By John Warren
“Problem solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure, and we are born to it.” – Thomas Harris
My first big game rifle was a Model 70, chambered in 30-06, a classic hand-me-down rifle. Eventually, I would trade it for a Remington 700 modeled after my first sniper rifle in the Army, the M24A1. Such a massive improvement from the ol’ Woodie I grew up with. With that rifle, I learned what absolute precision could be and, with it, the dedication it took to master it. The switch from hunting four-legged critters to two-legged men pushed me into manhood.
Personally, or professionally, I’ve been in the field with a bolt-action rifle for the last 21 years, and I have realized that hunting is a sliding scale. Not every hunt requires stiff mountain boots and lightweight equipment. Sometimes it takes an open-top high back and an old double lock, or a tree stand and slug gun. They are all equally important.
Some of you reading this could give two fucks about mountain hunting. Similar lessons can be learned walking sagebrush and shooting grouse, arguably more fun than slogging up cold alpine slopes looking for Muleys. Still, mountain hunting remains the most challenging, both physically and mentally. There are days you must really dig deep to make it happen. You will be sore and tired without success, and if it all comes together, you get a heavy reward in your pack and a long walk back to the hooch.
This is a life lesson that needs to be learned in modern society. Many believe that once they have accomplished their goal, the work is over, only to realize too late that the real challenge wasn’t the journey to the goal. It is the responsibility that comes after they achieve it. Hunting is a perfect modality to teach the lesson of responsibility. We have all heard of hunters leaving meat to spoil because of poor planning. “How irresponsible,” we always say. I feel the exact sentiment watching societies attempt to cripple traditional values and hobbies.
Currently, 18.6 million children grow up without their fathers, much like I did. Now, hunters make up 4.6 percent of our population. That’s a 5.5 million decline from the 1980s (Everything was better in the 80s). I know that’s hard to believe, especially when your hunt gets busted by an asshole in a truck and trails feel more crowded than ever. So why should you give a fuck? Well, our way of life is declining, and with it, the public’s understanding of the western model for conservation. More so, it is the loss of opportunity for Americans to really experience a crucible.
People who grow up without a crucible are at risk of going through life without facing a challenge that truly tests them. They will grow up soft, thinking that words are violence and that it’s okay to riot when they don’t get their way. They will get “triggered” by discourse and need safe spaces to deal with everyday life. In other words, they won’t be very good at being American.
The pursuit of wild game gives us repeated opportunities to not quit and to solve complex problems with minimal help, all while learning skills that go beyond surface-level mastery. First and foremost, the best hunters I know are masters of themselves. These are dedicated fathers, husbands, and friends. They are men of service, often working jobs critical to the economy. They are stewards of the land and care about their impact on their environment.
While the current status quo is passively existing, every one of these men lives intentionally, which requires disciplined critical thinking. This needs to be taught to our youth and many men in my peer group. For reference, I am 34. As it stands now, I have taken seven men hunting for the first time, many of which have young children at home. The changes I have witnessed in these men through their hunter’s journey has been a genuine gift.
For some, it started with taking control of their health. For others, it was mastering the rifle or being comfortable navigating challenges in the backpack country. Nonetheless, one word can describe where they all had to start…. you guessed it, responsibility.
If you are reading this and you have the skill or the want to impact your community and generations after you, then find a person and take them hunting. The reward for your effort goes beyond meat on the table or a trophy on the wall. It’s a life well lived in pursuit of bettering your common man, shared through one of the oldest forms of human effort: hunting.