To some of us, the hunter hasn’t changed much in the hundreds of thousands of years that have passed since it was an acceptable social title. Waking up under a star-covered sky, grabbing the weapon that is an extension of ourselves, and heading off in the woods in order to feed our family, is our priority. We rough out the weather, terrain, and mental frustration of bagging game in order to provide. There are many of us who experience a lifestyle such as this much like our ancestors did ages ago.
A typical Saturday morning starts with my alarm clock waking up the entire house around 3:00 AM. With the dogs barking, and my wife (Hannah) about to strangle me, I roll out of bed and start getting ready. My wife is a good one and there is no doubt she is the household gatherer. In good faith, and with support I cannot even explain, she knows I must hunt. Though she came from a life where this was not a typical morning, she has adjusted to it well.
When the coffee is ready, I say goodbye and leave into the darkness with the lonely whine of the diesel fading down the driveway. There is one task on my mind most days when I’m leaving my house before sun up – get meat. I am the hunter and I must provide. Call it silly, but I take this to the level of making sure I don’t eat before I hunt. Nearly every morning I enter the woods, it is on an empty stomach. This often reminds me that I’m there for a very primal reason and I feel it helps me make better decisions which are more likely to result in harvesting an animal. I’ll even do this on days I’m after target animals.
Days that I am doing pack-in/out hunts and covering serious amounts of terrain, I will eat on the go in order to properly fuel up and ensure my body doesn’t give up on me. Keeping an eye out for wild edibles during these hunts can be an enjoyable and liberating experience.
Hannah’s Saturdays are much different than mine. She will wake up, make coffee, and take a shower. She then tends to the pack (our 4 dogs) and is out of the door to beat the lines at the local super market. Skimming the isles with list in hand, she gathers everything we need for the week. Depending on the list, she may travel up to 40 miles to get everything we need. This is a bitter sweet part of living where we do in rural Virginia. However, she is the gatherer and she must provide.
No matter the relationship, when under one roof there are two crucial roles to survival – Hunter and Gatherer. Though the literal idea of this is only practiced by a few remote tribes left in this world, the modern spin, combined with the original intentions, can create a positive effect on daily life. By “survival”, I’m referring to a number of things that may fall between the perseverance of life or simply a healthy relationship. A lyrical slogan written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning¹, “It takes two to tango” for Pearl Baileys 1952 recording, says it all. A skilled individual may be able to survive by themselves, but there is no mutual support to maintain it or spread the load.
Thousands of years ago, the one running down the stag may not be the one foraging for sustenance later that day. Doing so would eventually cause burn out, leading to bad decisions that may eventually lead to an untimely death. Today, through agriculture, advances in medicine, and retail, we are able to not only stretch the capabilities of our ancestors, but completely change who we are as humans. I am by no means an Anarcho-primitivism believer or supporter and I’m not condoning we step back into the Stone Age. I do, however, think there are many things we can look at differently to reconnect as humans and live a better life.
I often feel that doing things the hard way, helps keep me sane. The amount of stress and pressure we are put in front of everyday can eventually wear us down, causing frustration and lack of mental acuity. Swinging my splitting maul and axe for endless hours, making enough split logs to heat our home through winter, is hard work. There is no doubt that work like this relieves stress. Hunting with traditional archery equipment is very similar – it’s hard work. Thousands of arrows shot every year, countless hours of research, scouting and planning, all to get within 20 yards of an animal – it’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever done and I absolutely love it. When things get tough, we are forced to step away from our daily distractions and work through the issue. Having to work extremely hard for something also makes accomplishing it that much more meaningful. Though it is the same meat, the deer I harvest with my recurve bow taste better than the ones I have harvested in the past with a compound bow or rifle. It’s definitely a mental thing, but hard work tastes damn good.
Hannah shares some of these ideas in her hobbies. One of her most enjoyed hobbies is baking. When she has the time, her focus goes to making superb sweets and bread that should be considered a form of art rather than a baked good. The best part, she does it all the hard way. Rough ingredients, long recipes and processes, and sometimes plenty of confusion. She is passionate about it, and she would probably also tell you that it keeps her sane.
At the end of my hunts, I thank God for the ability and opportunity to pursue such amazing animals. Upon my return from the woods, Hannah and I will spend the evening together. We will cook our dinner, tend to the flock of birds, and prepare for the next day. Since we don’t see much of each other the rest of the week, we use what time is left to connect and catch up. There is an unspoken understanding between the two of us; we are the hunter and gatherer, and we will survive.