Here are a few things to share with the non-hunters in your life.
As hunters, it can be difficult to articulate exactly what it is that we love about this pastime and what we get out of it.
Unfortunately, hunting is something that is quickly falling out of favor with parts of the general public. It's hard for them not to believe that all hunters are after trophies and are out to kill animals just for a thrill.
But we all know there is much more to it than that.
That's why we're sharing some of the great things hunting can provide that you can then pass on to your non-hunting friends and family.
More state parks and natural areas
Hunters get belittled a lot these days, but there is one simple fact that is undeniable: how much of an effect hunting license fees have on conservation efforts.
The money taken in from these fees isn't just going towards combating poaching or conservation programs either. It's going into the budget for your local state park. It's going into education courses that teach youth about wildlife.
License fees help protect non-game species as well, like eagles or turtles. They help save endangered species like the Massasauga rattlesnake here in Michigan, working against habitat loss through the acquisition of new pieces of land for our state park systems.
Here in the United States, many state budgets are facing massive cuts that have, in some cases, created serious deficits. This becomes a problem when the local state parks need new restroom and shower facilities in their hugely popular campgrounds.
In some situations, whole research programs get cut. When Colorado faced a budget crisis several years ago, wildlife management programs that were researching invasive species were entirely eliminated. If that doesn't scare you, it should.
How can they properly manage wildlife populations if they don't know how they're being affected?
The response by Colorado Parks and Wildlife was to increase license fees. Some hunters may have grumble about that a bit each hunting season. I happily pay them, because I love what I do and I love that money spent on those things goes to help wild animals and other natural resources.
Let's face it: someone who is dropping nearly $700 to shoot one bull elk in Colorado is contributing more than the person paying to camp a couple nights in a campground. These wildlife agencies NEED hunting license money!
An example of one great success story is the wild turkey in Michigan. It would have never made its resurgence without wildlife conservation programs funded by license fees. You are literally being given back species that were teetering on being wiped out from their home range!
Even if I don't fill my tags, I still get the satisfaction of knowing I'm helping preserve my state's wild areas.
A chance to bask in the outdoors
There is this major misperception that sportsmen and women go into the woods and within minutes they're gunning down pheasants, deer or other game animals that never stand a chance. Most would probably be surprised to learn I never once raised my shotgun, much less fired a shot during last year's firearms deer season!
Not many non-hunters realize how difficult hunting can be. But that is why we love it. We get to spend countless hours relaxing and forgetting about the worries of everyday life. We get to see amazing things most people will never see. I'll never forget the morning I had not one, not two but THREE owls land in the same tree above my deer blind. I never would have seen that if not for hunting.
Another time I had a squirrel provide a laugh when it walked right into the edge of my blind without seeing it! Then there was the evening I was sitting in a blind on a food plot as the sun was setting and a big, red, flaming meteor streaked across the sky leaving a visible smoke trail behind it. I would have never witnessed such a cool natural phenomenon had I been home watching TV that evening like most non-hunters probably were.
Most hunters can probably fill a book with some of the amazing things they've seen while hunting that had nothing to do with shooting an animal. In fact, some of my greatest outdoor memories aren't a successful hunt. They're the weird, wacky and incredibly rare animal behaviors I've seen while simply sitting there waiting.
Several years ago, a new trend started called "forest bathing." This trend is simply people sitting in nature and basking in the awesomeness of it all. They're a little late to the party, we hunters have known about this for years! But we're glad to see them finally come around to realize what we already knew.
Even when you are successful hunting, it just leads to a greater understanding and respect of nature and animals. I truly believe I didn't appreciate how amazing whitetail deer were until I hunted them and saw what crafty, cunning and tough animals they are.
Meals are more satisfying
This is a hard one to explain to non-hunters. Meals made from wild game you've harvested yourself are simply better testing and more satisfying than something bought at the supermarket. The best comparison you can make to a non-hunter is the satisfying feeling of growing your own garden. It feels like an accomplishment to provide your own meals. It's something that was obviously hard-wired into our nature thousands of years ago to help ensure survival.
We can still tap into that feeling by hunting today. It's why I go deer hunting every year. Because you can tap into this feeling anytime. Even later in the year. A venison burger grilled up in July is so much tastier and rewarding than a beef burger I bought at a store.
Also, for people who are really into eating healthy, big game meat is often leaner and better for you. For instance, bison meat. It has less fat, less cholesterol and more vitamins than beef. There has been research into Native American tribes who primarily ate bison. Scientists found they had lesser instances of cancer and other diseases. I already love bison meat because I think it tastes better, but all that sounds like a good excuse to eat more doesn't it?
When you're a hunter you also know your meat isn't being injected with a whole bunch of chemicals and preservatives. You know exactly where it came from. Think of it like a farm-to-table operation. Only instead of vegetables, it's meat.
You pick up valuable outdoor skills
Speaking of meal preparation, many people know how to cook meat. But how many know how to cut up an animal and get it ready for the grill or cook pot? Yep, probably not many. It's not just a cooking skill, but it could be a survival skill if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing it. I'm glad I now have those skills.
But it's not just food skills you're learning. You also learn skills of the frontiersmen of old as a hunter. You learn how to identify tracks, scat and other signs. There are fewer mysteries in the outdoors when you're a hunter. The average person might be puzzled at a deer rub or scrape in the woods but not us.
Hunters are better at identifying trees, edible vs. poison plants, birds, fish and more. The more time you spend in the outdoors hunting, the more things you pick up on and the more comfortable you become with them. I've been in the woods many times with non-hunters who have freaked out over something as simple as finding deer bones in the woods. It took some explaining for me to assure them that no, that's not a human leg bone, it's the femur of a whitetail deer. You avoid looking stupid when you're familiar with these things!
When you're a hunter, you learn to have a good sense of direction. Handy if you ever get lost. You learn not to overestimate your abilities when faced with a huge hike or climb. You learn how to handle encounters with dangerous animals like snakes, bears and mountain lions.
Hunting is an experience
More than anything else, hunting is an experience that gets us back in touch with our roots and where our ancestors came from. Most of us can live without shooting an animal these days, which makes hunting so much more humbling. I cannot imagine the stress of having to hunt with my life depending on it. It gives you a better appreciation for the past for sure!
But overall, hunting isn't just an escape from the everyday into the great outdoors, it's a reminder of how good we have it. It keeps us from getting too withdrawn from the natural world. It gives us a new appreciation for the world's wild places. It makes us want to better preserve these places. It's a reminder that we are still a part of nature. It's a way to reconnect with that nature, friends and family in a way few people embrace these days. Hunting gives you all that for very little cost to yourself. What's not to love about all that?