Outdoors: Why do we hunt?
By Ronnie Garrison
Do you hunt? Ever wonder why you do? If you don't, do you wonder why other people hunt? After all, meat now comes in nice packages in the grocery store, and it is much easier to buy it than to kill, clean, and package your own. Buying meat in the store is probably cheaper, too!
Deer hunters are probably the worst about spending time and money. We buy expensive rifles, scopes, and bullets. Most of us have climbing stands that cost over $100, and we spend many hours and dollars building permanent stands, from platforms in trees to fancy tower stands, that give us penthouse views of fields and power lines.
Hunting leases cost a lot, and being in a hunting club is not cheap, with dues commonly over $500 a year. We plant food for the deer, spending countless dollars on fertilizer, seed, and fuel for tractors. Tick and bug spray costs add up, too. Don't even price the four-wheeler we just have to have to get to the stand.
We spend our days before deer season scouting for the perfect places to hunt. Once the season opens, we spend many hours standing in a tree, watching for movement. That is fun up to a point, but bugs, rain, cold, and wind are constant plagues when you are trying to stay perfectly still.
Camouflage suits are expensive and the newer “Scent-Lok” gear is very expensive. But we still have to hide our scents and fool deer with all kinds of drops, sprays, and attractants.
Processing a deer ends up costing well over a dollar a pound for the meat you get. By the time you figure it all in, even if you kill several deer each season, you will have paid more than the cost of filet mignon for every pound of meat.
Squirrel and rabbit hunters have it a little cheaper, but you still have to have a good gun, and rabbit dogs require expensive food and medicine. No matter how much you enjoy training the dogs, it costs a lot of time in the fields and woods.
Bird hunters have the same expenses with dogs, and finding a place to hunt quail and other birds is not easy. If you're hunting doves, you need at least a five-acre field, which must be prepared at a high cost. If you go on pay shoots, it is not unusual to pay $50 a day to kill ten birds that give you about an ounce of meat each.
Even with all the expenses, we hunters love it and don't pay any attention to the costs. There is something primal about going into the fields and woods and killing your own food. It touches something deep inside a hunter to do that. The meat is better than anything you can buy in a store, no matter what the cost.
Being outdoors puts us in touch with nature. In many kinds of hunting, from deer hunting to squirrel hunting, you can spend hours sitting still and thinking about the world around you and how it works. You realize that nature has no compassion. It is totally survival of the fittest, and only the best survive. Including you.
Non-hunters don't understand much of this. They are insulated from the real world in many ways. Even some hunters don't really understand, either. Hunting is just something they do.
I hate to see someone hauling a dead deer around and bragging about what a good hunter they are. Sometimes it is skill; sometimes it is more luck than anything else. Anyone breaking the law to kill a deer by hunting at night or over piles of corn does not understand at all.
I like the attitude Native Americans had toward game animals. They gave thanks to the spirit of the animal for giving itself to the hunter. They respected the animal and treasured it. Modern hunters should do the same.
Hunting is a tradition for many of us. If you grew up in the 1950s and 60s like I did, especially in rural areas, you hunted. Your family hunted. That is still the case in many rural areas. There is no better way to bond with your kids and elders than by hunting with them and spending time after the hunt around a campfire, passing on traditions and family folklore.
Hunting is a special privilege and we should treasure it. In our modern world it is all too easy to lose touch with our roots and the reality of the natural world.
You can read more from Ronnie Garrison at http://fishing.about.com. About.com is part of the New York Times Company.