Jeff Cooper once opined that he could not understand how some people could be shooters but not hunters, and conversely, some were hunters but not shooters. For Cooper, the founding father of our modern approach to self-defense, hunting and shooting were intrinsically linked.
I am of a newer generation of gunmen than the late, great, Jeff Cooper, so I think I can relate to the modern member of Gun Culture 2.0 better. The modern shooter is more likely to be invested in the ownership of and training with firearms out of a concern for self-defense than a desire to hunt game animals. Cooper grew up with the complete opposite: the average house had a hunting rifle and a shotgun in the closet but essentially nobody focused on specific defensive firearms training in the civilian world; a field that essentially did not even exist prior to Cooper’s efforts. But, for Cooper, martial training with the firearm and hunting were intrinsically related. That sentiment is rare among most shooters today.
While I can understand a shooter not being a hunter, and a hunter not being a shooting enthusiast (only using his gun as a tool for his overall sport) I also understand Cooper’s sentiment. I believe one of the most beneficial experiences that anyone who is pursuing a martial path can have is to hunt. There are a number of reasons for this. I hunt deer every year and it is something that I look forward to and enjoy thoroughly. My family eats the meat that I harvest, so that is a part of it. However, there is much to the experience of hunting that makes it a worthwhile pursuit for the individual who believes in developing his or her capabilities.
To begin with, I find that most modern men, even those that embrace shooting, are creatures of comfort that have never really roughed it in the wilderness. I am a creature of comfort myself, I am not really a fan of roughing it. Hunting, particularly in cold weather, exposes an individual to challenges that they simply don’t experience otherwise in our modern climate controlled lifestyle. The days of the year that I spend hunting I roam the woods in the cold with a rifle in my hands. That experience alone significantly changes your outlook on the world. You know freedom and self-reliance at an innate level that you have never experienced if you are, above all, a modern corporate cube dweller. This alone makes hunting worth it.
Hunting also cultivates patience and perseverance at a level that few other pursuits do. If your only experience with hunting is watching one of the Sportsman’s Channel hunting shows in which there is a dead deer and guys high-fiving within a couple minutes, trust me, it does not work like that in real life. I have experienced hunting seasons in the past where I was lucky to see a deer after a week of spending the majority of each day in the woods. You will learn patience and develop a sense of being able to apply yourself beyond anything you have tried before. Also, after you kill an animal, track the blood trail and find it, dress it out in the woods, drag it who-knows how far over rugged terrain and snow, and heft it onto an ATV or a truck to take it home, you will have a new appreciation for physical activity.
Concerning the martial aspect of it, there are few experiences like it. Most members of the deer family are among the most alert animals in the world, particularly the White Tail. Staying still enough, silent enough, and playing your hand to get a shot at an animal that almost always suspects that you are there is an amazing experience. And, you can shoot at all the paper targets in the world, but the experience of blowing the heart out of a living, breathing, and exceptionally alert animal while controlling your fine motor skills during the assured adrenaline dump is a totally different level of shooting. Do that even once: it is a more valuable lesson than taking any carbine class offered by any firearms trainer out there.
Finally, there is another reason I think everyone should hunt: it will fix your politics. I generally like to keep my politics separate from my firearms training or my writing about training (for example, I NEVER discuss politics when training people to shoot) but we fight a serious political battle in maintaining our Second Amendment and the attack on that freedom, let’s face it, comes from a particular side of the political spectrum. When you hunt you gain a better prospective on relying on yourself rather than reliance on the government for every little damn thing. I will leave it at this: there are very few leftists that slay deer.
So, in closing, if you are interested in hunting but you never have, I guarantee it will be a phenomenal experience. It may seem daunting just getting into it, but there are many organizations out there that strive to guide and mentor new hunters. Look into it, if you have already taken a number of firearms and self-defense classes and want to pursue something that will greatly expand your capabilities in this regard, learn to hunt.