When tree-huggers hunt: An update on AOH

The spread of Adult-Onset Hunting™ (AOH) continues to worry experts.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Perkins

As noted by this author a year ago—and discussed in his recent profile of three adult-onset hunters and his presentation on his thesis research—precursor conditions and potential warning signs are alarmingly diverse.

The suspected correlation between AOH and food co-op membership has, for instance, been confirmed. Last year, an introductory hunting class was offered at Madison, Wisconsin’s Willy Street Co-op. On February 23rd, another will be offered at the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis.

Of particular concern is a newly identified correlation between AOH and tree-hugging.

Consider the case of “tree-hugging former vegetarian” Christie Aschwanden. Though she is “almost universally opposed to killing things,” she feels strongly about the ethical value of taking responsibility for her food and about the gratitude and reverence that result. So she raises and kills her own poultry. Well aware that “killing is stressful, sad and difficult work,” she isn’t certain she will be able to shoot a deer or elk. But she intends to find out.

Consider the similar case of “tree-hugging wildlife lover” Emilene Ostlind. Though she isn’t sure she wants “to stalk and kill an animal – any animal,” she, too, wants to take responsibility for her food. As she sees it, hunting her own wild meat will bring her “face to face with the reality” of her eating and will also help her be “a good environmentalist” who lives “with as small a footprint as possible.”

Disturbingly, the correlation between hunting and tree-hugging may reach far beyond AOH. This author knows a lifelong hunter, born and raised in Georgia, who says, “I hug trees every day. And sometimes I shoot things out of them.” Likewise, lifelong hunter and wildlife ecology graduate student Karl Malcolm—who taught the aforementioned class in Madison—calls himself a “tree-hugging hunter.”

If this overlap of hunting and tree-hugging metastasizes in the American psyche, viewpoints might broaden. Hardening of the categories might be reversed. Hunters and non-hunters from across the political spectrum might form indomitable pro-conservation, pro-environment alliances.

Considering the dangers, experts are anxious to keep these outbreaks contained.

© 2012 Tovar Cerulli


  1. Erik Jensen says:

    Busily prepping for teaching the class at Seward in Minneapolis, I am hopeful, but some of my hunter-friends are saying this is a trend that will pass, even though they all say, let’s try it anyway. These tend to people from politically liberal hunting families that are strongly conservationist. I wonder what the evidence is that this is a long-term trend.

    I don’t know if we’ll be indomitable, we are up against a lot of economic power and social trends, but, no doubt, it could be the beginnings of powerful alliances.

    Fissures still exist. Even here in MN, a pro-hunting and fishing state, where our liberal governor who hunts started a “Governor’s pheasant opener”. He got a few negative remarks in the liberal press for doing so. The MN green party is essentially anti-hunting and fishing, in a state that ranks #6 in hunting participation and #1 in fishing.

    However…I take inspiration from my other country, Norway, where the current Prime Minister, the leader of a “red-green” alliance (coalition of socialistic and environmentally progressive parties) just took up moose hunting and had always been an avid fisherman. No one in the Norwegian press or political left said “Oh, he must be trying to get the right-wing vote”. As a Norwegian exchange student told me recently, even though Norway has high animal welfare standards, no one questions hunting, “It is seen as something that people have done since the beginning of time, entirely natural”, she told me.

    Norway’s neighbor, Sweden, has an organized Green party that has in its party platform: “Respectful hunting can be very beneficial for the environment”.

    Again, we can work at this as well as hope…

    • Tovar says:

      I hope your class goes wonderfully, Erik. Your friends may be right: this may be a trend that will pass. But I think the value goes far beyond people actually hunting. Just the fact that some people are considering hunting — and that some are taking it up, even short-term — could have a ripple effect. These people’s friends are going to hear about it. Some (like some of my friends when I started hunting) will be aghast or confused, while others will be curious. In any case, their stereotypes about hunting are likely to be challenged.

      I don’t have any illusions about instant, indomitable alliances. (This post, of course, was intended as humor.) But anything that un-hardens the categories is a good thing in my view.

      Interesting about Norway and Sweden…

  2. ingrid says:

    Tovar, as a non-hunter and animal advocate, my biggest concern is that the meme of “being responsible” for one’s food, seems to translate these days into an unequivocal support for hunting and slaughtering one’s own food at any cost — rather than a genuine, modern examination of our relationship to non-human animals and our “dominion” over them. There’s an underlying premise of entitlement (regardless of species) that is difficult for me to reconcile. I would be more inclined to embrace these views were they accompanied by a more thoughtful questioning of the underlying paradigm — that is, how and why we use animals for our own purposes — rather than an explanation for how one method of utilization is superior over another (e.g. hunting over factory farming).

    The fact is, both ways of being are based on a philosophy that puts other species at our disposal, as we see fit. And although that may be our reality, by virtue of our physical power in this world, I still believe this model as a whole, deserves to be questioned if we are to call ourselves conscious and moral beings.

    I recently read a story in a local paper about an self-titled “upper middle class” woman who is killing local, urban wildlife in her garden because she feels too “guilty” eating prime rib. But drowning a tree squirrel — an unacceptably inhumane way to kill a living being — was acceptable to her under the auspices of “local” and “responsible” eating.

    I appreciate the increasing understanding for what industrial farming inflicts on the land and on the animals subject to some grossly inhumane treatment. But as one who’s worked intimately with wild animals, it’s hard not to believe that hunting is preferable for some because it’s quite easy to distance oneself (emotionally) from an animal with whom most people never have the opportunity to understand in a more personal way.

    Although it can be argued that this is a more sustainable way of living — that’s only if all 7 billion humans on this planet do not take up hunting as their primary survival mechanism. Even base subsistence hunting in some areas of the world is contributing to serious issues of wildlife destruction. To suggest that this way of being is that much different from our current model — well, I question that premise. Large-scale, wholesale hunting (I believe) would amount to nothing different but a shift away from one form of exploitation to another. I don’t see a major philosophical shift in the way we view our own role as humans and non-humans on this planet. I see us humans as consistently rationalizing our way out of complex questions of moral agency toward animals. And unless that changes, I can’t see anything but a utilitarian, and potentially damaging, framework arising.

    Would you vehemently disagree?

    • Tovar says:

      I understand your concern about “the meme of ‘being responsible’ for one’s food,” Ingrid. I, too, am in favor of a genuine examination of our relationships to non-human animals. Such an examination should, I think, encompass farming, hunting, etc.

      You’re right that subsistence hunting can decimate wildlife populations. And hunting will never supply a substantial portion of America’s (or the world’s) food. Given the laws and agency oversight here in the States (and in many other places), of course, hunting will never be “large-scale” or “wholesale.”

      As I’ve said before, I’m not “pro-hunting” any more than I’m “pro-agriculture” or “pro-logging” or “pro-construction.” There’s carelessness and callousness in all our forms of relationship with nature and animals. And there’s also mindfulness and thoughtful questioning in all those forms: hunting, farming, forestry, building, etc. It depends on how they are approached. In short, I think that firsthand engagement with nature and our dependence upon nature for everything we eat, drink, use, and breathe (our inextricable interdependence with nature) can play a crucial role in making our society more mindful, careful, and thoughtful. Firsthand engagement, however, does not automatically lead to such improvements. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.

