Growing up in a small town in Northern Michigan, the question never really presented itself. Why do I hunt? Most people's answers were simple "Because so and so does." I was never questioned on my views until much later in my twenties. I went to small universities where the outdoor culture was present or at least made aware. It wasn't until I moved to a city where hunting and the outdoors was not a cultural pillar.
I soon to realized that the question of "Why do you hunt?" was being asked to seek out my true intentions. Growing up and never being asked the question from that point of view made me feel as I was under attack for my values. I began to give abrasive answers or was defensive instead of breaking down the question they were asking. In those abrasive answers, I soon realized my approach was also wrong.
I started detaching from the conversation and realized what hunting looked like from someone on the other side of it. Hunters have not been shown in a flattering picture in mainstream media, nor do we do a great job painting an image as well. I heard someone say it best, " Hunters have a PR problem." It is a PR problem. I am not alone in my approach on how I handled opposition on hunting.
I remember when I first started doing videography and editing. I edit a lot of hunting reels for people. I had one person in imparticular reached out to me. They were trying to get an outdoor show and needed a highlight reel. I asked them how they were trying to get their message across.
All I heard in response was silence, followed by "What do you mean message?" I said, "You know the story you are trying to tell." More silence followed by "Kill shots, only kill shots." All I said in response was alright and gave him what he wanted in their highlight reel. Reflecting heavily on how someone flipping through channels would view this show if they stumbled upon it.
I am not saying we should apologize for anything. We need to be able to, as hunters clearly articulate why we hunt. Saying because we do, or because my so and so did is not enough. If I would have been asked that same question 10 years ago, those would have been my answer. Now that answer is usually much harder to put into a simple response.
Fred Bear once said, "When a hunter is in a treestand with moral values and with the proper hunting ethics and richer for the experience, that hunter is 20 feet closer to God." I have never been an overly religious person. When I am in the woods whether that be hunting, fishing, or hiking I do feel much more connected. I do not hunt because I love killing, this is almost the exact opposite. Any time I have pulled that trigger or released an arrow, I have felt remorse. The remorse is overtaken by the emotion of gratefulness for what that animal provided my family and me. Taking this life has also made me feel more connected to the animal than, I would be just seeing it in my yard or at a park. For that, I will forever be grateful.
I understand this is not the same for everyone. It is eminent to find your reason behind why you hunt. Your reason why may look different than others, but it is still critical to understand it and articulate that to someone.
“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact." – Aldo Leopold