Being a diehard hunter is commendable. But sometimes it’s healthy to step away for a while.
It’s a classic case of keeping up with the Joneses. Being tuned into the hunting community, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that anything less than rabid zealotry for all things hunting at all times makes you a second-class sportsman. We celebrate and idolize those who hunt the most frequently, pursue the most diverse species, travel to the most exclusive and exotic habitats, and bag the biggest and most game. Anything less, we begin to think, makes us inferior hunters. So many of us strive to keep up, even if we’re limited by available time and budget. The unfortunate reality is that keeping up is not always possible—or even preferable. Sometimes, to maintain a healthy hunting/life balance, we may (gasp!) even need to occasionally taking a break from hunting altogether.
Some people pursue their passions with an unflagging energy and singular focus, so enthusiastic that it consumes their every waking moment. I am not that person. I have a few core hobbies I return to and genuinely enjoy—hunting included—but I could never do any of them constantly. For me, such a fanatical obsession would actually diminish my enjoyment. It would start to feel more like a job or obligation than an escape.
Yet I still find myself signing up for numerous hunting trips each year and making big plans to fill every free weekend year round with hunting-related activities. Much of that stems from boredom during the winter months leading to me overcommitting, but sometimes it feels compulsory—as though my hunting buddies will give me grief if I don’t, I’ll end up regretting not going when pictures of trophies start to show up on my social media feed, and worst of all, I won’t feel like a serious hunter if I let off the gas. The fact is, though, a little time off every now and again actually revitalizes my passion for the outdoors. I just need to give myself permission to take it.
There’s no shame in being a casual hunter. It doesn’t diminish your place in the community or make you less of a hunter in any respect. There’s nothing wrong with skipping turkey season every now and again, for instance. The turkeys—and the other hunters—will certainly appreciate you sitting one out. Or when deer season rolls around, maybe you resolve to hunt opening weekend and then, whether you fill your tag or not, call it a year. Not only is taking a break good for you to do occasionally, it can be good for game, too. For instance, a viable argument can be made that those who hunt every day of duck season, and continue to harvest birds for months on end, are unduly stressing the duck population with their dogged enthusiasm for the sport. Moderation isn’t a dirty word.
When hunting fatigue starts setting in, take a little time off. Engage other parts of your brain by pursuing different or hunting-adjacent hobbies and interests. Maybe try your hand at handloading or gun-stock checkering. Join a trap team or give three-gun shooting a try. Don’t hesitate to schedule a camping trip with the family instead of spending a weekend bird hunting, or choose to enjoy an extended holiday right in the middle of deer season. If we’re doing our part as a hunting community, the game will still be there for you next season.