      If all we ever do is “rationalize our way out of complex questions of moral agency toward animals,” then I agree: not much progress there. If we wrestle seriously with those complex questions, though, I think that’s a worthy endeavor.

      • ingrid says:

        Agree! I like this very much: “Firsthand engagement, however, does not automatically lead to such improvements.” We see examples of this all the time, across myriad issues.

    • Lieing Wolf says:

      Humans are a product of nature. Each exsisting, where by using and being a part of the whole. All tax and or add to the planet differently. Over use and over population highs and lows are nature’s cup of tea, some succeeding, some failing. If a great asteriod slams our world we won’t worry about the cell phone coverage or who’s playing football on friday night, or feel great about the broken dog legs we’ve repaired. The earth’s carrying capacity for all things continues to and will change. It’s great we have a choice! It is only a bonus in the grand scheme of things. Don’t sweat the small stuff and take coyote’s lessons to heart, all must die, all will suffer, all should earn their way, things aren’t fair but if they are good CELEBRATE!

  3. chuck says:

    i am an adult onset hunter. definitely not a vegetarian. i do think everyone should take more responsibility for their food and health. the 2 are so closely intertwined yet we rely so heavily on others to handle that stuff for us. i recently took up hunting because the food product is more healthy for me. the cost is typically lower. and the animals live a much better life than farm raised animals.

    • Tovar says:

      Chuck, I agree that it’s worth challenging our own heavy reliance on others to handle our food and health. Even if we only supply a small portion of our own food (through gardening, hunting, or whatever), it gets us thinking.

  4. somsai says:

    The transition from tree hugger to AOH tree hugger isn’t that far of a leap if one is aware of and accepting of ones own place in the natural world. Acknowledging that we and all living things are here on a temporary basis only is often disturbing to people in our 21st century sheltered life. Indeed if one is already conscious of one’s affect on the environment it is a small jump into becoming more fully human.

    Luckily, due to the forethought of some conservationist hunters three quarters of a century ago, we are able to be our fully human selves in a sustainable way. Just as Leopold, Pinchot, Grinnell, and Roosevelt had to deal with the preservationists of their day, so too do we have our “Defenders”, HSUS, and various misguided souls with a multitude of motivations.

    It’s not by chance that most AO hunters have some sort of connection to life outside of towns and cities, even if they don’t live there.

    A week ago tomorrow I shot an animal. My thought after assuring myself the animal was dead wasn’t of any life gone or other philosophical thought. My immediate interest was in pulling out ninety pounds of guts and cooling a huge pile of meat.

    • Tovar says:

      Somsai: I’m only “here on a temporary basis”? What a rude awakening!

      Seriously, I agree that mortality is disturbing to many of us. Being fully aware of it makes a big difference.

  5. Erik Jensen says:

    Somsai, interestingly, some of the points you raise are similar to lessons taught to me by my father, a non-hunter. He could never kill an animal, he has concern for animal welfare, with the exception he helped me fish and killed and cleaned many fish. He came from a rural fishing community in Northern Norway. Many times he told me how we are all ephemeral, and it was a natural necessary process, that nature could be harsh and brutal looked at through a certain lens, but it was just that way.

  6. Pete says:

    In my opinion the issue isn’t that tree huggers and hunters are far apart – its that both sides have a large group of irrational thinkers/speakers. Those irrational few do their best to keep their side of the coin from considering the other side.
    Personally, I like both sides (which I guess is somewhat obvious if I’m reading Tovars fascinating material) but many of my friends just can’t take a peek over the fence, due to thin skin against the poking of the irrational.

  7. Steven Bissell says:


    I remember years ago when I lived, briefly, in Mississippi you could order squirrel or muskrat at many rural restaurants. Growing up in Utah and having a rancher/farmer for a grandfather I think we ate local food most of the time. I remember my grandfather butchering a turkey for Thanksgiving and it got away; we all had to chase it down and I learned that a full-grown tom turkey is not an easy opponent. I guess my point is that maybe we are seeing a cycle in the use of local foods, not a new thing under the sun.

  8. Paul Roberts says:

    Ingrid, I think that’s the way nature works –that nutrient energy in all its forms is used by other forms. We apply the morals, and our history as predator strains current, and I’ll argue –detached– norms. We are social animals and we project our emotions and associated mores onto other animals. This may assuage our feelings, but I see at least a certain amount of it as misdirected. Rather than try to make animals more like us, I feel we need to see ourselves as the animals, and players in the circle of life, we truly are; Yet, not unmindful of our power.

    And saying that “hunting” contributes to wildlife destruction in places around the globe doesn’t mean much in our country and its present culture of hunting. Where I hunt, there are simply not enough permits issued to destroy our elk, or deer, or antelope herd.

    • ingrid says:

      Paul, but you’re talking about a small minority of Americans who hunt. I’m talking about a practice that would be wholly unsustainable were the numbers of hunters to increase significantly — as is the case in other nations where population growth and human expansion is clearly wreaking havoc with the survival of wild species.

      As far as projecting our feelings, I’ve discussed this at Tovar’s blog previously, but I think the whole idea of anthropomorphism is disrespectful to other species. I don’t believe we mistakenly assign human characteristics to animals, as you say. I believe there is, as you suggest, genuine crossover of characteristics and traits, and most certainly, sentience. As such, it’s natural to recognize in the “other” those qualities we all share.

      I disagree that we now engage in a natural relationship with the earth. I spend a lot of time with wildlife, and there is very little in the way modern humans relate to the earth and its animals, that in any way resembles the base-level survival that characterizes most other animals. As such, hunting, in many cases, is simply an adjunct to an already detached way of being. I can’t tell you how many hunters I encounter who might as well be in front of the t.v. with a beer in one hand and a channel changer in the other — the way they “relate” to the wild. Of course, the same could be said for the mountain bikers I sometimes see, tearing up the trails with no attention to the subtle sounds and sights around them. As Tovar wrote above, engagement with nature (whether as hunter or not) doesn’t necessarily lead to a respectful or “natural” interaction. The difficulty, for me, with the detached hunter is the carnage that results.

      • Paul Roberts says:

        Ingrid, thank you for this. I’ve been aware of your commentary throughout this blog and appreciate your engagement. I would love to address/discuss your them, but work-related deadlines are imposing themselves. I do hope this thread remains open until I can get back and do your comments justice.

      • Paul Roberts says:

        Hi Ingrid,

        Ingrid wrote:
        “The fact is, both ways of being are based on a philosophy that puts other species at our disposal, as we see fit.”

        All species do this, and the reason I responded the way I did. Of course we are powerful enough, through sheer numbers if not through ingenuity, to overtax even destroy the base.

        Ingrid wrote:
        “I’m talking about a practice that would be wholly unsustainable were the numbers of hunters to increase significantly…”

        Absolutely. Hunting would be unsustainable if all Americans expected to draw a deer (or name a “big game” animal) permit every year. But, that will never happen as there are simply not enough permits allowed, to go around. Yes, subsistence and market hunting in many places in the world are an issue, but not here –presently.

