By Andrew Tucker
How does a tradition start? How many of them are you able to trace back to their beginnings? How long does it need to go on for it to actually be considered a tradition?
While it’s hard to answer these questions for most traditions, I can at least answer the first one for what I am trying to accomplish; making hunting a tradition for myself and my family going forward.
This obviously isn’t a new concept. Millions of families having a history of hunting; be it grandpas, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Mine is no different. My grandfathers, dad and uncles hunted plenty in their youth. I remember going on one hunt with my uncle when I was around 5 years old (which looking back now was probably nothing more than my uncle walking in the woods with his loud-ass nephews thinking we were real hunters). That was the last hunting experience I had until I was in my late-20’s. My family moved to Las Vegas when I was 6, and then I grew up as a traditional city kid.
Once my first daughter was born, my wife and I decided to move out of Las Vegas. We didn’t want to raise our family there. We moved to the Northwest and fell in love with it. I quickly discovered what I had been missing out on with hunting, fishing and all things outdoors. It felt as if a new depth of my soul was unlocked, and I had newfound passions. I can’t imagine ever moving to any place where I would not have these opportunities that I can freely enjoy on public lands. Being able to hop in my truck and drive thirty minutes in any direction and be able to hunt or fish is a blessing I do not take for granted.
Having discovered what nature in general, but more specifically hunting, can do for your mental, spiritual and physical well-being, I know it is my duty to make sure I ingrain and pass that on to my daughters (and later on to grandkids). The sense of freedom, mental clarity, and excitement that you get on the mountain is something that can’t be replicated in a city. No amount of money, lights, entertainment, or other distractions can replicate the inherent freedom one feels while walking through the woods or up on a mountain ridge. Seeing a whole valley below you, or looking out on endless miles of wilderness has a way of putting your individual existence into perspective. This beautiful landscape was here long before me, and will be here after I’m gone, so I better enjoy and appreciate it while I’m here.
Everyone has their own reasons for hunting and what it means to them. For me, the main factors are connecting with nature while getting away from the busyness of everyday life, knowing where your food comes from, and making lasting memories with family. Seeing the forest turn yellow and orange, feeling the chilled air in your face, and hearing the woods come alive as the sun rises have a way of providing a natural therapy and allow you to learn more about yourself than anywhere else. You’re able to push yourself to keep going, not giving up, and put in more work than you thought you could. The silence around you allows one to really think about all aspects of their life, and be thankful for your blessings while also contemplating your next choices in life. There are people that will go their whole lives without ever experiencing what I am able to get throughout the year.
I want to make sure my daughters grow up with that same bond to nature and the wildlife we hunt. To have that primal instinct and connection, and being able to accommodate it is something that should not be taken for granted. Being able to show and experience that with them is what really motivates me. The few times I’ve been able to take them out individually have been more memorable to me than most of my other hunts. When my daughters ask if I’m going hunting and wish me good luck to harvest a deer or elk, it warms my heart to know that that is normal thinking for them. They understand that we eat meat, and where it comes from. We can marvel at their beauty together, while still understanding the circle of life and wanting to have those same animals fill our freezers.
What’s funny is I’m really not good at hunting. I’ve only been doing it for a few years now. I’ve had to try to learn everything in a matter of years that most of you probably grew up learning throughout your childhood. But, my girls don’t know what I don’t know. While I’ve put in countless hours in the field and practicing what I can, there’s only so much you can do each year. The great thing is, I’m able to teach my girls what I know now while they’re young, and as I learn more I can pass that knowledge to them. This is not something that I take lightly. I put in several weeks worth of time each year hunting. But I also understand my limitations and know that it is a never-ending process, especially as an adult onset hunter.
I’ve been blessed to have experienced family members that have helped speed up the learning curve and go out hunting with me. While I am grateful for their knowledge and help, it’s really the time I get to spend with them in the field or just talking about hunting in general that means the most to me. Some of my favorite memories are up on the mountains with my brothers, cousins and uncle. Those are experiences that just can’t be replicated at home or in a city. Those are the same experiences I want my daughters, nieces, and nephews to all have as well. The memories of hunting with your friends and family are something that will stand the test of time. Even the days that just absolutely suck for hunting; be it terrible weather, no sign, a lot of pressure, etc., can all still turn into good memories just by being with family and making the most out of each day.
There’s really nothing I can write about hunting that most hunters don’t already know, or that others who have never hunted will ever understand until they get out there and experience it for themselves. Depending on your views towards hunting, the species you prefer, and the level of commitment you have to the pursuit, your thoughts and experiences can vary greatly from my own. All I know is this is something that I will do for the rest of my life if I’m able to and, more importantly, something that I hope my family continues to enjoy long after I’m gone.
The Western Huntsman thanks Andrew Tucker for submitting this article and are looking forward to more! -Jim Huntsman