free range, organically, hormone free who were then humanely killed seemed to be a lot better off than some farm raised animal (not that I have an issue with ethically raised domestic animals). What irritated me more was sharing a meal with these folks and seeing them not eat all their food, especially the meat. They put up a good fight about humanely treating animals and then they wasted their meat. Almost unforgivable to me. I know I’m weird, but when I eat, I eat my meat first and I finish it before moving on to my vegetables. I try not to waste any food, but if I do, it’s not meat. That animal’s sacrifice so that my family can eat is sacred whether it was harvested from the field or from a farm.
My defense of rural people and practices and my concern about where my food came from slowly evolved over time to something deeper. As I went small game hunting with friends and hunted for whitetail in Indiana and Kentucky and went on multiple backpacking trips out west and in Alaska, I started to feel more connected to nature. We humans like to toe the line between being above nature and then feeling guilty about thinking we’re above nature. When you insert yourself into a role that has been played by man for thousands and thousands of years, you open yourself up to being connected to something greater than yourself. You feel connected to the natural world – and we should – we are animals and a part of nature even if we happen to be the species that has the greatest impact on all other species.
At this point I’m borderline obsessed. If I’m not able to be in the wild, I’m reading about animals, habitat and conservation, writing about it, watching hunting shows online, listening to audiobooks or podcasts or at the very least thinking about it every minute I’m awake almost. If it’s a good night, I even dream about it.
My goal here is to simply try and reach other folks who feel like I do and find common ground with folks who don’t understand where we’re coming from. Not everyone needs to be a hunter, but I am concerned about the future of conservation and wildlife and I am concerned about a lot of people who seem to be very unhappy with the postmodern world. I think at least a few of them could find peace in the woods like I did. If I can help introduce people to that joy and peace, then that will make me very happy.