        Ingrid wrote:
        “…I think the whole idea of anthropomorphism is disrespectful to other species. I don’t believe we mistakenly assign human characteristics to animals, as you say. I believe there is, as you suggest, genuine crossover of characteristics and traits, and most certainly, sentience. As such, it’s natural to recognize in the “other” those qualities we all share.”

        Anthropomorphism or more accurately –anthropocentrism– while insensitive, is very difficult to avoid. As is cervi-centrism actually, if one happens to be a deer. I can hardly blame them –either species. Many in the “animal rights” crowd do try to make such, and often erroneous, distinctions much more easily than in the other direction. I apologize for directing that at you.

        In my view, although we share sentience and some other characteristics, with other animals there is not only a broad difference within humans, but moving on to wild animals is moving onto VERY foreign ground. It’s not fair to compare domesticated animals with wild animals either. My experience with wild animals (as a naturalist and researcher in many venues, and from a dozen years as a wildlife veterinary tech) has less often resulted in, “Look how similar we are”, but instead recognizing and teasing away my own projections that are often ill-fitted, even fabricated.

        I do recognize, say, the social aspects of, for example, deer life. And I am knowledgeable and sensitive enough to enter social ramifications into my choice of target animals, if only for my own sensitivities to something shared. The lions, coyotes, and bears I share my hunting lands with however do not make such considerations. Regardless of whatever characteristics are shared amongst groups, and we might be sensitive to, killing one another is part of the equation that not only predates this discussion but every sentient creature that ever walked. Despite my (projected) feelings, I cannot rationally ignore this fact.

        On the flip-side I also cannot completely ignore my human (even projected) feelings. I like many others, certainly on this site, are trying to come to grips with the domesticated and wild sides of our nature –the light and the dark, if viewed in some proposed religious terms.

        Ingrid wrote:
        “I disagree that we now engage in a natural relationship with the earth….”

        Agreed. However… then what? As one gets closer, the reality is really more nuanced. It is possible for individuals to have a real connection with nature, however watered down. And watered down it will be, since not one of us REALLY wants to go back 12000 years, and stay there.

        Some would have it that, since we have become detached from nature, we no longer have the right to participate in it. I disagree. In the case of modern hunting, in North America and some other parts of world, people have gained sustenance of body and soul from the land without wholesale ecological damage. Individually, there are choices that can be made: Gardening, husbandry, hunting, and hands-on wildlife research, all can potentially serve to reconnect us in a very real way. I believe opportunities to engage in natural processes are important, even if imperfect. As far as hunting goes, in this country, we’ve curbed many of the ecologically destructive elements enough to create a sustainable/correctable connection with the altered natural order we exist in. Collectively, enough of us are doing the best we can to make it work. It is, presently, sustainable. That may not (even likely) remain so, not because people hunt, but because humanity will crush what it does not love. And we cannot love something we have no experience with. Just being told what to love doesn’t work either. In fact, it can yield just the opposite.

        Ingrid wrote:

        “The difficulty, for me, with the detached hunter is the carnage that results.”

        You have begun with concerns at the ecological level, but I presume that the carnage at the individual level is your key sensitivity. Let me comment on both:

        As to the carnage, on the ecological scale, I have seen enough to recognize that people are animals too, and that carnage is a part of the life of animals. However, we are an animal with such wealth and power that our animal nature has become ecologically dangerous. Considering the diversity within humanity, I don’t believe “we” will think, or emote, “our” way out of this. In my mind, what some of us can do here on our own lands is reconnect, in a mindful, caring, way, and speak and act toward a “way” that is more favorable to nature as a whole.

        “The way”, in the native American meaning, is considered dead. But I would like to think that it is not dead, but the path disturbed, clouded. I for one, and many others, are searching for that path; Hence our participation in nature, in this website, and many other venues. We can also get directly involved in these concerns issues, say, through wildlife advocacy groups (the “game” animals being the most highly funded), as well as state agencies and sportsmen’s clubs –if one wishes to be direct about it. Interestingly, when one advocates for a species large enough to be eaten by humans, they find themselves advocating for the infrastructure as well. We end up “bumping hind ends in the dark”.

        As to carnage at the level of the individual animal: I have the same difficulty –sadness, anger, disgust. All of us here do, and MANY others elsewhere do too. In fact, the majority of hunters I’ve known, and had contact with, do care. Most hunters try hard to succeed in the “sportsmanlike” manner, if not for the animal’s sake (although many do), for the sake of pride –as hard as that may be to reconcile for some. My anecdote below about the sky-blasting duck hunters shows that many do care –more than one might expect from “a bunch of guns sticking up out of a marsh”. There is some semblance of consensus amongst American (and European and Australian hunters) of proper behavior. If there is something to blame for excess carnage (beyond the fact that animals are killed), ignorance is it, which will be followed up by the inevitable de-sensitization. How a modern hunter develops has a lot to do with the culture they are surrounded by. This is where “mindful” intervention comes in, and there are established venues for this. Whenever hunters get together, either around campfires or computer monitors, ethics come up. If someone steps out of line, they are apt to be chastised –often vehemently.

        Ingrid, I do not have an easy fix to what ails humanity and those other creatures “under our thumbs”, except to say that as many of us participate in our re-connections, at whatever level that occurs, I and many others do our best to engage in that “interdependence”. I can think of, and have experienced, few ways in which that interdependence we talk about can be fathomed than direct participation.

  9. Paul Roberts says:

    It’s heartening to see AO hunters, foodies, and the more liberally educated, coming into a common understanding of nature. And I’m sure the resource managers are generally welcoming of new blood. But a coming together of “hunters” and “tree huggers” is, unfortunately, unlikely from my view.

    The “tree-hugging hunter” strikes me as akin to Kellert’s (primarily) “nature-focused” hunter –which would best describe me– but who comprise a small proportion of hunter’s he surveyed. As Pete suggests, the label “tree hugger” has incendiary roots. And “hunter” alone does not tend to define people very well –except for those very narrow in experience I suppose. There is more to the discussion.

    Beyond motivations for hunting, the gulf in socioeconomic status, real and perceived class differences, and the propensity for most to simply stay in their own social comfort zone, acts to destroy communication and yield distrust. I’m not so sure much is really going to come together, on the large scale. I’d like to think otherwise, and used to once upon a time.

    In fact, I’ve a history of bringing together diverse peoples; Not as an activist, but as matter of course, and naivete.

    I once brought together a very diverse group to share a duck hunt. The group contained: An ivy league, self described “pompous anglophile” (my university roommate, wearing a tweed shooting jacket), a black city kid (wearing dreadlocks), two rednecks who had never left the farmlands they grew up on (I can call them “rednecks” bc I knew them well), a state wildlife tech, and me. What a fiasco. No one was able to communicate effectively with anyone else -except me -the common thread. I felt like a ping-pong ball. It was a wonder the tech and anglophile didn’t kill each other with their canoe paddles. The rednecks kept trying to use a Jamaican accent when addressing the kid: “Eh mon…”. Dinner ended up as three separate camps, the anglophile enjoying his tea and crumpets, the rednecks sharing a can of Dinty Moore. Canoe’s strayed on the big marsh and two got lost, coming in so late we almost called for an emergency rescue. Silly me.

