Have you ever stepped back and taken an honest look at why you hunt? The natural first response is to feed our families. Even though we do consume what we kill, let’s be honest, within the last 24 to 36 hours, someone within your family probably went down to the grocery store and bought food, that someone else harvested, and prepared that food into a family meal. Add to that, the fact that many people, some within your family, really don’t like the taste of a roasted wild goose or a lean deer roast anyway. Do the math and that roast wild goose probably costs $40 - $50 per pound when it’s all said and done. I think we need to keep digging.
Is it the kill that drives us out of a warm bed at ridiculous hours to venture out into the freezing darkness of a sloppy marsh, rice field or timber hole only for the chance at bagging a few fat mallards? If I’m honest, I’m really not that mad at them anymore! Sure there a few “look at me” guys left who feel the need to “whack and stack” everything that flies or walks, but they certainly do not represent most of the hunters I know nowadays.
Is it for sport? I think we are getting closer to the real driving force. But with dwindling public access and ridiculous costs of private leases, there are less expensive ways to satisfy our need for sport and adventure. But the very essence the “sport” of waterfowling is the pursuit. And in that pursuit, lies my inner “why”…
If we trace our lineage back far enough, we are all descendants of some hunter/gatherer. We wouldn’t be here if this were not the case. As a man, created in the very image of God, it is in my nature to love the wild places and things that God created, because He does. All the way back to Genesis, God created a wild planet and called it “good”. He brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them and was pleased. I have to imagine that the earth was a wild and untamed place indeed!
Then came man’s fall and everything changed. We would now need to work, and work hard, to provide. Eventually with that work would come labels and titles until today we hardly have a sense of that wild heart with which we were originally created. Buried underneath what the world sees of us, the titles and labels and deadlines and responsibilities, you have a wild heart that desperately longs for reconnection with a wild creation.
We also live in a time where nearly everything is done for us. Need an oil change fast? There’s a drive through shop for that. Gone are the days of the shade tree mechanic. You need a college degree now just to find the oil filter and drain plug. Got a leaking pipe? Call a plumber. Got a list of home repair projects, call the handy man. In fact, there are websites now to help me find the best and most reliable handy man in your neighborhood so that I don’t have to get my hands dirty. Ever notice the line inside and outside of Starbuck’s? We don’t even make our own coffee anymore!
Nearly everything in our lives has become simple, convenient and predictable. In other words, boring. And we have become so comfortable and content in that boredom that we scarcely remember who we are.
At the heart of the pursuit is this… Most of us feel a yearning to do something, provide something or accomplish something with our own two hands. Inside, we need a binary, basic reconnection stripped of guaranteed safety and relative predictability. We need to be in a place where we don’t know for sure what’s around the corner or what happens next in our story. From underneath the years and layers of life sucking labels and mundane routines, our hearts are calling out for us to live again. Only hunting provides a true re-centering and grounding of heart, body, mind and soul that we crave and so desperately require and for a very good reason: When we are hunting, we are as close as we can possibly get to what the world was truly like before the fall of man.
The animals display the very flight and flee nature described in Genesis 9 when God said to Noah, “The fear and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and every bird of the heavens…”. God actually programmed the animal kingdom to fear us so that when we hunt and pursue, we are seeing His plan unfold before us. We are reminded of who, ultimately, is in control.
Often times the ground itself seems to work against us. How hard do we trudge through boot sucking swamps and marshes. I think about how many times I have forced my way through briars and thorns to hunt my favorite timber hole. In those times, I am reminded of God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3, after he and Eve were deceived by the serpent. “… cursed is the ground because of you… thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” In other words, nothing will come easy for you now, you’re going to have to work for it, and the very ground will work against you. It is no wonder that the best hunting spots always seem to be the hardest to get to.
For me though, the deeper I get into the dark, wild untamed places, the more I shed the brand and identity given by the world around me. The farther I get, the closer I become to how I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, the creator of the universe and everything in it.
This is why I hunt. To fill a void in my heart and reawaken my soul in a manner that worldly things simply cannot, to reconnect with the perfection of creation in all of its wild and unpredictable majesty and finally, to share and bond with men who need the same things and have become companions within the fellowship of the pursuit.
This is why.