No one escapes progress, and hunting appears to be no exception. But I’d be hard-pressed to call the changes in hunting progress. This tech-heavy world of scopes and trail cameras and ATVs has altered the essence of hunting so much it’s hardly recognizable to what we did fifty, forty, even thirty years ago. And it makes me wonder — where did all the real hunters go?
I remember, as a young man, being thoroughly impressed by the hunter who handle themselves under any circumstances. They could saddle their horses, field dress their game, and find their way back to camp by following the stars. They could truly be a part of nature during their hunting experiences, and that level of immersion gave way to a deep respect for wildlife. These were tough, honorable men, and they were a worthy representation of both the West and this great country.
Fast forward to today, and those tough, honorable men are far more likely to be the guides, outfitters, and scouts working on behalf of the clients. The experience has been sanitized to the point that today’s modern hunter really only needs to write a big check and book a flight.
Even worse, technological advancements have replaced what were once vital skills for both hunting and survival. Very few people hike, walk, or ride a horse as part of their hunting experience — an idea that would have been downright laughable in years past. Now, there have all-terrain vehicles and quads to ferry clients out to the field and back. There are trail cameras that work 24/7 and feed the images directly to a device, so you can do your scouting from the comfort of your sofa with the game on and your chips and beer at hand. What we used to call scouting expeditions bear no resemblance to this at all. Today’s hunter is also equipped with spotting scopes and rifle scopes that can leave them a thousand feet from their prey. To me, this is nothing short of sniper equipment. The idea of stalking, getting close, paying attention to the wind, and all the nuances and subtleties of outwitting your prey has been completely erased by technology. I fear that respect for both the hunt and the animals themselves has likewise disappeared, making room for ego and machismo.
There are always extremes, and this paints a picture of hunting at its very worst. But it’s certainly not true of all hunters. I know there are some extremely tough young hunters who pride themselves on hunting with their skills and knowledge of the animal and environment instead of the latest and greatest technology and modern convenience. Still, it seems that the vast majority no longer understands what a tremendous gift it is to pit themselves against nature — and survive.