    However, there is hope, I suppose…

    One summer, a number of years ago, I subletted an apartment and found I was sharing the place with the student president for the university chapter of PETA. He had lead demonstrations consisting of mostly non-university students from NYC to the Veterinary college’s necropsy room, where they all carried on crying loudly for the camera’s –for all the “dead animals”. At the time I was deeply involved in animal research, participating in the euthanization of as many as 50 animals at a sitting for “tissue harvests”. My new housemate was from NYC, I from a very small rural town upstate, where I had learned to hunt and even fur trapped. He and I got along perfectly amiably. We never broached the subject of animals –we never went there. However, I did bring him into the field with me one evening after I’d discovered a coyote I was able to lure in to literally play –chasing each other around a hay field for an hour. We both thought that was pretty cool.

    My antelope hunting party this year, sharing a large camper, consisted of:
    -an intellectual ex-ivy league researcher in ecophysiology (me),
    -my current hunting partner, a Pollan motivated AOH with a PhD in chemistry,
    -a Christian Libertarian who home schools his kids, nestled in a NE cornfield, a confirmed prairie dog “mister”, and who enjoys using a 50BMG to hunt deer (This man’s young daughter along for the trip asked if he ever felt bad killing an animal. He responded, “Do you feel bad picking a tomato off the vine?”),
    -and finally a gunsmith who shot his antelope with a custom 300RUM at 720yrds (which turned out to be the wrong sex. He was apologetic, and went right to the check station to take his lumps).

    Conversation was … a bit stilted. But despite our differences, we were able to find common ground (or not go there), and I did see a softening of edges all around over the few days we spent together. When we paired up to hunt, the AOH and I hunted on foot, the other two by truck.

    Next year? … remains to be seen. Hunting partners are important to the quality of the hunt. The two guys we antelope hunted with literally felt that deer and tomatoes are interchangeable. I too have hunted long enough now, and had many other experiences with death and the reasons for it, to have become somewhat desensitized –not unlike the emergency room doctor or the mortician. I recognize that other predators don’t concern themselves with such moral distinctions. But like the traveler who understands his culture better for leaving it, I recognize what it means to be human. I feel it. I was also raised to be thoughtful and caring in my actions. The deer I killed this fall left me with the full suite of emotions other hunters describe, the lasting one for me was a deep sadness. Not remorse, I feel justified in earning my own meat, but sadness I feel in my diaphragm that if it reached my lips could be recognized as the sob it really is. It’s for the loss of something beautiful in my forest, -with a life of its own –that is now, gone and irretrievable. I know it did not expect more or less of me, or of the mountain lion and coyotes that cleaned the meadow of its remains.

    I’ve also been known called a “tree-hugger”-while championing biodiversity or railing against destructive development as an educator/writer, or trapping spotted owls in the Cascades with the USFWS. Yet, I’ve learned to kill. And interestingly I’ve taken on a role in my neighborhood, amidst the proliferating copies of “The Omnivores Dilemma” and the associated chicken coops, of hunting mentor, and also more bluntly as “Axe Man” –one able to do the dirty work.

  10. Erik Jensen says:

    Paul, you bring up an important point about people being hard to get out of their comfort zones and some really great experiences and observations. However, there is one thing that gives me hope, and it is unfortunately the result of bad trends: crises. There’s an environmental crisis and a crisis in outdoor participation, hunting being at the forefront of decline, as it is a high commitment activity. That forces people to look at things.

    I’ve seen some really good alliances develop here in Minnesota at the political level. In the 2008 election, voters passed a tax increase on themselves to get more $ for wildlife habitat and clean water, and parks and trails and even the arts got mixed in. There are similar coalitions developing around the country, although the MN coalition may be the most powerful so far, arising from the facts that may be somewhat unique. Minnesotans, even a substantial minority of Republicans, are willing to tax themselves more for elementary education and conservation. We love to fish and hunt and have a lot of non-hunting green people.

    But…just south of us, Iowans just passed a similar increase in the 2010 election, although they were blocked by the Republican legislature. (They can’t tax themselves more by popular vote, only the legislature can increase taxes, but voters can mandate what new tax money will go to).
    So, that’s encouraging. Iowans have fewer hunters and anglers per capita, and are a little more averse to a big public sector, and they still voted for it by a solid majority. So, I see signs of hope…

  11. Paul Roberts says:

    Hi Eric,
    Yes… crises, and possibly hopefully, “a truth” -something that rings true, feels right, even if it’s somewhat fad-ish, could bring people together. I like to think that this trend, the discussion brought to the public conscious by Pollan, and Cerulli, and others, is heading the right direction -bringing nature, and our role in it, into better focus. That is my hope.

    There are major stumbling blocks -basic philosophical leanings/infrastructure- to anything resembling consensus there though, one of which Ingrid brings up in her post above. But, I like to think, an excited about, the chance at a greater majority consensus on our role in nature.

  12. Paul Roberts says:

    Hunters like to go home and relate their day’s stories and successes to friends and family. I can only imagine what those guys had to say when they got home. I like to think they turned a corner that day.

    • Paul Roberts says:

      Oops… above post is a fragment. Will try again:

      Oh yes… I witnessed such a unifying crises -on a much smaller scale than you were thinking, but which speaks to something I think the vast majority of hunters share -a very real love for wildlife or game or “the resource” or … however it’s packaged…

      This occurred at the very end of a duck hunt on a large and popular marsh. At the end of the last day, when everyone had pulled out and were stowing gear, shots kept ringing out from a small island in view of the boat launch, and continued after legal shooting light. All eyes were on that island. As we all watched we discovered they were skyblasting as well -shooting at birds beyond their range and skill, wounding them, and then NOT BOTHERING TO RECOVER THEM.

      The disgruntled murmurs around the launch became angry voices and by the time the “slobs” were headed into the ramp, a throng of camo’d men, women, and boys, were literally lined up with furrowed brows, arms folded, and toes tapping impatiently. Waiting at the ramp too was a CO (Conservation Officer) beet red he so angry. He stayed professional, and no one in the throng said a word. But that beet red face was transferred to those “slobs” under another emotion -embarrassment, that probably hurt more than the fines they were to receive.

      Hunters like to go home and relate their day’s stories and successes to friends and family. I can only imagine what those guys had to say when they got home. I like to think they turned a corner that day.

  13. I’m AOH, but not a tree-hugger, and I think one of the best things about hunting is that you have common cause with people you might not have had it with. All of a sudden, I have something in common with people I have little else in common with. Hunting is community-building.

    We’re all treestand-huggers.

    • Tovar says:

      Good point about the bridge-building (or community-building, if you prefer) aspects of hunting, Tamar.

      Spend enough time in the woods and we’ll have you hugging the tree, too.

  14. Michelle says:

    Tovar – thanks for the post and you always win the “most comments on any blog post” award for our community. Man!

    Erik – I just moved to MN and would love to sit in on your class to learn and take notes – for myself and so I can spread the good word with others. I look forward to it!


