Hunting has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. With over 22 years of hunting memories already under my belt, I guess it’s easy to assume I hunt simply because I have always hunted.
I grew up hunting whitetail deer in the same woods my dad hunted, and in the same woods his dad hunted. I couldn’t actually shoot a deer until the age of 12, but it was all down hill from there.
My very first opening morning of deer season was only ten minutes old when I got my first shot at a real whitetail buck. I missed that shot, and have been chasing that buck ever since.
The following year I was introduced to waterfowl hunting, which only deepened my wonder for the world of hunting.
And even though I enjoy hunting many animals, the word "hunting" is always synonymous in my mind to "whitetail hunting," and so as my addiction has grown, it has become entrenched in the world of hunting North America’s most sought after big game animal.
I thought that wonder had fallen away during my teenage years when I completely stopped hunting for a time, but by the time I graduated high school I couldn’t ignore the primal calling that had been echoing in my heart all those years.
As I’ve grown as a person and a hunter I began to ask myself just what it is I love so much about deer hunting.
My reasons never differed from those anyone else might say: We love hunting because it is time with friends, time with family, time in the outdoors.
We find a connection with nature, with the game we hunt, and with God. It’s time to relax, get away from the cell phone and computer screen, a time to challenge ourselves in a new way. There’s also the anticipation of the hunt, never knowing what’s just over the hill or coming down the trail, and the flow of adrenaline that surges through our veins when we finally lay eyes on an approaching deer.
These are all things we love, that I love, about hunting. But it’s never been the reason. I could never find that reason, and it’s relentlessly haunted me since the question first arose.
The problem is that all those reasons always seemed too superficial for me. I have never been able to discount them as motivators to hunt, but I can’t claim them as being the true source of my obsession, this addiction I have acquired for deer and deer hunting.
It’s more than just a recreation; it’s become necessary for my survival. How so? It runs through my veins, fused to the very blood that keeps me alive. It’s almost as if it is genetic, a requirement demanded of me by my very DNA that cannot be denied.
Ancient tribes and societies of humans lived in much more rustic times than we do today. Before the days of modern firearms, steel knives, and GPS devices, the dangers of hunting were compounded. Despite the extreme danger, people hunted.
For well over 95% of human existence we have hunted, but in the face of getting lost and attacked by other predators, why hunt?
For one, we needed meat. Physically, our digestive tract is composed in a large part by a small intestine, designed to absorb large amounts of protein. People also need specific nutrition, like vitamins A and B12 that we only get from meat. On average, human diets consist of 20-40% meat, up to 90% meat during cold and hunting seasons.
Humans are built to hunt. We have exceptional spatial abilities for navigation, map reading, and precisely hurling objects like spears. We have only had guns and high power bows for a sliver of our existence, so our ability to walk many miles and kill animals with more primitive tools was essential. Our ability to walk many miles a day was essential to a successful hunt.
Hunting helped us get food, but what else did it do for us? Believe it or not, it helped men get women. It’s no secret in today’s world men go to great lengths to attract the fairer sex, it seems to consume the entire mind and life of any teenager. The great mystery for men has always been how to attract those women we chase so hard after.
Tribes today still live that way, and provide a compelling insight to the importance of hunting to provide resources.
The Ache of Paraguay and the Hadza of the East African Savannah are two such examples. The best hunters in those tribes attract many more women than the other men, they attract the most desirable women, and their children receive much more care from the entire tribe than do the children of poor hunters.
The better hunters are better suited to care for women and the children they make together, and so the women are most attracted to those men. Today we use money, but throughout most of our existence, hunting was the currency of survival.
Sharing the hunt and meat claimed was also a vital part of our existence. A single hunter, even a great hunter, isn’t successful at harvesting game on every hunt. But as a group, many hunters together can be successful almost daily.
People have always hunted in parties, much like many do today. Here in the Midwest, thousands of wives are abandoned every year the weekend before Thanksgiving as their husbands gather with brothers, dads, and uncles to don their orange and take to the woods. It’s a tradition we carry on today many centuries in the making.
In light of the pages of evidence I sifted through that suggests hunting big game has been vital to our survival, I have finally found what explains to me my insatiable urge to take to the tree stand every fall.
It doesn’t save me money, it isn’t as safe or reliable as driving to the grocery store, and I endure harsher conditions than I do for any other activity I do all year long.
Hunting in America has been labeled "recreation," but it is much more than that to me — it’s an undying passion passed down to me from thousands of generations of great hunters before me. It burns in my soul, only growing more out of control every fall. It’s more than just something I learned from my dad; in fact, I’m pretty sure if you checked my blood, you’d find even my DNA has antlers.