Hunting and harvesting – are they the same thing? Two sides of the same coin? Does anyone really care? I do, and I think everyone else should too.
I know a lot of people don’t share my opinion, and even among hard core, lifelong hunters, many believe the differences are not much more than subtle, semantics, and that regardless of the dictionary definition differences, further parsing the two is fruitless. They are really just two words that describe a similar action.
I absolutely disagree though and see a world of difference in the two.
To me hunting encompasses so much more than the short moment in time when an animal is actually taken. Hunting is a way of experiencing the world in a way that no other outdoor activity allows. It is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and behaviorally transformative. If you will let it, it will expose you to, and allow you to become, the absolute best version of yourself. Harvesting is an important part of a hunt that we all hope to have happen, but a harvest is not a hunt.
I should be clear. I absolutely believe harvesting has value, and I would never condemn someone for heading out to the woods for only the practical purpose of putting fresh, organic, healthy protein on the dinner table.
But why stop there when hunting has so much more to offer?
This isn’t an argument for or against high, low, or no fences, nor is it a discussion about whether the word “harvesting” is more politically correct or acceptable than the word “kill”. This is more about the state of mind and the experience someone seeks when they make the decision to pursue game in the outdoors.
Hunting, real hunting, however adventurous you may be, or with whatever limitations you may put on it, challenges you, and should make you question everything you thought you knew and all of your arbitrary assumptions every time you pursue new quarry or experience a new hunting location. You can’t really learn about an animal’s environment, its behavior, how it responds to certain conditions, or even how you will respond or react to those conditions in a book or on TV. You only obtain that knowledge and understanding by actually going out and experiencing it.
When my husband and I hunt, whether close to home or when traveling, we like to “live like a local” and be as close to and in tune with the habitat as possible. I want to take in every smell, see every blade of grass, and hear every chirp and call the birds and small game in the area make. I want to figure out how all of these things interface and why things are the way they are. I think this not only gives me a much better chance of actually harvesting an animal, but it also allows me to truly immerse myself in the experience and appreciate everything the outdoors has to provide.
Sitting quietly for a few minutes with eyes wide open doesn’t just give me an opportunity to listen and look for that B&C buck we all want to encounter in the woods. It also allows me to reflect on and appreciate the incredible wonders that God has bestowed us all in nature.
Breaking new trail up a steep hillside trying to find the perfect spot to glass for elk isn’t just another chance to burn some calories and get in an alternative workout for the day. It’s a moment in time that I can challenge myself and accomplish something difficult and arduous, and feel proud that I made it to the top.
I love being a hunter. Hunting as given me so many wonderful gifts and allowed me to see the world through an entirely different set of eyes that simple harvesting never could.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a nice venison steak as much as the next girl, and think harvesting is a pretty incredible experience in and of itself. I’m just advocating that if you haven’t done it before, make a point the next time you head off in hopes of landing an animal for the freezer, whether it be an antelope, turkey, deer, or dove, to seize the opportunity and allow yourself to be thrilled and left in awe and amazement of everything else going on around you and all of the nuances and details involved in a hunt.
Here’s to hoping your next hunting experience, and every one that follows, is the adventure of a lifetime.
– Huntress in Heels