    • Tovar says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. And I hope you make it to Erik’s class! If I lived 1,200 miles closer, I’d show up as well. 🙂

    • Erik Jensen says:

      Michelle – the class is on Feb 23 at 6 pm in Minneapolis at the seward co-op. I’m charging $15 for Seward members, $18 for non-members (some of the $ goes to Seward). The ed director told me if I didn’t charge something, people would sign up but not come because they are curious but not “vested”. I’m going to organize a follow-up shooting day (with borrowed weapons from various friends) at my gun club if there is interest and I can land a reservation there, which I should be able to.

      I am planning a good booklet people can take with if you are planning on coming.

  15. Paul Roberts says:

    Tovar wrote:
    “But I think the value goes far beyond people actually hunting. Just the fact that some people are considering hunting — and that some are taking it up, even short-term — could have a ripple effect. These people’s friends are going to hear about it. Some (like some of my friends when I started hunting) will be aghast or confused, while others will be curious. In any case, their stereotypes about hunting are likely to be challenged.”
    Bingo. One thing my Mom had said that stick with me, in to action, was:
    “Sometimes, things just need to be said.”

  16. Paul Roberts says:

    Good luck with your class Erik. I’d be interested in hearing who was there and what motivated them to attend, and whether you have a sense of how many will pursue.

    • Erik Jensen says:

      Thanks, Paul.

      We’ll find out soon, as it will be advertised later this month heavily in the co-op newsletter. Right now, no one has signed up but it is five-six weeks out and hardly publicized.

  17. Joe says:

    Thank you for writing this post, it was a wonderful read. I have been a big game and waterfowl hunter from a young age and it excites me to hear of “tree huggers” (your words, not mine!) coming over to the “dark side” (my words, not yours). As we both mature in our years we come to the realization that this common ground is more common than we once thought. Hunters realize a need to respect our earth and its products, while others realize the responsibility and enjoyment of donning camo. In reality it is a great friendship that I look forward to.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Joe. I, too, welcome the common ground and agree that there are important things to be realized and learned by people on all sides.

  18. Tim Brass says:

    I have very mixed feelings about the growing movement you describe in your book, which are described below. I grew up in Minnesota and was an avid hunter and fisherman from a young age. Once I got a car, I decided to quit most high school sports to hunt and fish every chance I had. Following this passion, I went to school to work in conservation and have more or less done so ever since. I realize that my perspective is a result of privilege, of the family and area in which I grew up, and thus I take every chance I have to introduce folks to an activity that requires field-level introduction.

    First, what I see as the good:

    1. Hunters are too-often labeled as rednecks, careless, take-what-you-wants. As people who clearly defy this stereotype, or perhaps have perpetuated it in the past, come over to “the dark side”, as Joe puts it, hunters will be able to move past this and enter into discussions they were formerly precluded from.

    2. The division between environmentalist groups and “hook and bullet” groups could be blurred and they could mobilize in a concerted effort to make positive environmental change. While this may be possible, it seems unlikely, as the premises of the two groups are often conflict; wise use vs. protection. I would like to see nothing more than the pendulum to swing a bit more towards wise-use. Increasingly, environmental policies are leading to human exclusion (see land trusts, restrictive conservation easements, city/county-owned land, etc.). These lands are often funded publicly, yet increasingly restrict hunting. Perhaps if the groups purchasing these lands hunted, they would have an interest in improving access and opportunity? These lands tend to be located closer to urban developments and thus offer some of the ‘greenest’ and ‘local’ hunting options.

    3. Greater public acceptance of hunting. When I moved from MN to Eugene, Oregon and number of years back, I received varied responses from my environmentalist friends when I told them hunting was my favorite pastime. Over the past few years, as media and foodies popularized the idea of hunting for meat, I noticed a clear change in people’s reactions to my hobby. While I was grateful for this, their acceptance was based on what I view as an extremely small aspect of hunting, which leads me to what I see as potential threats to this ancient past-time.

    4. Defense of gun rights from the left. Generally, democrats policies tend to be more pro-conservation, pro-public land, pro habitat funding, etc. Yet, largely because of the gun rights issue, sportsmen tend to vote for ‘conservatives’ (where did the ‘conserve’ part get lost?). Perhaps as more liberal-leaning folks partake in the sport and understand that guns are useful and needed, this perplexing political misrepresentation of sportsmen’s interests can be fixed?

    What I see as Threats:

    1. Hunting solely for meat. While some hunters hunt largely for this purpose, most realize it to be much more; a social activity through which to bond with family or friends; a pseudo-spiritual experience; a pastime; and/or, some indescribable primal need. The embrace for hunting that Eric Jensen describes Norway as having is actually a good example of what happens when the hunting experience is privatized and the value of the hunt is placed in the meat. If you want to hunt a Moose in Norway, you must first purchase a tag from a private land owner. If you are lucky enough to shoot a moose with that tag on said private land, you pay the land owner an additional per-pound rate for that moose. Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to have public lands which ought to prevent such a system; however, if the demand for tags from pure meat hunters continues to grow, I fear that people might begin to view such a system as a way to allocate game and regulate the demand for the activity.

    2. Taking, but not putting back. There’s no catch and release in hunting, but the principles carry over. For example, it is a matter of conservation and hunter-pride, not to shoot a female duck, if you have the choice. While limits are crafted to ensure populations are sustainably managed, shooting males holds a certain honor that is generally passed-on through social milieu. Simply put, if everyone shot whatever they wanted, there’d be fewer ducks. As foodies pursue game for food, how will they continue to perpetuate this conservation ethic and nuance of the sport?

    3. Backlash from change in culture. Even for those who hunt for meat, if they’ve been doing it for any substantial amount of time, they’ve developed traditions, hunting parties/buddies, clubs and conservation organizations, etc. As a new culture of hunters enter the scene, I fear there will be a backlash amongst hunters that will actually lead to divisions within the political and organizational hunting culture. In many places a form of this already occurs, through city-slickers vs. rural-folk grudges. However, when it comes to funding for conservation organizations, fundraising banquets and to some extent conservation-based political organization, most hunters have a mentality that we’re all in this together. Just as there has always been a backlash to America’s newest immigrants, so to may be the case within the highly-organized and traditional hunting culture. I sure hope not.

    • Tovar says:

      Interesting points and questions, Tim. I’m over-busy at the moment, but will try to respond soon. Meanwhile, other readers might have relevant thoughts.

      By the way, my book doesn’t really describe the movement you refer to. It describes my personal journey, touching on a lot of cultural/natural history, philosophy, etc, along the way.

  19. Tim Brass says:

    Sounds good, I look forward to a discussion and hope to hear what others thoughts are. Sorry if I mis-quoted the book, I guess I was referring to the movement you describe as AOH, as developed though a growing interest among co-op members and natural food enthusiasts for local, wild meats. Would love to hear what others feel…

    • Erik Jensen says:

      Tim, I’m pressed for time, but I’m pretty sure that Norwegian hunting is not a privatized tradition. I know that there can be payments to hunt private land, but I’m not sure about the per-pound thing. The inquiry I made to Norway’s national and hunting and fishing organization described a culture very similar to the U.S. (wildlife is collective property), although game meat can be sold there. Even so, as you’d expect in a socialistic rural country, public land ownership is high.

