By Aaron Farley:

The time of year we ache for is finally here. Weekend trips to hunting properties are getting more exciting as the anticipation for the season builds. My friends out west are already talking about early season hunts and I’m chomping at the bit to get my first damp morning of the year in a Georgia oak. I impatiently wait for hunting season like a 3 year old waiting on the potty. Yet, at the same time I hope it comes slowly because once it starts, it will soon be over.

Hunting season brings with it all kinds of abnormalities for me. Under normal circumstances, I would never wake up at 4 am, sit in the rain, or endure bugs feasting on my flesh.  I get excited as I think ahead to afternoons spent staring into brush trying to detect an outline, and packing a less than gourmet lunch into a camo bag. One hunter captured this irony well when he said to his hunting partner,

“You know, I left a perfectly good naked woman in a warm bed this morning to come here with you today.”

Our pursuit is perplexing. Why would a man choose to hunt when there is perfectly tasty meat already butchered and pre-packaged at 7 different grocery stores within a 30 minute drive? Why do we chase after a wild animal when domestic livestock is an option? What drives a man into the wilderness away from the comforts of modern living? Why work so hard for something that could be replaced easily?

Hunting always requires work

There are easier ways to eat. Waking up at 4 AM never gets easy, so why do we bother?

It’s very specific and yet diverse, this idea of hunting. These days, it can look like a lot of different things. Hunters today often consider themselves as much land managers as they do woodsmen. Some hunters have thousands of acres meticulously groomed as prime habitat, while others hope for success on pressured public land and small suburban parcels. Whatever form hunting takes, it’s hard work.

Right now, hunters from across the country know the exact number of days until season opens. Trail cameras are out and generating work-stopping intel. Men who complain all year about getting up before dawn for work will gladly race the sunrise in order to be in a tree before the deer bed down for the day. This fall, a ton of money will pass hands and an entire industry will sustain itself on this one pursuit – the hunt.

The work involved in hunting is just about as diverse as the hunters themselves. There are food plots to plant, topo maps to dissect, trips to coordinate, and stands to hang. Hunters will spend hours honing their gear and skills this year in preparation for a few seconds of action. For those of us who take this seriously, hunting is hard work.

It’s the unknown that makes it Hunting

It’s hard because so many factors are unknown. We don’t know what we don’t know. Will the animals be there this weekend? Has someone already killed the big 8? Is it going to be raining? Windy? Will a cold front change everything? Is my scope going to hold up? Will my cam snag a branch and de-rail the bow string?

It’s all the unknowns and the hardness that comes with them that makes it hunting, and that’s fine with us. Otherwise, we’d be farmers – right?

If we knew the deer would show up and stand on the “x” at a certain time, we wouldn’t enjoy it like we do. That kind of situation wouldn’t infatuate us, create a longing in our hearts, or bring us back again. It’s easy to wish things were easier and that success was more regular, but we don’t really want that in the long run. Afternoons when nothing seems to go according to plan often provoke us more than afternoons when we fill a tag. Hunting is hard, and that’s just how we like it. After all, a trophy that comes easy isn’t really a trophy now is it?

To quote this video from Kid President, “Two roads diverged in the wood, I took the road less traveled. AND IT HURT MAN! …not cool Robert Frost.”

We are after the Hunt more than the animal

We can’t hunt unless there is an animal to chase. But in the end, it’s not the animal we are after. It’s the pursuit. That’s what draws us back every season. When we embrace the joy of the hunt, more than the success of the kill, we are finally getting to the heart of the matter. The difficulty of the hunt is not an obstacle that stands in the way, but the end itself.

Whether it’s a particular Moby Dick 10 pointer, or the herd as a whole, we love to chase. We are hunters, not killers. We identify ourselves with the process more than the goal, and that’s no mistake. The next time you are tempted to spend an afternoon in stand regretting the stillness, remember the journey is the point and the animal is a bonus.

I know it doesn’t sound logical – that we are hunting the hunt more than the end result, but it’s true. If that’s not the case, why don’t you just erect a pen in your back yard and raise your own livestock?

Now get out there, have fun, and enjoy the HUNT itself this season.

Why do you hunt? What draws you back? Am I wrong about this whole thing? Are you really in it for the antlers and you don’t enjoy the process as much as the end result? Let us know in the comments section below.

– Aaron Farley,