Stages of a Hunter
I live for the fall. I spent most of the season guiding my son and daughter in the stand and told them at the beginning of the season that they were going to be responsible for filling the freezer. I talked with them about the deer population and we were going to focus on antlerless deer. Our season is near its end and we have accomplished our goals by harvesting three antlerless deer, one nice buck, and the kids had fun doing it. We encountered several beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We observed raccoons, foxes, coyotes, buck fights, bucks responding to decoys, and I even came face-to-face with an opossum.
If I were to be totally honest, I did miss hunting for that elusive big buck this fall. I can’t complain after an 8-day archery elk hunting trip to Colorado in September. It’s the stage of hunting that I am in right now. My time right now is better spent teaching others about the sport of hunting.
However, I do remember a day where I would want to harvest as many deer as I could or harvest the largest buck. That has changed for me.
As hunters, most of us go through the five stages of hunting which include:
1. The “Shoot At Everything” Stage – When we first start hunting, we just want to shoot. Remember when your mentor took you out hunting for the first time? You just wanted to shoot something…..anything including rabbits, squirrels, ducks, or any other game (or even non-game) species. It is important in this stage to have opportunity. If you are a state game manager, this is where you want to provide the best experience you can for young hunters by having a lot of game to hunter contact.
2. The “Limiting Out” Stage – It’s easy to talk about hunting with your friends or coworkers when you can say “Got my limit.” That means you had a successful trip but as you grow as a hunter, you realize that it’s more than just getting your limit. When you are in this stage of hunting, success is determined by that number. I remember talking with neighbors when I was younger and they would say, “Yep, we were 9 for 10” or “15 for 10.” It has been a measure of success for many hunters.
3. The “Selective Harvest” Stage – As you mature as a hunter, you enter this phase seeking out the largest and most mature animal that you can. This typically comes after having a level of success at harvesting game. Sometimes you do this at the expense of others. This is currently the most competitive stage of hunting. This can also turn friends and family into enemies by hiding game camera photos from each other or sneaking into a sanctuary before your other party members. I would argue that we need to share information with others so others know what is actually out there and how to be successful. This stage can also be the most rewarding because of the effort you put in to harvest a specific animal.
4. The “Method” Stage – The satisfaction in this stage comes from the technique used to harvest an animal. At 43 years old, I have never harvested a deer with a gun. Part of that is due to my inability to seal the deal when I had a big buck in front of me. The other part of that is that I feel a deep appreciation for archery hunting. At this stage in my life, should I continue using the bow to harvest big game? I have observed rifle hunting and can see myself getting involved in this as I get older. This is not to down-play anyone who uses a firearm, but archery is the method I choose at this point in my hunting career. With that being said, I think the “Method” stage is user-defined. Many traditional archery hunters fall into this category and use the method as a challenge to harvest game.
5. The “Sportsman/Sportswoman” Stage – This stage is about the entire experience. Sure, harvesting an animal is great. In this stage, the hunter places more emphasis on simply being outdoors, the process of the hunt, and the companionship of the hunting party members. They often have an appreciation for the camp atmosphere and place a greater emphasis on others. During this stage, more veteran hunters teach youth and others who have not experienced hunting before. Those in this stage are often considered mentors. If I were to win the lottery today, I would go out and buy hunting land, build a hunting cabin, and take others in the outdoors who don’t get the chance to hunt.
What stage are you in? As we naturally age, we progress to the different stages of hunting. We hope that one day, we all can enter the final chapter as a hunter and continue to educate everyone in the sport that we love. After all, we need to keep the hunting tradition alive and well. Be a mentor and take someone out who has never hunted before. It is very rewarding and an experience that you and your hunter will likely never forget.
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