      I can say just out of knowing the culture that the idea of something being exclusive for people with lots of $ is something that would be highly controversial.

      Eight percent of Norwegians hunt every year, which is a pretty good number, and there has been less decline than in the U.S., I would say that is because of the rural support policies, I would argue.

      You raise other interesting points that I think I partially agree with, some seem to not apply in MN at least (public land is almost always open for hunting here) but I can’t respond to them now, gotta go…

  20. Tim Brass says:


    You are right in saying that Norway has public lands that one can hunt on; however, on private lands the price-per-pound system is the norm. My friend lives there and owns a few thousand acres and this is how hunting is managed on all of their property – in addition, you have to pay an annual fee for those hunting rights, not too different from how things are becoming. That said, Norway has incredible policies which protect the public interest, for example all development, logging, etc on private lands must be approved by a public board. And, Norway’s hunting system is by far more fair that most other European nations where it is controlled by the rich and privileged.

    Regardless of how other places are managed, we need to be wary of developing an over-emphasis on wildlife as merely meat, it’s already a very expensive and inefficient way of attaining meat.

  21. Erik Jensen says:

    Tim –

    Thanks for the information. I know there has been a book written by Norwegian sociologists that I haven’t read yet that expresses concern that moose hunting, a tradition that has been a staple of the culture and considered something that regular rural people could do, becoming more expensive and exclusive.

    Where I think we can learn from the Nordic cultures in terms of hunting and fishing is the pro-rural policies, and limitations on urban sprawl and the emphasis on an active, outdoor lifestyle, whether it is hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, birding, or hiking, as social positives supported by government. Americans would intensely resist such meddling in the capitalist marketplace with regards to development and aid to rural people, in addition to the policies you mentioned. For example, my sister is being subsidized to live in a remote Norwegian town near Russia so that they can have an English teacher for that community.

    American hunters, tending conservative politically, (although not as conservative as one is led to believe by official hunting media and general media), would be part of the vocal group against such measures as interfering with individual freedom, even though they would be some of biggest beneficiaries of it.

    I am in strong agreement with your concern of an over-emphasis on hunting for food, even though I am teaching a class with that very title later this week at a Minneapolis co-op. I think in some cases it can be relatively economical, or at least a wash, if one is careful with not buying too many gadgets (that’s a section of the class). Where the overemphasis on food only, without an awareness of the positive recreational component, is very pernicious, is, it can lead “foodies” to attack such practices as catch and release fishing (this has happened at least twice in my following blogs and radio interviews), which has been a great conservation achievement. There are great trout streams in western WI, between 30 min and an hour from downtown Minneapolis, that would have very limited fishing if they were “kill-only”, instead of no-kill size slots as there now, as the trout population would be destroyed by masses of anglers just looking to kill fish for food. Limited fishing would mean fewer people vested in those rivers, meaning they would have less of a constituency to protect them.

    Additionally, there is the rejection, or tendency to criticize, the concept of fair chase ethics. I agree some of the rules can be ridiculous or shouldn’t be always applied. For example, I’m taking my twin daughters on their first duck hunt this fall, and they won’t even be quite eight on the first hunt. Of course I’m going to let them shoot ducks on the water instead of forcing them to shoot them in the air.

    However, a more general rejection or skepticism of the concept can lead foodie-hunters to be alliance with the dark forces within our hunting community. A good example is the defense of high-fence hunting by some foodie hunters, or at least leaving it to “individual choice” as foodie hunters tend to be most concerned with a clean kill. High-fence hunting is the worst form of privatization of hunting and wildlife, and can lead to the destruction of migration of wildlife corridors, the spread of diseases to wild deer and elk herds, and even the smuggling of “trophy deer”. High-fence hunting is supported only by such anti-conservation groups like the Safari Club International, the NRA, and high-profile members of such groups such as Ted Nugent. It opposed by most conservationist hunting organizations, and many respected hunters who are also wildlife advocates like Valerius Geist, Jim Posewitz, and Ted Williams. Those are the people among the “traditional hunters” that foodie hunters have the most in common with on bigger environmental issues, so go figure.

    There was a recent piece in a MN outdoor magazine by an outdoor writer, Shawn Perich, both welcoming the new hunter-gatherers but also quite critical of these tendencies. His main point was these new hunters should get to know the conservationist history of modern American “sport” hunting. Even if there are flaws in that tradition and that specific term is bankrupt, I think Perich’s point was right on.

    I am pretty confident these issues will be worked out and a lot of positive will come out this infusion of new hunters. The new hunters will learn the positives of American hunting culture, but bring some different perspective and mostly gravitate to the “good guys” that are already there, strengthen that group, and challenge the conservatism and insularity that exists amongst the rest. They will also get the good guys to think about what we do in our daily lives that are detrimental to wildlife and hunting, and not just focus on protecting X forest area or river. They may also get non-hunting environmental friends to see that human use of nature is as perfectly legitimate use as is observation and admiration. It might stop groups like the Sierra club from taking the occasional anti-hunting stance they sometimes do, like their New Jersey chapter’s recent opposition to a black bear hunt there. The hunt was upheld as sound and necessary by a federal judge. That one will get used by the “bad guys” in the hunting community for a long time to come…

    Back to prepping for my class !

    • Tim Brass says:

      Erik –

      Right on, I wholeheartedly agree that we could learn a lot from some of the Norwegian policies, though there are some that just seem a little backwards. I mean, the folks I stayed with there used a baby trout that they legally netted with a gill net, to ice fish for pike. And, they feed many of those moose all winter long – we would go to the feeding sites and watch them herd in like cattle. Both of these policies seemed a little food-centered to me.

      I also totally agree that there is a time and a place for all hunting ethics. I actually had my buddy shoot a duck on the water hist first time out as well. Though after I explained the ethics behind it, he didn’t feel great about it. Without the experienced hunter to serve as a guide, would a food-focused hunter ever understand this? I suppose it will be our responsibility as experienced hunters to serve as mentors. I am up to the task, but in exchange I would (and have) try to pass the message that it really isn’t about how many ducks you bring home. Reading the background of hunting could help as well – Shawn’s article was right on!

      As far as the economics go behind the efficiency of harvesting game for meat goes, its true that it can be affordable, for my dad who can bow hunt for MN deer in the backyard. But I don’t think you can hunt a single bird for the same price that you can pick up an organic chicken at the grocery store (figure gas, gun, ammo, lodging, license, etc.). Take an elk in Colorado for example, where the average success rate is 20 percent, with a rifle! That means it takes 5 years of trips into wherever to get an elk. The licenses alone would cost you 200+, you live in Denver and have to drive 3+ hours each way to get into the good hunting, there’s a 5 day season, so you miss 3+ days of work, you need at least some gear…etc. I don’t think it typically pans out as cost effective, though in rare cases when one lives close to the hunting spot, it can.

