I recently read a "letter to the editor" in one of my hunting magazines where the reader was responding to an apparent article about the state of hunting and the "professional" hunters who make their living through their television programs. The writer lamented about never remembering that he "fist pumped" or "shouted in triumph" after harvesting a deer. Come to think of it, I don't ever recall doing any of the actions often seen by the televised hunter? To me hunting is a private affair, when either sitting in my stand or blind, or slipping through the woods. Should my efforts result in a kill I don't ever remember feeling the need to celebrate. I do say a short prayer of thanks for the opportunity to both see game and harvest the same. Oh, I don't mind a small celebration back at camp, if other hunters are present, with the usual congratulation pats on the back. I don't ever recall that the congratulations were limited only to large buck kills; but rather for any kill. Guess it's related to the kind of hunters I always found most welcomed with and in whose company I enjoyed and was enjoyed.
I'm not sure that those being captured on film these days, competing for the marketing dollars that have infested our sport, see their hunting adventures in the same light as I and likely most other hunters. Why? I think it's rather simple; money motivates and drives the human spirit. When one is competing for a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table, the reason why you do that job is less important than doing the job. Thus as one moves from being a rather simple "recreation" hunter to a "professional" hunter the motivations change.
I grew up in a hunting and outdoors family. Most of my uncles, as well as my dad and granddad had a long history of hunting and the sustenance it provided. Whether hunting deer, small game, birds, and waterfowl, or fishing the spring run of bull heads, there was a purpose beyond the love of the outdoors. It put food on the table for very large families. The love and need of these activities was passed down to me and many of my cousins and we have kept the tradition going. While the need to subsistence hunt is less a requirement today than in the past, we all still enjoy the fruits of our labor. Eating wild game and fish is still important to our households.
So, what kind of point am I trying to make? I guess it's that I believe it's important to periodically reflect on why we do what we do in the outdoors. The average hunter and fishermen is not motivated by the money we can make in these activities, but rather by the enjoyment we received spending time in the outdoors, as well as the rewards that they may provide. I'm wondering how many of the "pros" take the time to do a little reflection on why they hunt and what brought them to the sport in the first place?
I guess the real reason for this topic is that my job presented me with the opportunity to meet a professional fisherman, who was having the diagnostic test I provide. In the course of conducting the test we had a great discussion about his efforts to sustain his livelihood through his fishing competition. He told me what a great struggle it has been, that it was a major strain on his life and that it's not all the "glitz and glamour" portrayed on TV. As we discussed the fact that our love of the outdoors and our activities were introduced to us through parents and family, we realized that we did have a lot in common. He also said, after over 20 years of making a living fishing, he had a real revelation last summer; he said he took his grandson fishing, a very rare opportunity given his schedule of tournaments. He said within the first few minutes of being on the water with his fishing partner, the grandson, he had accidentally let go of the expensive rod and reel provided by one of this "pro's" sponsors, and it fell into the water, never to be retrieved. The pro said the first few seconds of anger and frustration was soon overtaken by the realization that this was his grandson, who he was sharing his love and passion for fishing with for the first time. He said he quickly smiled to remove the look of concern on his grandson's face, gave him and hug, and the two of them went back to fishing. He said for the first time in a long time he remembered "what it was all about".
Enjoy your experiences in the outdoors, give the pros' their due, but never forget how your passion grew. And don't forget to pass it along.