We need inclusion in our way of life now more than ever.
I'm certainly no Steven Rinella or Ernest Hemingway, but I am a lifelong hunter, and our passion needs all of us now more than ever.
Famed author Robert Ruark once wrote, "'The best thing about hunting and fishing,' the Old Man said, 'is that you don't have to actually do it to enjoy it. You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had 20 years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight.'"
Even Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President had an ability to describe his love for hunting. Additionally, he had the audacity to let his fellow countrymen and women know how important hunting is to us as a culture and as a species. He was one of the forefathers of the conservation movement and was instrumental in procuring vast lands to save for future generations. In fact, he was famous for saying, "In a civilized and cultivated country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen."
These quotes are from the minds of greats who saw things through the eyes of an outdoorsman. Stacking up with these veterans of the written word is what every writer strives for, but for this moment in time, I can only hope to get out of their shadow. These essayists and story tellers had one thing in common: the hunt for the good of us all, and the desire everyone take part in it, even if it meant from the pages of a book.
Hunting books reflect the short stories we all tell about our own personal experiences afield. From the long grass of the prairie to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, the American hunter seen the world in a different light. And, with those experiences comes a unique series of stories and lessons he can apply to his life.
Now, with our numbers slowly dwindling, we need more word-of-mouth tales of our hunts, and less of the impact-shot videos, or "hunting porn" that drives the outdoor internet. A writer's expressions are all that stand in the way of our hunt becoming a thing of the past. Badly taken bloody photos or video that only shows the shot and the cheering could be butchering our way of life. This way of storytelling forgets all the work it took to get there, and the missed shots in between.
To be better hunters, we need to reflect more on the life of the animal and how its health is good for the earth. In my forthcoming book, "The Hunter's Way," I included chapters on how nature hunts and the difference between loving and fearing animals.
On the very first page of the latter I said, "There's no doubt that the hunter has an immense love for the wild creatures of the world, particularly the ones he chases. But those who pursue for the pure rush of the kill, and who do not share in this love, are undeserving of the badge. They are but a small and crass community of faux ideologists whose determination is that all animals were created solely for their gain. Conversely, there are the hunters who make it their business to seek out and study the very same animals they hunt with a determination to create in them a healthy and sustainable population."
To create inclusion, we must step outside ourselves and try to see our hunt as less about spectacle and more about the body of work it takes to get there. It should be about the storyline and history of the hunt, and less about self-indulgent celebrating over the carcass. This makes the hunters the center of attention, rather than the hunt. Not every hunter has land for a food plot or even private property to hunt. However, many of these same outdoor-loving individuals take the time to sit by the radio or the laptop and listen intently to the tales of other like-minded people.
Inclusion won't only create a better vision for the silent majority who are already veteran hunters. It'll also make it easier to understand for the younger generation who've thought about taking part in the pursuit, but haven't taken the next step.
This is why I wrote a book aimed at not only my brothers and sisters in the hunting community, but for all those who have never taken part. I hope to appeal to the curious bystanders who'd be interested in what we do and why, but uninterested in the blood-lust image a minor few portray.
Like it or not, our social image is a tell-tale sign of the health of our "industry" and how inclusive it really is. This is by no means the complete guide to hunting, but an attempt to make hunting comprehensive to those around us. I wanted to show our shared love of the outdoors through the eyes of those who are the closest to it.
Let me just say I've had a book like this in my heart for many years. However, it didn't ever come to pass until HarperCollins Editor Matthew Daddona contacted me and offered me the task of writing it. Let it also be known that Wide Open Spaces, particularly managing editor Eric Pickhartz got on board to give it life in posts such as this one.
The other 12 million outdoorsmen in America are actively taking part in the pursuit that matters the most. These are the millions of passionate, yet quiet citizens who only care to share their success in a subdued fashion, seeking no applause.
The elite hunters, the ones that we see on TV and listen to on podcast, are among the most important and influential hunters out there. But, they're a dismal minority of the hunting community. It's a daunting task for them to speak to the masses of the hunting community without distorting the beauty of our passion, making it impossible to defend our way of life.
They need the help of the silent majority to lend them a hand; we can no longer remain silent.
We need more periodicals like Field & Stream and books like "Meditations On Hunting." We need people like Aldo Leopold and Jose Ortega. We need more people to read about the value of hunting to slow down and consider its future.
Without the fair chase itself, we'll lose a lifestyle that's been a part of human culture forever, and reading about it may just be the way that we save it.
Cover photo via Moldy Chum