Why Do Americans Go Deer Hunting?
In my previous post, I talked about the “whats” and “hows” of deer hunting. More interesting for many readers are the “whys.” Why do Americans hunt? Most countries in Europe and Asia have very limited hunting. Some of that has to do with limited wilderness habitat for wild game. Correspondingly, access to hunting licenses, guns, and open land is expensive, which restricts hunting to only the wealthy or connected.
With so much open land available, European immigrants to the United States have a 400-year heritage of hunting—originally for food, but eventually also for sport. Fathers and sons have engaged in this activity for generations. And this tradition also extends to women who enjoy outdoor sporting activity. (According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 16 percent of the nation’s 20 million hunters are female.)
So, why do so many Americans go into the woods every year after spending thousands of dollars on hunting equipment, food, lodging, travel, and vacation time? According to Jimmy, who learned hunting from the older men in the family, there are three main reasons, which he lists in this order:
1. Family time
2. The stories and memories
3. The hunt itself
Primary for this 30-something father of three was the time spent with the other males in the family, a break from everyday life. This was especially memorable because of his grandfather, “who spent so much time with you as a boy, teaching you his hobby and passing along a wealth of knowledge about more than hunting or fishing, but about life’s lessons. Lessons he could only teach you in the mountains of Pennsylvania or the outer reaches of the forest in Michigan’s U.P. [Upper Peninsula].” On hunting trips, his grandpa used to joke that they were so far out in the woods that they were on their way back in.
Jimmy continues, “It is about taking those lessons and passing them on to my sons and doing it in the only place I know, the outdoors.” Part of being in the outdoors fosters a sense of freedom for a boy. Jimmy remembers it this way, “It is about there being no rules. When I was a kid, [Grandpa] would pick us up on a Friday and drop us off back at home on Sunday night. We never had to eat if we didn’t want to eat, we could drink Mountain Dew all day, and we never ever had to brush our teeth or take a shower. We could build a fort or cross the creek or cut down trees or do whatever we wanted.”