      • Erik Jensen says:

        Tim – you should send me your contact info, you might be a good research source for me. It’s a complex story, and I’m not sure I can make it work, but I’m hoping to do some academic work comparing Nordic policies on rural development/support to the U.S., and whether the greater rural support in Norway and other Nordic countries has led to more support for environmetal protection amongst rural residents there. Of course, in the U.S. rural people tend to be deeply divided, esp where extraction and tourism/sport hunting/sport fishing and commercial fishing interests clash. Of course, hunting is significant part of the story in Nordic countries as well…

        My email is [email protected]

      • Tovar says:

        I finally get a chance to respond, Tim!

        Generally speaking, I agree with the potential positive effects you mention. Below are some thoughts related to your concerns about potential threats.

        I don’t know any hunter (lifelong or adult-onset) who hunts solely for food. Every hunter I know finds other layers of meaning in the hunt, even when food is central to their motivation. Most hunters realize, or learn quickly, that hunting is usually, as you say, an “inefficient” way of obtaining meat. If that was their sole motive, I doubt they’d stick with it for long. I think it highly unlikely that “demand for tags from pure meat hunters” will ever become a political force worth worrying about. The main pushes toward privatization that I perceive are rooted in profit motives, trophy ranches, etc.

        The newly interested adult hunters I’ve met are at least as concerned about conservation and public access as the lifelong hunters I’ve met. If they didn’t grow up with an awareness of the historical links between regulated hunting and conservation in America, they learn about it before long.

        It may be true that more food-oriented hunters are more likely to take a female duck (or deer, etc). But I don’t think it’s a serious threat to wildlife populations. It seems to me that (1) there is already great diversity among hunters (how they hunt, how high they rate food among their motives, whether they shoot selectively or rapaciously, etc) and (2) this diversity is taken into account by state agencies when they set limits. (I’d argue that there are even cases—including situations where the aim is to maintain or reduce deer populations—where particular sporting codes can become an obstacle to agency policies, making hunters reluctant to take antlerless deer, for instance.)

        I suppose there could be some backlash in response to cultural changes. From what I’ve seen, though, most new hunters tend to get connected with hunters who have been at it longer, tend to be warmly welcomed, and tend to find existing hunting traditions with which they can identify. (See, for instance, some of the experiences and views expressed by the hunters I profiled in a recent article: http://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/the-meaning-of-meat-adult-onset-hunters-look-to-the-land-for-sustenance/.)

        If this new influx adds to hunter diversity, it might not be a bad thing. These folks have some interesting and potentially helpful perspectives to add. My book, for instance, has been getting a lot of positive feedback from lifelong hunters, even though my background and views are very different in some ways. (I got an email today from a guy who had just finished it. He said he really enjoyed it and thought it might help “find much needed common ground” on hunting between him and his sister. That email made my day.)

        In short, I agree with the essence of Erik’s message above: “I am pretty confident these issues will be worked out and a lot of positive will come out this infusion of new hunters. The new hunters will learn the positives of American hunting culture, but bring some different perspective and mostly gravitate to the “good guys” that are already there, strengthen that group, and challenge the conservatism and insularity that exists amongst the rest. They will also get the good guys to think about what we do in our daily lives that are detrimental to wildlife and hunting, and not just focus on protecting X forest area or river. They may also get non-hunting environmental friends to see that human use of nature is as perfectly legitimate use as is observation and admiration.”

        • Tim Brass says:


          For the most part, I do agree that the growing interest among new food-oriented hunters offers a great diversity to hunters, and which could be extremely beneficial to the conservation movements led traditional hook and bullet groups. As hunters and anglers look for ways to stop declining participation, I cannot think of a better group to recruit than those who already care deeply about the food they, and presumably, about the land on which it’s grown. I also agree that as people are exposed to hunting, so long as their exposure occurs in a positive manner, they will begin to recognize and appreciate the other important aspects of hunting.

          However, I have seen very few inexperienced hunters, who are unaware of hunting ethics and unspoken rules, be given a warm welcome while in the field. In fact, I have seen guys get into near-on fights with competing hunting parties who shoot at ducks before they commit, or unknowingly set-up their decoys too close to others, etc…

          There was in article in the Boulder Weekly Magazine written by a girl who was inspired to shoot her own food. She went elk hunting, shot at an elk and wounded it (likely as a result of having just bought the gun). Some other hunters shot the wounded animal and put it out its misery. She talks about the “tense hunting trip” after explaining the conflict that occurred when they tried to claim the wounded animal (where I hunt, if you wound an animal, its no longer yours, I am not sure if I would have been quite so nice). She was not prepared with a knowledge of hunting ethics and if it weren’t for the other hunting party, may have wounded and lost the animal. Here’s the article http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-6405-taking-life-into-you.html

          My only worry is that folks will continue to be inspired by books like this and when they decide to pursue their desires, they will be unequipped with the cultural and ethical aspects of hunting that generally must be taught. Erik’s approach of teaching courses to follow-up on people’s interests in a very commendable first-step. As a second-step, and perhaps what will be most difficult is to provide adult mentors for the AOH folks. There’s plenty of conservation organizations and state organizations that offer youth mentorships, but I have yet to see one for adults. In fact, I have seen the opposite – just check out some of the online hunting and fishing forums – folks looking for advice are attacked more often than not. Let’s hope that we can continue to build upon welcoming that you have experienced, Tovar.

          • Tovar says:


            I very much share your concern about the wounding of animals such as the elk you mention. Such suffering can be (and is) inflicted both by lifelong hunters and by those who come to hunting as adults. My perception is that it is made more likely by two factors: (1) not caring much and (2) lacking skills, knowledge, and experience.

            As to the first, the new adult hunters I’ve met are at least as concerned about wounding as the lifelong hunters I’ve met.

            As to the second, I agree that new adult hunters — by definition — lack skills, knowledge, and experience. It takes time and effort to learn, to seek out mentorship, etc. Most of the AOH hunters I’ve met do end up finding a personal mentor, and there are more and more classes/workshops being designed specifically for adult-onset hunters. Whether these offerings will meet the need — and whether lifelong hunters will recognize the importance of not attacking those who seek advice in the forums you mention — remains to be seen.

            I doubt that my book will inspire anyone to take up hunting in a rush and run out there shooting willy-nilly. In it, I document my own efforts to learn, with attention to my deep concern about the possibility of wounding an animal, including a couple of scenes where I come dangerously close to doing so. I think I have made it clear that hunting (and killing, specifically) is a very serious business, not to be taken lightly or tried out casually. If you decide to read the book, I hope you will agree.

            • Tim Brass says:

              Tovar – My point was not that the inexperienced did not care, it was that their inexperience likely led to the wounded animal and that the “two residents who had never done anything like this before, found themselves arguing with three strangers, all holding guns, over who the elk’s rightful owner was.” In the past, most hunters learned hunting ethics through cultural exposure, thus limiting conflicts caused by inexperience. People, like the Boulder couple, will indeed go out and give it a try, as “their hunting trip was a result of a growing distrust of industrial agriculture, grocery-store meat, and the source of much of the food they ate.” It was a food-based pursuit and the only talk of preparation of learning for the hunt was through a book on butchering the meat. Either way, my point is not attack the aims of your book, as I have yet to read it, though I will indeed check it out. There is clearly a growing interest amongst a mostly younger demographic interested in sustainable food, which I would consider myself a part of, who want a greater dialogue around topics like this, and I am grateful for it. Hopefully, through discussions like this experienced hunters can build upon the growing interest and offer additional training, mentorship and instructional opportunities. When my dad was in high school, he took a class on duck hunting (in a MN public school)! Just think if we could get something like this going through community ed programs, co-ops, etc.

