This is a topic that has filled my mind for many hours since I stepped foot into the industry in 2021. It started to occupy my mind late into 2019. Because from the time I was too young to hunt, riding in my dads backpack, until the 2020 season I went from hunting mostly local with my dad, a select few hometown, and college buddies too being around some of the most motivated, ambitious, optimistic, big minded hunters out there, in my opinion. That's not to say my Dad and all my OG hunting buddies aren’t that or don’t want to be that. However I have developed a new perspective on how different each hunter is. Yes there are more obvious and general differences like a rifle hunter versus a bow hunter, but what intrigues me is intrinsic differences in mindset, strategy, beliefs, reasons for hunting and extrinsic differences like places to hunt, the all mighty quest for a lot of bone to hold, or to spend time with someone you care about in the different faces of mother nature. Every hunter is different and unique to ones own situation, or upbringing. Noticing, thinking, and talking about those differences has lead me to become a better hunter, understand myself better, and has opened my mind to new ways of learning about the outdoors and what I can make of it.
First let's talk about something that seems fairly obvious to me and this topic but sometimes doesn’t seem like it is to the world/ media. That is the fact that every single person on earth is different from one another. It’s a safe bet that every single person is different in more than a handful of ways in terms of beliefs, opinions, lifestyle, politics, hunting, whatever it may be. You could follow that list down to something as minuscule as how you wipe your butt or picking “spot X” because of a strong West wind versus “spot Y”. There are no two people on earth that you could put into a room that would agree on every aspect of whichever topic. No two people that wouldn’t find something they have different opinions about or motivations for within a given talking point. There is value in that.
More times than not, it's not cut and dry with two sides to choose this or that like the internet, media, or narrow minded people can make it seem, simply because of how vastly different every individual naturally is, and should be! In my opinion, there is so much underrated individualism in our country that there's no way for any two people from similar or different backgrounds to feel the exact same way about the entirety of a topic. Somewhere along the line, differences will arise no matter what “side” you're on. It’s only natural, and it’s what makes us human. In hunting, leaning into that reality can only lead to a more open mind, a greater appreciation for hunting as a whole, increased learning, and a better understanding of whats possible in the world of hunting.
The different ways to hunt, decisions that get made while hunting, preferences on where to hunt, habits, reasons for going hunting, the list could go on, but exploring the seemingly unlimited individuality of hunters and how their differences lead to successes, failures, or new adventures has a lot of intellectual potential. Whether it’s a unique difference that isn’t hard to dissect and learn from or it’s something subtle that you may not even be aware of without some thought or conversation. Those differences in hunters interest me. The old saying “There's a million ways to skin a cat” comes to mind. There’s a million and one ways for a hunter to be different. Whether it’s their reason for going at all, strategy, location, time allotment, pre-season prep, preferred set ups, what exactly they want out of hunting, preferred weapon, or how they came to learn about hunting, each of us has something different in the way they go about hunting than the other. I am interested in learning differences in hunters for the good of myself and others. I know it will make me and has made me a better hunter, learned lessons, opened my eyes to unthought of possibilities, and shown off the many reasons our heritage is so unique and valuable.
I want to talk about my experience that first brought this thought to mind for me. Picture a small town, graduating class of 100, and a young hunter who’s from there and has been his entire life, me. I watched the traditional hunting shows in awe that people have opportunities like that but couldn’t wrap my mind around how someone could put themselves in a place for such unique hunting opportunities. I didn’t realize how different hunters could be fro each other, I thought that some were blessed with opportunities and others weren’t. I hunted whenever I could in between sports, school, and time with friends. I was and am extremely lucky to be able to take my bow and get on deer right out back. Behind my house, the occasional buddies place, and doing deer drives on public land was my hunting world until 2020. I new the hunting wasn’t great compared to what was on tv but it was all I had so I quickly learned to love it and still do now that I see its value and uniqueness in a new light.
What provoked these thoughts on intrinsic/ extrinsic differences in hunters, was hunting conversations over multiple years at bars or parties with a kid from a neighboring town with the same name as me. Eventually the conversations turned to us finally getting together to do one man pushes on public during the 2019 muzzle loader season. I thought we would sneak around together and just try to fill a doe tag, but this kid (I say “this kid” but he was in my wedding) showed up without a weapon, saying he was going to push deer to me. I remember that feeling very new to me, someone voluntarily trying to fill a tag with a buddy without taking a weapon, I knew quickly that he thought differently about hunting than what I had been used to. At the end of it all my buddy Jake had walked a hell of a lot further than me and I passed a shot at a doe that I instantly regretted because of the work he just but in for me to get that shot. Before we went home we talked for almost 2 hours down by the bank of the river about his hunting experiences, which were a lot cooler and more abundant than mine. We talked about the importance of who you hunt with and how easily it can impact what you’re trying to get out of a hunt. We talked about the mindset you need and potentially going on an elk hunt together. That conversation we had on the same river that helped shape my hunting thoughts growing up, forever changed how I think about hunting and what can be done with it. Jake was the first hunter I noticed a significant difference in. A difference in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, ambition, and an understanding of what he wants out of his hunts that opened my mind to possibilities I was too narrow minded to realize myself.
Since that day, Jake and I have hunted turkeys, deer, duck, pronghorn, and elk together in different parts of the country and back home. He invited me on my first OTC Colorado Archery Elk hunt the September of 2020, where I was lucky enough to tag out on a cow opening day and spend 10 days hiking over 100 miles with him and our stud of a buddy Ethan (see meat tree pic). This past October, Jake drove over 6 hours from Denver (where he had been for 2 years, but just moved back home) to Cody and I’s pronghorn unit in Wyoming, again without a tag, and spent the weekend duck hunting and knocking on doors to get permission with me and helping fill my first pronghorn tag.
I guess what I want readers to take away from this is what differences in hunters, and reflecting on those differences, can bring to your situation and life. It can help you get your hunting to where you want it to be, it will form new relationships that are more meaningful than others because thats what time outdoors does to people, and it will open the door to learning more than you ever thought you would on how to navigate the hunting world as a whole, not just your neck of the woods. Go put yourself around someone who’s different than other hunters you’ve been around, someone who looks at out of state hunts with less intimidation and more determination, someone who understands the importance of who you put yourself around, someone open minded and ambitious, someone like Jake.
I think the topic of differences in hunters can offer an overwhelming source of knowledge and perspective that would help anyone. It’s also a topic that can be dove into deeply. It would be a great topic to base a podcast off… The thought of using what Jake showed me on other hunters within the industry excites me. That’s a lot of knowledge and perspective just sitting around waiting to be exploited.