It’s 5-something when the alarm goes off. I will myself out of bed despite the fact that it’s Saturday morning. “You only get so many days like this,” I mumble. Twenty minutes later, my boots are crunching across the frost as I make my way to the old Indian mound. I settle in and my heart rate slows as I sit in the pitch-black darkness, waiting for the world to wake up. I doze off for a few minutes and awake to the chorus of the woods as the sky turns gray, then pink. There is no blackberry, no TV, no conference calls, no routine, no voices—just birds and squirrels going about their business.
It’s close to 7 a.m. when I see gray shapes slip out of the tree line. The thrill that shoots up my spine wipes the November cold from my limbs. There’s something primal about the first sight of game. Alert and careful, the column of whitetail deer emerges for breakfast. A peek through the binoculars reveals they’re all does and yearlings, exactly what I’m looking for. I wait for them to calm down and start browsing on the edge between the forest and the field. Even from 200 yards away, the deer sense that something isn’t quite right. Every few seconds the lead doe’s head bolts upward with her eyes and ears locked on my location; her nostrils test the air but the wind is in my face. I dare not blink. When her head eases down in search of another acorn I make my move, raising the 7x57 up until I’m in a solid, seated position. I pull the stock tight to my shoulder and cheek, rest my triceps on my knees and dig my heels into the earth to anchor the whole package into a steady platform. I take a breath and exhale most of it as the crosshairs settle into a small orbit on her shoulder—it’s never as steady as it is in the movies. Even with the light kick of the Mauser, I lose sight of her in the recoil. The sound of the bullet’s impact echoes across the thick morning air and lets me know that it found its mark.
There’s a sense of elation as I approach her, but there’s no high-fiving or celebration. There’s just a quiet moment between hunter and quarry before my knife comes out and the real work begins. I live in a city and wear a suit to work, but this is where the food on my family’s table comes from. It’s as organic as it gets: no hormones, no feed, no fences, no styrofoam and cellophane under the flouorescent lights of the grocery store. This is hunting.
Here are six reasons why everyone should hunt:
1. It’s safe
According to data recently collected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), hunting with a gun is the third-safest sport when compared to 28 other popular sports, and has a lower injury rate than golf, volleyball and tackle football.
2. It’s healthy
Not only is venison free of man-made intervention, but obtaining it through hunting can be good exercise for the body and the mind. Hunting isn’t just about the kill—being afield helps us get reacquainted with the sights and sounds of the outdoors. It also allows us to step off the grid and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, which can be a refreshing change of pace for many.
3. It helps the planet
Hunting license fees and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition fund millions of acres of habitat preservation and improvement. Each year, sportsmen contribute $7.5 million per day toward conservation.
4. It’s good for the species
Habitat loss has eroded the natural range of animals while agriculture has increased food supplies—the result is game populations that must be managed. If they’re not hunted, they’ll die of starvation or disease. Like it or not, as we increase our land use, proper game management becomes more important than ever.
5. It saves money and helps the economy
Though you can spend thousands on gadgets and gear, putting game on the table can be done on a shoestring budget. Hunters are a generous lot—get a hunter to take you along and borrow what you can. Resident licenses and public land provide access at reasonable costs. Fifty or so pounds of meat will make for a lot family dinners.
And according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, hunting is responsible for 600,000 U.S jobs, $66 billion in economic activity and $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue.
6. It's good for your family
There are few better ways to spend quality time with your children than to take them away from the computer or TV and show them where their food comes from. Revealing how important it is to be resourceful and self-sufficient is also one of the greatest life lessons you can teach them.