              As somsai said, there’s a pretty decent breadth of programs for women and children, but few for adults. That shooting petition is a great first-step! In addition, for the past few months I have been in discussions with Boulder County to open some small pond or portion of their expansive property to dove and waterfowl hunting as a highly managed local opportunity for hunters. As of right now, you have to drive a good hour to get to any public property and that is unacceptable considering the city/county own more than 1/2 of the county. Somsai, if you are interested, I would love some help with this, my email is timothy.brass@gmail. Boulder has done incredible things to offer local fishing to children and such, thus I think there may be an opportunity here. And to me, this is an important aspect of both cutting carbon emissions and making hunting more accessible.

              • Tovar says:

                Good points, Tim. The passing-on of hunting certainly still relies on person-to-person transmission. Since state hunter-education courses are focused primarily on safety, there is a clear need for additional learning opportunities. Let’s hope quality opportunities become sufficiently available and accessible.

          • somsai says:

            Tim I get what you are talking about, there is a lot of knowledge not in the book that needs to be passed on.

            Colorado does have a mentorship program but it’s aimed mainly at women and youth. Youth are the future, and women a growing segment often without a social connection to other hunters. The Department of Wildlife even provides guided private land hunts to women in an effort to engage them in the sport. I only wish they had as many programs for men newly attracted to hunting as I think overall men are a larger population of hunters, and no program is as good as a friend to watch you field dress that first carcass to make sure you do it right.

            Every year I notice Colorado expanding it’s education and mentorship programs, I’m it will continue to do more.

            The one crucial thing we don’t have and what might well have been very important to the couple in the link was shooting practice. That couple lives in Boulder where there is public access to the range on weekends only and for bench rest at targets only. There are no easily accessible public lands for shooting in more realistic situations. If anyone were feeling civic minded they could call their representatives to urge passage of senator Mark Udall’s Target Range and Shooting Sports Bill http://www.markudall.senate.gov/?p=form&id=48 the bill allows the smarter use of federal funds and a larger share of that funding.

            • Paul Roberts says:

              Well… It’s a real world out there, which includes the inexperienced. A (paraphrased) quote comes to mind, from Nobel laureate Neils Bohr, that describes an “expert” as “someone who has made all the mistakes.”

              Training does not make people into efficient machines. I know plenty of experienced hunters who aren’t terribly efficient. I would add all kinds of attributes to Tovar’s list above that contribute to “inefficiency” in skill and judgment, among them impulsiveness, excitement (even if out-if-character in the moment), eye-sight, age, … Such words as “skill” and “judgment” are wielded here as though we are machines. That may stroke some ego’s but it’s not the real world.

              I don’t know any experienced hunters who have not made mistakes. The AOH I hunt with has been especially thoughtful and very careful. He worked up his gun and loads to right around MOA. He shot 3 big game animals this year, all one-shot kills: heart, double lung, and spine. None took so much as another step. Impressive (but note the “group size”). But, he will make a “mistake”, someday. Killing demands respect,but we are not machines and we are not shooting at machines.

              As to the Boulder couple: Yes, that is a story that shows the need for mentorship. Without it, they are less than likely to be in that position again, in large part bc hunting is a demanding business and their ability to fill a tag each year is doubtful. They got lucky, and it worked out equitably, not surprisingly actually. Despite the author’s hyperbolic description of an argument with the “orange clad” holding guns, hunters aren’t defacto sociopaths.

              AOHs have every right to be out there. And in reality they have the right to make mistakes. I see coming into hunting as an adult as more likely to produce hunters with appropriate judgment than the way most came to it with me as I grew up, with a .22 or shotgun free to wander. Not all, in fact few I grew up with and known in rural culture where hunting is supposed to be “traditional”, did so with thoughtful mentorship. I happened to be one of the lucky ones. Yet in almost 40 years of hunting, I’ve made mistakes too.

  22. Rob says:

    I think you’d better add the paleo/primal lifestyle as a warning sign or precursor to AOH! That’s how I found myself here.

    • Tovar says:

      I think you’re right, Rob! When I made my dietary shift and then got into hunting most of a decade ago, I’d never heard of “the paleo/primal lifestyle.” But in two years of blogging, I’ve definitely noticed how these things connect.

  23. Steven Bissell says:

    I hate to play the ‘grump’ here, but the ‘paleo/primal lifestyle’ sets my BS detector off pretty seriously. There are valid considerations about human history and diet and life style impacting our present environmental conditions; for example Paul Shepard’s ‘Coming Home To The Pleistocene’ http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Home-Pleistocene-Paul-Shepard/dp/1559635908/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5 is a good place to start. But we can no more chose to live a ‘paleo style’ than we can chose what (which?) part of the food chain we belong to; those are ecological/evolutionary constraints, not choices. We are stuck in the Cenozoic Era, Quaternary Period, Holocene Epoch whether we want it or not. I think the real issue is, sans new-age labels, is how we chose to live under modern conditions. I chose to live in a city, but am as aware as I can be of where my food comes from and how it impacts the environment, but calling it a ‘paleo/primal lifestyle’ seems pretentious to me. Just IMHO.

    • Rob says:

      Steven – I wouldn’t get to upset by the name. People are fond of labeling things – just part of our nature. If you look very far into the paleo thing, or ancestral health if you prefer a different label, you’ll find that it is a wide collections of ideas looking to explain some of the common western diseases our society is facing today – heart disease, obesity, diabetes being the central 3. There is a wealth of science backing the idea of changing the focus of our diet back on real food (non industrialized, non processed) and back to a diet that didn’t rely so heavily on grains. We are living in the Holocene, but our species did not evolve here. People have been eating grains for only 10,000 years out of a 200,000 year span of being a distinct species. I understand peoples wariness of fads and but don’t write something off just because it is catching on. Most proponents of paleo/primal suggest experimenting on yourself – if it works, great – if not, try something else. I’m trying it and I feel better, healthier, and stronger. Oh and I’ve lost 75lbs in 7 months, and have BP and cholesterol in the green. So yes, I am choosing to use the best science and understanding of nutrition that our modern world offers to live in a way that benefits me and the environment. Keep paying attention to your BS detector but don’t hide your head in sand.
      Take in all the information you can and make a reasoned decision – and get past the labels.
      BTW the oxymoron of calling “paleo” a new age label is just too classic!
      Enjoy the journey.

      • Steven Bissell says:

        Rob, you’re right; ‘New Age Paleo’ was unintended, but I’ll take credit for it. It’s one of those things like ‘living lower on the food chain’ that makes my skin crawl. You are right I should ignore it, but as all of my ex-wives and ex-girlfriends would point out, I’m not very good at that.

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