Danish author Hans Christian Andersen famously said, “To travel is to live.” While he was a prolific writer of plays, novels and more, he is probably best known for his fairy tales; perhaps the best known of them (and certainly apropos given current federal events) is “The Emperor’s New Clothes”—but I digress. This quote regarding travel is so popular that many of us have surely seen it used by any number of travel agencies.
I’ve always admired the words because I like to travel, yes, but mainly because I read them through a hunter’s eyes. I’ve always thought: to hunt is to travel.
There is no denying the fact that on some intrinsic level every hunter enjoys traveling. Whether we see it as merely a step into the natural world or a step back in time (muzzleloaders anyone?), whether we escape the everyday in the back 40 or plan a lavish escape to pursue new game on new ground across the ocean there is no question hunting affords us a chance to travel.
As fall settles over our nation, it’s important to remember this and to remember there are three R’s in the R3 call to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters. Here I’m thinking of that middle R: retain. It’s important to ensure we retain our zeal for the hunt. Amid our pursuit of recruits we must feed our own souls—never lose sight of that.
I do so via travel, in particular traveling to hunt. You see, whenever someone asks, “What’s your favorite thing to hunt?” I always reply, “The next thing or next place I’ve never hunted before,” because, amid all it does for my soul, hunting provides a conduit to travel. Let me explain.
If you ask me why I became a hunter I guess the short answer is the culture it represented—I had to be part of it. Guns and ammo seemed really cool and really important to master responsibly and expertly. Clearly, accomplished hunters used enough knives and tools, clothing, packs, camp gear, treestands and trucks and boats to make a Boy Scout jealous. Even rising in the wee hours—there seemed to be something going on in the dark I had to join, even if I never was a morning person. All those things were world enough, but as I absorbed it all I also realized I viewed a hunt as a chance to travel.
As a teenager I lived in and hunted Virginia (occasionally) but I also hunted Pennsylvania (annually) thanks to the benevolence of friends. Simply buying an expensive nonresident PA license seemed like a big deal that put me in a special class of hunters. But at that time the really big deal was a Maine bear hunt gifted to me by a dear friend—an unforgettable event and one I’ve written about in these pages. To hunt Maine we had to fly with guns! We hunted big game I had never before stood toe-to-toe with in the wild. I climbed down from the stand and walked out to the pick-up spot alone in the dark in the bear-filled North Woods. It was the first time I realized what it means to hunt new game and new ground.
Memories of that adventure inspire me today as I look forward to travel this fall. As you read this I am preparing to travel to hunt Oregon blacktails—a state and a species I have never hunted before.
Do you sense a pattern here? Remember “safari” is a Swahili word meaning “grand journey.” If you are inspired by these words I urge you to plan your own safari soon.
Can you afford to book a South Dakota pheasant hunt? Can you afford an Iowa deer hunt or New Mexico elk hunt? Pick one and book it. If you do, remember it is a vacation you have booked. You don’t have to shoot game on any hunt to have a good time, to escape the everyday … to travel mentally and physically and therefore feed your soul.
You don’t have to book a guided hunt, either. Find a friend with a gun dog and plan a cross-country road trip to hunt Midwest pheasants on public land. Reach out to a friend or family member who lives in and hunts another state: Can you join him this year?
That’s I did in November. I hunted Missouri whitetails with an old friend on ground he leases with family and friends. I’m finally accepting his longstanding invitation. I must say it is the hunt this fall I looked forward to most, probably because I didn’t have to attach to it any expectations. I merely showed up and had a good time. This was my hunt. There was no pressure, only a chance to travel.
If any of this rubs off on you, dear reader, take action. Whether you walk into the back 40 or drive or fly cross-country, find a conduit and travel it. It’s OK to realize you’re being a little selfish, that this trip is for you and you alone. Trust me, you need the escape. It will refresh you—I promise! A hunt for new game on new ground gives you succor till next time.