By John Bradley
From an early age, my family could tell I would be a hunter. When I learned to read, I poured over my grandpa’s old Fur Fish and Game magazines. When I was able to tag along with my dad and relatives, I was hooked for life. Your spouse, a friend, family member or even the neighborhood kid may not have the instinctive, internal drive to jump into hunting like I did. They may want to dip a toe in the water to test the experience, yet not quite sure of a good reason to launch. Give them a reason. Hopefully, that internal drive to hunt that so many of us have will kick in once the pursuit begins, but make the case for them to join the ranks with these top 10 reasons.
1. Appreciate Nature, Support Wildlife
If not for hunters and their commitment to financially supporting wildlife through the Pittman-Robertson Act, a self-imposed excise tax on the sale of sporting goods, America’s wildlife backdrop would look drastically different. As a hunter you help fund this continued comeback and personally help manage flourishing species. In the process you acquire a front seat to appreciate nature that benefits from your support. Although certain management schemes may be focused on targeted species, all species – game and non-game, great and small – profit from habitat restoration and wildlife projects.
2. Better Understand Animal Behavior
You may not have had the opportunity to take wildlife biology classes in high school or college, but you can learn a lot about wildlife while hunting. To be a successful hunter you need to fully understand animal behavior. Many videos found online can get you started on what you need to know for a successful hunt. Nevertheless, you will be in school on every outing seeing firsthand how nature works. Watching a whitetail buck make a scrape or seeing a flock of mallards cup into a pond is not only captivating but gives you an insight on how to successfully take a particular species.
3. Healthy Meals
You need protein in your diet, so why not skip the deli meat in the grocery store and consider wild game? Maybe you are concerned with the use of antibiotics and hormones found in some farmed animals. Wild game provides an organic, lean, renewable and tasty alternative to protein raised in a mass production setting. Whether you target waterfowl, upland game, or deer, you can be assured of a meal that has lived a free-range life. Depending on the wild game, it can contain 50 percent less fat and nearly 10 percent fewer calories than beef. There is nothing wrong with the occasional hot dog or hamburger, but for most of your meals, wild game offers too many healthy attributes to ignore.
4. Hone Survival Skills
The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener in many respects. One important lesson learned should be your personal survival—it is up to you, after all. You likely noticed the toilet paper shortage, but how about the empty shelves of non-perishable food? Hunting provides you a means to supplement those shortages, and along the way you may also hone camping skills and clean water acquisition. Food, water and shelter are your three essential needs and all three are basic components during hunting pursuits. Fill your freezer with healthy wild game and practice your survival skills and be prepared for anything.
5. Physical Activity
It only takes a quick stroll through your local Wal-Mart to realize a lot of the population is out of shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of adults are obese. Hunting can be an answer to combine protein procurement and physical activity into a single endeavor. Preseason scouting, placing hunting stands, building blinds and hiking to remote hunting parcels all add up to calories burnt and muscles toned. Fuse that with a lean meal of wild game and you are on the way to a better you.
6. Perfect Shooting Skills
Interested in honing your aim with a gun or trying your hand at archery? A hunting focus forces you to perfect your shooting skills. Your goal is to humanely kill your targeted species with precision. That requires a lot of practice with your weapon of choice. Time at the range and shooting in real-world conditions can help you achieve this goal. That new level of focus can be applied to a ton of everyday activities as well.
7. Help the Climate
You may fall into a group where climate change is important to you and your lifestyle. Whether you embrace the fact that modern agricultural processes are contributing to a changing climate, hunting can help you sleep better at night. By attaining your protein from wild species during a hunt you are relying less on others and reducing your carbon footprint.
8. Save Money
Don’t kid yourself, hunting is expensive. Despite this statement, your initial test doesn’t need to break the bank. You may be able to acquire cheap hunting gear on Craigslist, repurposing your hiking clothes, or from an uncle eager to see you succeed. You don’t need to kickstart your hunting career with full Sitka gear or an Alaskan guided hunt (if you can, more power to you). Backyard species like whitetail deer, Canada geese and cottontails can be found in nearly every ZIP code.
9. Pandemic Escape
Hunting is a notable escape from the infected world. Hunting separates us from the crowds, exposes us to volumes of fresh air and clears our mind of the world’s issues as we focus on the goal at hand. If this pandemic has you stir-crazy, give hunting a try to evade the madness.
Hunting is entertaining recreation. You may play golf or be signed up for beer league softball in the summer. Both activities provide opportunity for laughs and camaraderie; hunting includes that aspect and more. You are immersing yourself in the real world, not an online game of fantasy. You have an actual quarry with a worthy goal of feeding yourself and your household. Variable weather conditions, wary prey, and the landscape challenge you during the season. Still, with skill and luck, you could create a hunting memory and a nutritious meal through a true adventure.
Share these 10 reasons to hunt with anyone showing an interest and you may bring a new hunter into the fold.
John Bradley is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation and a Dakota Edge Outdoors Contributing Writer.
Featured Photo: The author with a pronghorn on a successful archery hunt. Pursuing any game will provide insight into animal behavior, the natural world and conservation, just some of the benefits brought through the hunting process. DEO Photo by John Bradley.