My first hunting season is a wrap. My experience was through my lens, not a scope…but I feel like I’ve been inducted into a special group of people who are true stewards of our land and wildlife.
I think there is a misconception people who don’t hunt have for people who do. I admit I was one of those people a few years ago. Frankly, I didn’t get it. I wasn’t against it—or for it—but, I definitely had a character stereotype in my imagination of dudes dressed up like Elmer Fudd drinking Miller beer screaming about gun rights. The men I have known who hunt were pretty far removed from my day to day and pretty much didn’t really brag about it, and I have never known a woman who hunts. Not even someone who has a cousin who has a friend who knows a girl that hunts. Now, I have a hunter in my life. He thinks I’m pretty and calls me baby, and he looks damn good in camo.
Over the past two months, I have trekked with him on foot over miles and miles of the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. Twelve hours a day some weekends, over elevation gain that makes all the mountain bike treks I’ve done in the past seem like a trip down the street to pick up milk at the corner store. Over those miles, I’ve learned that the men and the growing number of women who hunt are especially in tune with the land and it’s wildlife. They understand herd populations and their movement, weather, topography, watershed, and the importance of ethical kills better than anyone. Yes, there are some ignorant Elmer Fudd types out there that should have their keys taken away from them and be confined to their double wides in the trailer park…but they are the exception, not the majority from what I have experienced. They value and respect the animals they hunt, and their eyes sparkle in awe of them when they tell their stories. They take pride in the shot they didn’t take because it would have meant a slow death for the animal. They feel the intensity of emotion that comes with taking the life of an animal that they worked tirelessly to track. There is much more meaning than meets the eye in the trophies of antlers hanging on their living room walls, fellowship in community and family is represented hanging there. Hunting speaks deeply to the drive we have to provide food for our families and is gratifying in a way that doesn’t remove us from the process the way buying it from a grocery store does. It wakes a consciousness up and stimulates senses in a world that has become easy for us to fall into complacency.
I may not shoot anything myself with anything other than my camera, but I appreciate taking part in my way now.