By Aaron Farley

For now, I’m the only member of my family that hunts. If you take all of my wife’s relatives and mine (one step removed – parents, siblings, children) and put them all in a room, there would be 12 of us – and I’m the only one who hunts for food.

I am the only one who gets up hours before daylight and endures everything from militant attacks from mosquitoes to iced toe-sicles. I am the only one who practices shooting for hours on end, who drags 150 lbs of future roast through the woods for what seems like miles, and who spends weeks worth of hours in the woods every year. Yet, the rewards for my efforts are much farther reaching than my own pride and belly.

In a lot of ways, I do hunt for my own selfish reasons. The woods are a peaceful refuge for me, like they are for most hunters. I like to lay my hands on trophy animals and brag to my friends about this hunt or that encounter. Success in the field builds a lot of confidence and fortitude in a man, but there are also peripheral benefits that often go overlooked.

Because I am a hunter, my family and friends get to share in something that is both a base element of human civilization and at the same time a uniquely ignored way of life. Only 6-7% of American adults today are “hunters”. Yet  hunting has existed as long as humans have, and has lead to the development of whole civilizations and cultures. Some even make the argument that language developed as a way for hunting parties to organize their efforts. Incredibly still today, in non-industrialized nations, whole villages benefit from and depend on the activity of their resident hunters. While the scenery is quite different here, modern America stands to benefit from it’s society of hunters as well. Here are a few of the benefits that come to those I love because I hunt:

1      A Connection with Food.
We are living at a time and place in history where people can live their whole lives, from the cradle to the cane, and never be forced to think about how they get their food. Hunting as a way of life is fading away thanks to boxed, bagged, and drive-through food. Since my family helps me process the game I kill, they get a first hand knowledge of where and how they get their food. Just the other day, while driving home, I asked my kids what they wanted for dinner and my 4 year old said simply, “squirrel.” When we see a majestic turkey, we say not only, “how beautiful” but also,“yummy!”

2      Living Through the Stories.
I’m not quite ready to turn my three little guys loose in the woods just yet. Until then, they love to ask me questions and hear the stories of how each hunting trip unfolded. They like to look at the deer when I bring them home and help me skin it. My wife is not exactly eager to sit in a tree stand or drudge through muck, but she likes seeing the animals close up and hearing about events that led them to the bed of my truck. Our family and friends look forward to the first turkey of the year and a big party we have to celebrate. Although none of them go out with me, I can’t help but feel that although I head out alone, on some deeper level, we are all going.

3      Identifying with the Lifestyle.
To us, hunting is more of a lifestyle than a trip or an event. It is about partaking in the same experiences shared by mankind since the beginning of time and about being responsible for our own food. It is about living in the freedoms and riches of the great outdoors, while sharing that experience with our friends and family. My wife has a husband that provides (literally) for our family, my kids have a dad who can teach them to do the same, my family gets to enjoy the harvest, and our friends gain a perspective on sustenance and survival they may not have seen otherwise. Hunting as a lifestyle is about living in tune with the very basic necessity for life – food.

When I hunt, I am not just trying to put a nice whitetail rack on the wall or to pose in a picture with big gobbler fan. I am connecting my life, and by association, my friends’ and families’ lives, with our ancestry. Since I am in the woods and sharing those experiences, others are getting a wider perspective and a deeper appreciation for the connection between the food we eat and the life we live.

So when you take to the woods, why are you doing it? Who in your life is richer because you are out there?

– Aaron Farley, HUNT. EAT. MAKE STUFF. – with