I learned how to build a wooden blue bird house at the age of four, with the supervision of my grandpa. In one summer, my grandpa and I must have hung about 50 total blue bird houses scattered all across our family farm. Every other day he would take me on our red four wheeler to peek inside them to see if any birds had started to build their nests or lay their eggs. Thousands and thousands of blue birds have hatched out of those little wooden boxes we made so long ago. My love for conservation flourished at such a young age and I never realized it.
Hunters, fishers, and trappers are construed to be these mass killers with no end goal. We are attacked on the daily basis for doing the thing we love, but can we really be mad at the people that just don’t understand us? I could understand why people look at us this way if they have not had the opportunity to experience it like I have. Many of the anti hunters today have simply never been taught about our purpose, especially our impact on conservation. Hunters are among the largest group of conservationists and have contributed billions of dollars to our habitat and wildlife. Where is this money coming from you may wonder? As an outdoorsman we don't get to just pick up our guns or bows and head out to the woods. We have to buy our hunting licenses, tags, stamps, etc. which can be hundreds of dollars depending on where and what we are hunting. This money all goes back to wildlife management and hunter's safety education classes. By conserving a healthy wildlife and habitat we ensure that populations are maintained, and the animals are able to flourish in the environment that they are in. I could continue to give you a science lesson on conservation but instead I’d like to share with you my experiences.
I grew up learning to treat the animals we have harvested with respect and to never waste the meat. Always make sure it’s a clean ethical shot, and practice before you enter the arena. As an outdoorsman we have shed blood, sweat, and tears into the outdoors. Hunting brings out such a competitive drive and love in you that you never even knew existed. We plant the crops in the summer which allows for the animals to have food when the harsh winters come. Without population control these animals would not be able to stand the winters as there would simply not be enough food. Fishermen catch and eat fish from ponds so they can stay balanced and overpopulation does not occur. My dad is a big time trapper and has taught me how trapping reduces predator populations in order to increase ground nesting birds and other wildlife. Trapping can also help decrease the damage of crops and agriculture. Outdoorsman plant native species and remove any invasive plants or animals that are causing harm to the habitat. In the springtime we prepare for mating season by putting straw in the goose and duck boxes. As conservationist we continuously think about the wildlife and how to make their habitat fit their needs so they can successfully raise their young.
I am not by any means an expert; these are just the things I have learned in the twenty-three years I have lived. This is my normal. I grew up engulfed in the outdoors. Barefoot jumping on the hay bales and chasing the chickens in my grandparents' yard. All I ever wanted to be was outside listening to the birds or picking morel mushrooms in the spring. I'll never forget my first wood duck; it was my tenth birthday and duck season just opened up. Dad and I were just about to pack up our gear when a single came into the flooded corn. He was double banded with a $100 reward engraved on one of the bands and is mounted right above our fireplace.
You know what it is like to be emotionally attached to a person? I have literally felt that way towards a whitetail deer. Yeah, it might sound weird but if you hunt you may understand what I am talking about. I hunted a deer all of last year named Mr. Perfect. My family and I watched him for eight years straight. A perfect mature typical ten that made your heart beat out of your chest whenever you got the opportunity to be in his presence. He was clever. Mr. Perfect would watch from the tree line as the foolish two-year-old bucks ran into the food plot unaware. This wasn't his first rodeo, he knew better. After 60 days of tracking his every move, I finally came within fifteen yards of him and as my heart was pounding and my body was shaking, I thought to myself, that this was it, but as quick as he stepped onto the trail he ran off. I was so mad; I punched the tree I was sitting in like a teenage boy who just lost a game of fortnite. Mr. Perfect had won, and he deserved it. Hunting is not about the kill, it is about the challenge of the hunt, and the ability to put that clever deer in check mate. You see hunting is a journey and the harder it is the sweeter the success feels.
If it was easy to hunt mature whitetails or shoot a limit of mallard drakes everyone would do it. It takes failure to become the outdoorsman you dream of. We get so giddy watching those mallard ducks land into the flooded corn we planted the season before, and we feel sick to our stomach whenever we don't make that perfect shot on the deer we were after. The meat we obtain from our hunt will last us months and prevent us from going to the grocery store. We protect the animals we hunt from poachers and cherish being able to go outside to breathe in the fresh air around us. If you are new to the outdoors, I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone and do something outside, read a new article, go hiking, or even go to your local archery shop for the first time. To my fellow outdoorsman, be opened minded to learning new things, don't ever lose sight of why you fell in love with the outdoors, and welcome newcomers with open arms.
I am excited to bring these experiences to the Barstool community as you follow my journey around the country. Barstool Outdoors is coming out with new merchandise and new content! Be ready for what's to come, it's about to be a wild ride!