When It’s Okay to Be a Selfish Hunter

When It’s Okay to Be a Selfish Hunter

It is good to share, to be generous. But maybe not when you are hunting.

Yes, disgusting though this sounds, I recommend hunters be selfish.

That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Well, let me explain: By “selfish” I don’t mean “game hog.” I don’t mean interfering with others so as to get the biggest, mostest and bestest. I’m not advocating anyone be that kind of boor. But with the annual hunting seasons upon us, it is important for hunters to understand why they need to be politely selfish for their own good.  

Wait a minute. What am I trying to say here? Be selfish but don’t be selfish? What kind of double-speak is this?

Just this: Hunting, or at least some part of it, is an intensely private, personal, spiritual connection. Done right, it not only feeds the body, but the soul. A hunter is anchored to his heritage, to humankind’s past, to thousands of years of hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This is as much a part of a human’s identity and function as it is a lion’s, wolf’s or dog’s. Stated another way, you can breed a dog out of a wolf, but you can’t take the wolf out of the dog.

So, preventing a hunter from fully participating in the hunt (which we already do seasonally out of necessity to prevent overharvest) denies him or her an instinctive, fundamental human right. Fish gotta swim. Eagle gotta fly. (By the way, humans are the only species that limits its hunting for the good of other species.)

Lest you think I’m spouting a bit too much psycho-babble, consider how powerfully you feel the urge to hunt. Not everyone has this, of course, but those who do will instantly know what I mean. You could no more skip the hunting season than a crocodile could skip the wildebeest migration. You’ve probably been a hunting fool for as long as you can remember. You probably whined and begged to hunt before you were old enough to aim a rifle or draw a bow. Why? Because it’s your nature to connect with Nature.

This is one of the great mysteries of life, this powerful, instinctive pull to touch the wild, to explore the unseen, to understand the unknown, to embrace the mysteries of the untamed, unsettled, unmanaged places. And it’s not enough to merely observe. Hunters have to hike, climb, search, poke, prod, investigate and interact. We have to see, smell, hear, touch and taste as integral parts of this giant whirl of life fueling life. And that is what can’t be denied. 

Yes, hunting can be a social event enjoyed in the company of friends, partners and family. It can be a bonding vehicle for parents and kids, men and women, buddies and compadres. It can be a test of one’s meddle, one’s ability to sit still, endure cold, suffer in silence for a greater good. Heck, hunting can even be a competition to see who can call in the most ducks, climb the highest peak and spot the greatest number of deer. For many of us, hunting is the chance to mentor, to decoy a pronghorn for a son, granddaughter or dear friend and watch him or her take it with a clean shot. For others it offers the opportunity to share a favorite hotspot where the pheasants lurk and the bunnies bounce from the brush like popcorn. All this is wonderful and good but…

There remains this critical drive, this private need for each hunter to touch his nature in Nature, to recreate his essential connection with the world in which he is a full participant, a critical cog playing his role as surely and truly as a cougar or falcon.

If you are one who hears the call of the wild more loudly than most, one who feels an ache more than just an urge to touch the wolf within, you need to take time each fall to hunt by yourself, for yourself. Literally. Do not let family, friends and social obligations prevent you. Live up to your responsibilities, certainly, but carve out time to go afield and rediscover the inner you, the primitive self that still connects with the need to gather from Nature’s larder. No kids, no spouse, no buddies, no social obligations. Just you, the woods, waters, fields and wildlife.

Alone, you have the time and freedom to reflect, to go as lightly as you wish, as hard as your spirit calls. Charge those pheasants, wait out that elk. Smell the rotting oak leaves and build that campfire.

Alone you will find the freedom and strength to let your spirit soar, to fully feel the intense emotional connection to the wilds that few are willing to expose to others. Alone you’ll smell the rich rot of the woodland floor. You’ll feel a catch in your throat as a gust swirls a flurry of red and gold leaves across the lonely trail. You’ll hear the distant mystery of the ancient world talking to you. And that’s the kind of selfish you need.