“Don’t knock it ‘till you try it” is one of those clichés that’s rooted deeply in truth, and nowhere is that more true than with hunting. There are a lot of cultural myths about hunting—all rooted in emotion and ignorance—and those myths can fool you into thinking that hunting just isn’t for you. If, however, you have a kernel of curiosity about trying out this ancient method of putting food on the table, you can expect a few (happy) surprises. Here are three of them.
1: Nature is Metal
If you’ve spent most of your life in a suburban environment, then chances are the most exposure you’ve had to wildlife is trying to avoid running it over. For suburbanites, deer are adorable yet hapless critters that like to launch themselves directly into your car. They certainly seem that way…until you try to hunt them.
It’s difficult to describe just how powerful and agile a whitetail deer really is until you see them in their natural environment. I’ve seen a three-legged deer hop an 8-ft. fence like it was painted on the ground. They can hear you from hundreds of yards away and smell you from further. What’s more, they’re just one part of an incredibly complex system that is older, larger and better equipped to survive than mankind has been up until the last 500 years…an evolutionary eyeblink.
So your first surprise will be just how impressive your intended prey really is.
2: Nature is Metal, and So Are You
Your second—and biggest—surprise will be just how impressive you are. There is a moment in hunting when you decide that this, here and now, is when you will harvest your animal. In that moment, your intellect will remain with you, but it will take a backseat as your instincts take over.
If you were cold before, you are warm now. If you were bored before, you are fascinated now. If you were nervous before, you are confident now. All questions are gone. In that moment, there is no mortgage, no daycare, no demanding boss; there is only the vast, inimical backdrop of Nature and the tiny pinpoint of will and steel that is you.
There is very little that will make you feel as small and insignificant as spending time alone against the vast backdrop of Nature. There is also very little that will make you feel as empowered and confident as realizing that you faced Nature…and came out on top. (And luckily, you won’t have to run for 18 straight hours to make that happen like our foremothers did.)
3. Food You Harvest Yourself Tastes Better
They say that hunger is the best spice, but this writer disagrees; in my experience, the best spice is pride. Just as the tomatoes you grow in your backyard taste better than store-bought, meat you personally harvested tastes better.
Yes, that even applies if you field-dressed and butchered the animal yourself. We’re not going to lie to you; the process of doing that can be gross until you get used to it. (The good news is that we women are frequently called upon to do things that are kind of gross until you get used to them, and therefore we tend to get used to them faster.) However, that in-the-moment disgust response will evaporate as soon as you’re done…and then it’s time for venison.
There is nothing that tastes better than fresh backstraps, seared in a cast-iron pan with olive oil and cracked black pepper over a campfire. That’s because what you’re tasting isn’t just healthy protein. You’re tasting the culmination of millions of years of evolution, and celebrating your role as its apex predator.