“Harvest The Experience”
I was recently listening to the Hunting Collective podcast hosted by Ben O’Brien and he was interviewing the wildlife conservation writing legend Jim Posewitz. Posewitz is the author of the wildlife conservation masterpiece Beyond Fair Chase as well as a number of notable pieces on nature and our connections with nature through hunting and conservation efforts. Some other works by Posewitz includes “Rifle In Hand,” “Inherit The Hunt” and his most recent work, his own autobiography “My Best Shot.” As the interview progressed, Posewitz began to speak about a mule deer that he successfully hunted in his early twenties that was now hanging on his wall in his Montana home. He went on to say that the impressive mule deer was still the largest mule deer he had ever shot despite now being in his 80’s. What was most impressive to me was what he said next.
He went onto explain that he never officially scored the deer and didn’t have any interest in doing so. The reason being is that the experience of the hunt was what truly mattered to him and he didn’t want to “degrade” the experience by putting some kind of numerical value on the hunt. Posewitz continued to explain that we, as hunters today, have lost the ability to simply enjoy a hunt and “harvest the experience.”
He is right. Posewitz, in all of his wisdom and experience, is right. Generally speaking, hunters have gotten away from the camaraderie of the hunt. We have gotten away from the joy that comes from hunting a wild animal and having the opportunity to use that animal in a way that is honorable and respectful. The animal is instantly assigned a number on some subconscious scale that hunters have developed over the decades. And in this process, the experience, no matter how enjoyable, no matter how educational, or no matter the bonds that we are able to develop with other hunters, has been reduced to a quantifiable measure rather than a significant life experience.
I have seen young hunters, barely in high school, be visibly disappointed in successfully hunting and shooting a small, young buck. I have heard the infinite number of hunters say, “He would probably have been bigger next year,” almost like it was some kind of script that the hunting society wants you to say after shooting a buck. But it is our job to enjoy the hunt, nobody else can do it for us. As the current generation of hunters, there will be a time that we will be responsible for passing the torch to the next generation. What kind of example are we leaving for them when we are “degrading” someone else’s or even our own kill? Its a problem we have created and its one we can fix.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a much different experience to be able to harvest a mature buck but there is a reason that this experience is so special. And that is because it doesn’t happen too often. Posewitz shot his largest mule deer buck in his early 20’s and still hasn’t (and probably never will) harvest a larger buck. This is something we must keep in mind when we decide to pass on a game animal because our friends on Facebook shot a bigger one or your 1,000 followers on Instagram “expect” you to get a big buck this year.
It’s our job to reignite the joy of the opportunity to hunt in a country that is one of the best in the world at providing hunters with quality hunting experiences and opportunities. It’s our job to “harvest the experience.”