If I could give only one piece of advice to novice hunters, it would be this: Prepare for failure. This is not the most uplifting way to start an article, I know. No one likes to fail. Indeed, most hunting articles, including those I write, focus on how to be successful. But coming home empty handed is inevitable in the pursuit of wild game. Keeping your spirits up through the process of trial an error is a vital, though often unspoken aspect of learning to hunt.
Becoming a hunter changed the way I experience the wilderness.
You see, before I was a hunter I was a backpacker. And before I was a backpacker I was just an outdoorsy kid from the suburbs of Massachusetts. In my youth, the wild served as a backdrop – the set for my latest made-up adventure movie, starring me. The wild was my playground. In those early days, I saw myself as distinctly separate from the rest of the natural world.
If you want to give someone a visual cue that you hunt, inviting them into your home where you have heads mounted on your wall will likely be very effective. However, if you’d like to signal — outside your home — that you culturally identify as a hunter, arguably the most effective way is to wear camouflage clothing. Donning camo, especially as part of one’s daily wardrobe, has become a strong signal of cultural identity, a clear lifestyle choice. Nothing screams “I like to hunt” quite like a camo hat worn to the mall.
I bet I look ridiculous right now, I thought to myself. Nick and I were sitting in full camouflage in the middle of an open pasture of National Forest. A herd of cows was approaching from the west, and they didn’t seem to see us. Eventually, the cows started to surround the rocks we were sitting on top of, just ten yards away, many of them looking straight at us. They must see us, I reasoned. We stayed still and they carried on with their grazing. Were they indifferent, or just unaware? To find out, Nick stood up. The cows immediately reacted with mild panic, scattering away with great haste.
Was it the brand new camo I was wearing? Had my new outfit turned me into a backcountry ninja? Or just a (much less impressive) cow ninja?
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about hunting camouflage over the last few years. I’ll examine how animal vision and perception inform camo selection, outline the pros and cons of different camo styles, and share my favorite camo tips.
The other night a few friends gathered around our kitchen table to share the first piece of backstrap from my very first deer. It was a beautiful and delicious experience that, just six years ago, I never would have imagined happening in my life. I didn’t grow up hunting and neither did Nick. In fact, up through early adulthood I didn’t know a single person who hunted. I didn’t know a single person who even owned a gun or a bow.
Now in my late 20’s, here I am — a new hunter with a new blog. There’s certainly no shortage of hunting websites and blogs out there. Was there really need for another? I think the answer is ‘yes’, and here’s why.
“Oh gross! Did you see how that guy had the head of some deer he killed mounted right next to his dinner table? That is so weird. It’s… like… cult-ish or something. You’d have to be pretty sick to want to look at the face of some animal you killed all day (shudder).”
Are some non-lead bullet options, like these copper bullets from Barnes, possibly toxic?
Lead is toxic to humans and the environment. This fact — rooted in solid scientific evidence — is the source of much debate among hunters and shooters. Many claim that the science isn’t settled or is wrong, oftentimes relaying personal anecdotes about how they’ve eaten animals shot with lead ammo for years and haven’t noticed any ill effects. Others attest that the notion that lead is toxic is merely a ploy to further regulate hunting and shooting sports. But the science behind the toxicity of lead is sound. Lead harms the nervous and reproductive systems in the human body and accumulates in and harms animals and their ecosystems. Really, it isn’t something we should be tossing into the environment in large quantities. It also is certainly something we don’t want to be eating.1
In response to its proven toxicity, lead ammunition is in the process of being slowly phased out. However, when lead is phased out, other materials will be phased in. How safe are these primary substitutes and how well do they work? Are non-lead bullets toxic too? I wanted to know the answer to these questions to make sure that I could harvest wild animals humanely while minimizing ammunition-based contamination of the meat and the environment. Unfortunately, some of what I found in my research is rather concerning.
Enjoying the outdoors via hunting should be equally open to everyone.
When I asked a friend to name the first famous hunter they could think of, they replied ‘Ted Nugent’. When asked for the next, they replied: ‘Dick Cheney’. ‘George Bush’. ‘Teddy Roosevelt.’ And so on. What was and is very clear is that hunting has traditionally been associated with white1 men who are politically conservative. The mere sight of a liberal president shooting a gun creates a buzz. Plainly, liberals are not associated with hunting and many conservatives seem to like it that way. Lots of liberal groups actively distance themselves from hunting by either not supporting the activity or by denouncing it, turning hunting into a divisive political wedge issue. Must hunters be conservative and male? The simple answer is: ‘No’. There are very good reasons for both liberals and conservatives and men and women alike to support and take up hunting.
So, I’m a hunter—and that means I’m a killer. I end the lives of wild animals to consume them. For a human, being a killer is a pretty common thing to be, at least from a historical standpoint. But, today killing—especially direct killing—seems to arouse a host of emotional reactions in people. Some find it admirable that I kill and consume my own food. Some seem to find it a little distasteful, though being too polite, they’ll never really communicate this distaste. And some others are quite extreme and open in their disapproval: the willingly chosen blood on my hands causes them to respond with vitriol, to disparage the act of direct killing and those who take part in it—namely me.
But when I kill, I do it for a purpose. I kill because it is a more ethical way to live. As contradictory as that may sound on the face of it, it’s true.