I hunt because I was born to hunt. Because mankind was born to hunt, born to eat meat, born to have dominion over animals.
I hunt because my daddy hunts, because he taught me that life is precious, that we take it seriously, that it’s honorable.
I hunt because nothing smells like an October morning in the woods.
I hunt because I’ve seen the sun rise over a Louisiana marsh, and I want to see it again.
I hunt because meat is delicious, because protein is life-sustaining, because blood on my hands is more honest and more real than plastic and Styrofoam wrapped around a piece of beef.
I hunt because sitting perched in a tree is as close to being a part of the woods as I’ve ever been.
I hunt because those crunching leaves behind me might bring a trophy buck or just another squirrel, but my heart pounds the same.
I hunt because of the way blued steel glints in the sunlight, because even though it might scare a turkey now and then, this is Dad’s gun, and he trusts me with it, and that means something.
I hunt because I’ve heard the roar of a teal’s wings buzzing by, and been smiling too big to mind that they’re already out of range.
I hunt because of the way my breath gets snatched away from me with the flushing of a quail at my feet.
I hunt because venison jerky and a half-frozen Snickers taste like a feast by 10 a.m. opening day. Because cold toes and icy fingers are part of the experience.
I hunt because a gobble on the next ridge over shakes me to the core, because it thunders both awe and excitement into the soul.
I hunt because there are eight faded, worn, red-and-black-checked hunting coats in the basement, all belonging to great men who have gone before, all worthless and priceless.
I hunt because of the intensity in a Labrador Retriever’s eyes as he scans the sky, trying not to tremble with excitement as the mallards make their last pass. Because I’m trembling, too.
I hunt because of my daughter, because she deserves to inherit this tradition, because while other little girls are collecting dolls, she’s collecting turkey feathers and old bullet casings and rocks and squirrel tails. I hunt because she asks “When are you going to make those quail nuggets again?” and because of the three-hour game of “would you rather?” we played in the shooting house that one day last fall. I hunt because we didn’t even see a hog that day, much less kill one, but no one minded.
I hunt because one day she won’t want to spend that much time with me, but right now she still does.
I hunt because of the way it hurt my heart the first time I retrieved a wounded dove and cradled it in my hand, knowing what I had to do but not being sure I could, and knowing my hesitation was unfair.
I hunt because I want to know what’s over that mountain and if I have the strength to climb it.
I hunt because whitetail deer were once almost extinct, and now they’re not, and hunters are responsible for that.
I hunt because of the way a wood duck’s feathers shine in the sunlight, the way a gobbler’s spurred legs look like they belong on a dinosaur, the way you can hear a goose honk before you see the V.
I hunt because snow goose tornadoes are a spectacle unlike any other.
I hunt because recoil is comforting, but punching holes in paper is just practice for the real thing.
I hunt because of the thunk of an arrow, the boom-shick-shick of a shotgun, the snick of a safety clicking off.
I hunt because of the way you can enter a duck blind with a total stranger and leave with a friend.
I hunt because I woke up in Africa one morning, wondering how a country girl from Pennsylvania got here, how anyone could be this lucky.
I hunt because every now and then, hunting takes me to wild places that are still wild, that I hope stay wild forever.
Featured photo courtesy of John Rich & Bros. catalog, originally posted by Archival Clothing.