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The question of why we hunt is commonly asked. The answer is really very simple. We hunt because we are designed to do it. Hunting is deeply imbedded in the human DNA. It is how we fulfill the first – and all – of the three primary aspects of survival – sustenance, shelter, and sex. These needs are the underlying goal of the show Naked and Afraid, a show where a man and woman are forced into the wilderness and must survive on their own. Generally the first two priorities take precedence for the contestants and the third – much to the dissatisfaction of producers and viewers – is never realized.
We hunt because we must but what is hunting about. Some will offer it is about camaraderie. This is understandable; most of us prefer to hunt with friends. Humans are pack animals and from the beginning hunted that way because it greatly increased success. Today, to some extent that can be true, but with modern weaponry strength in numbers is not necessary except on the battlefield. Still, some of my most memorable hunts have been because I was with others like my wife, daughter, and son.
Then there is the idea that we hunt to interact with nature. This too is a very enjoyable aspect of hunting. I’ve seen, felt, heard, and smelled things while hunting that are forever engrained in my memory. Like the time I fed a Newfoundland fox my ham sandwich, listened to red stags rumble the German country side like trolls, smelled the pristine smell of wilderness on the River of No Return, and stood yards from more than a hundred African buffalo, all looking at me like I’d slept with their old lady.
Securing food of course is the primary endeavor of the hunter. The food nature can supply us with is protein rich, totally organic, and tasteful. Rough grouse roasted over a campfire will warm the soul, pronghorn steaks grilled medium rare will satisfy the pallet, and eland back strap cooked over warm coals will make your knees weak. I’d be derelict in my mention of wild foods if I did not also describe the delicacy of squirrel gravy and biscuits the way only my father can make it.
But will all those good reasons to hunt; hunting is really all about the shot. Hunters work endlessly in preparation for the shot. The meticulously assemble their gear, weapons, and ammunition, Work tirelessly on the range, hike over hill and dale, brave all Mother Nature can throw at them, and run, crawl, creep, and slither, into position to make the shot. For without the shot the campfire camaraderie is a little less exciting. Without the opportunity for the shot, the memories are a little hard to recall. And of course, the wild protein is impossible to taste.
“No,” you say, “I hunt for the experience, not the shot.” Well then pilgrim, just leave your rifle at home. For you see, without the possibility a shot may materialize, and without the equipment to make that shot, you are not hunting; you’re just walking around in the woods.
Yes, hunting is all about the shot: preparing for it, searching for it, and making it. For that reason and regardless of your weapon of choice, hunters should continually prepare for the shot. If you make it – if you secure that sustenance – and if you have a tent, cave, or hole to crawl into, you can then focus on that last element of survival, and life gets a lot more interesting.
Maybe the producers of Naked and Afraid should give their unclothed contestants a course in shooting, a gun or bow, and a tent. Then, each episode might be a bit more, um… exciting. Of course, it will still be all about the shot or they will starve to death and intimate contact will never cross their minds.