I love the outdoors.
I think my love of hunting comes from my love of the outdoors. Growing up, I had an uncle who would take me fishing at a local lake but after his death I didn’t continue the sport and I have only recently picked it up. My mom HATED the outdoors (she still does, but she will go on hikes now) so I never went on family camping trips. So how did I grow to love and appreciate something I really wasn’t exposed to?
My love for the outdoors slowly evolved from my years of attending summer camp. Camp offered me lots of opportunities to learn new skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to learn. For example, I shot my first gun at camp! I loved camp and looked forward to going every summer. My love for camp and all of the skills I learned really help me develop an appreciation for the outdoors; I even became a rock climbing instructor for two years, working at the camp I came to associate as my summer home.
If you would like to know how I got into hunting please check out my post How I Got into Hunting.
I love animals.
I think this one is what baffles non-hunters about hunters the most. Just because I hunt animals does not mean that I do not love or respect them. In fact I think it’s the opposite.
Since I started hunting I have become more educated about the fauna and flora of my area. I’ve learned more about the native animal behavior, how to track them, and I’ve started seeing more animals because I know how to look for them.
I feel like I have a greater respect for animals because I know more about them. Just because I hunt them does not mean that I do not respect them. In fact, I think that hunting and eating game meat is more ethical, sustainable, and healthy than eating the meat that I buy at the grocery store.
I’ve seen the animals that I hunt in person and I can tell you exactly where my meat comes from, all the way down to the muscle groups they’ve been cut from. In a world where people strive to buy expensive organic, hormone free, free range, grass fed everything; I am lucky enough to harvest amazing meat that I know hasn’t been fed hormones, that lead a life without boundaries, and is basically free.
Hunting is good for my mental health.
In a 2016 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that 15 minutes of solitude (NO technology!) actually helped reduce stress in participants and allowed them to self regulate their emotions better than participants who spent 15 minutes discussing what was going on in their lives. But how does this pertain to hunting?
For me I didn’t use my phone a lot while hunting because I either didn’t have service or I felt that I would make too much sound trying to get it in and out of my pocket. Therefore, I spent a lot of time in the tree just sitting in nature with my own thoughts; scary I know! But, I really began to feel emotionally better and more balanced after my hunts. I think that the solo time in the woods helped me process emotions that had been stacking up, giving me time to decompress without distractions.
I also felt more in tune with myself as a hunter. I began realizing when my hunt was over by noticing that I was trying to convince myself to stay in the tree. I made peace with the fact that it was okay for me to not sit a full four hours and that forcing myself to stay to a specific time meant I stopped enjoying myself and my experience.
I looked forward to my hunts, for the most part, because it was my own time. Even if I didn’t see anything I was still getting a mental benefit from it. While I don’t think people who hunt do it for their mental health specifically, I do believe that hunting is really great for my own personal mental health and I’m sure has been beneficial to others mental health as well. Even though, I don’t think I ever heard my boyfriend say “Life has been rough recently and I could really practice my resiliency by hunting. It would just be so good for my mental health…” I recognize that he has used hunting to destress before too.
Hunting is good for my physical health.
Between scouting, hanging cameras and stands, walking in and out of a hunt, tracking animals, etc. you can really get a workout! Tracking distance with the help of my handy dandy Fitbit, we’ve had scouting trips that have easily taken us on 5+ mile adventures up and down mountains.
It’s not uncommon for us to climb over logs and rocks or shimmy under down trees when scouting either. All of these activities engage different muscles in our bodies and, I can honestly say I feel at my best when we’ve been scouting, hiking, or hunting consistently because of the exercise that it gives me.
Although hunting is a lot of sitting, I still left a hunt from a “convenient” location with at least 5,000 steps! Not to mention that often I’m carrying extra gear with me including a 20 pound tree stand plus the climbing sticks I need to use to get into the stand.
To prep for this past deer season, in addition to scouting trips, I would walk at a steep incline on the treadmill while carrying 20 pounds worth of weight. Even though I feel like I could have done more strength training for hunting season, I was really happy with my endurance level this past season.
I suffer from chronic pain due to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from flare ups occasionally. In the past I’ve had such a difficult time managing my pain that I’ve fallen into a depressive state and felt hopeless because of my condition. I used to take medication for my pain but at this point I have seemed to manage my specific pain issues with diet and exercise.
I started managing my diet before I started hunting but had already began eating more game meats in addition to fruits, veggies, and less processed foods. While I cannot say that game meat has helped my pain and back it up with any scientific facts that suggest that all chronic pain can be managed by eating game meat, I think that eating a diet that has a strong influence of game meat has helped me.
Just like putting the incorrect fuel into a car, fueling your body incorrectly can cause inflammation, weight gain, and system shut down. Yes, I still will eat grocery store meat when we are low on game meat or to supplement our diet but I believe that game meat has fueled my body in a good way. After all, game meat is naturally lean, high in protein and iron, low in LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and helps increase your HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), has lots of B vitamins, and is naturally and humanely raised and harvested. In addition to other diet changes, I think that eating game meat has helped manage my chronic pain. I have less flares and when I do flare it’s generally in a localized spot and not all over my body.
Hunting is good for my relationship.
It’s always nice to come home from a hunt and share the highs and lows with someone who’s been there and understands and encourages through discouraging hunts. Hunting has been a really nice addition to my relationship with my boyfriend. We get outdoors together and enjoy each other’s company in a meaningful way. Not to mention that we both love the sport and I think it challenges us individually and as a pair.
As my boyfriend and hunting mentor he’s taught me so much and let me learn lessons the hard way. I am not a girl who hunts only because her boyfriend hunts nor do I feel pressured to hunt because of him. He’s introduced me to hunting and I enjoy it and happen to be pretty good at it.
From practicing shooting during the off season, to scouting, and hunting, he continues to be my rock, my encourager, and he pushes me to want to do better. With the knowledge he already has from his own experience, he’s also a great sounding board for my ideas of where to hang stands or scout.
We look forward to season together and I think my favorite hunts are when we are in the same tree, unless he’s eating pretzels too loudly, or at least in the same area of the woods. We thrill in the other’s success and we are quick to help each other out in the field. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor and partner.