Tag Archives: elk hunting

The Rise of Identity Politics in Hunting

By Jack Kredell

Somewhere around the time of Larry the Cable Guy­ hunting became a lot more than a seasonal pursuit. There were hints of the progression in the 90s, but overall it was a decidedly post-9/11 shift. As hunter participation was actually decreasing (and continues to decline), the visibility and commercial viability of hunting suddenly exploded. Hunting was now something more than a lifestyle: It was a brand.

You began to see as much camouflage in the mall as you did in the field. Decals of bucks with double drop tines, a characteristic rare enough in the wild that most of us will never encounter one, became plastered on the windows of F-250s everywhere. Camouflage went from performing the task of making you unseen to making you seen. Sure enough, pink camouflage was quick to follow for female hunters to be seen and counted, too.

Hunter

Image: http://www.trbimg.com/

Larry the Cable Guy’s use of redneck blackface made him a millionaire by branding the “blue collar” identity that was also the source of his comedy. People felt represented by him because he fully identified with the thing being made fun of: them.

After 9/11, as a result of cultural forces that are probably still too new to understand fully (social media being one of them), hunting evolved into a fixed and marketable identity with a defined set of politics. Hunting became just another popular identity, one of many in the popular cultural landscape. A reality television show about duck hunters becomes one of the most watched in TV history. For the first time, you could identify as a hunter (even without actually being one) and it made sense. It came with a known set of cultural and political affiliations. All you had to do was wear a Mossy Oak hoodie and people understood who you were. In a way, wearing camo is no different than wearing a your favorite team’s jersey. But what exactly is team hunting, and what does it represent?

In a surplus economy, hunting-as-subsistence is not going to be part of your average hunter’s identity. Very few us can make enough money to live by hunting or trapping. The one way that all of us can identify as hunters is through consumption. Some very smart people figured out that if there’s one thing that hunters seem to enjoy as much as hunting, it’s shopping.

But not everybody was hip to it. Fudds were born. Fudds resisted the rising tide of the monoculture by embracing a more austere post-war approach to hunting. For a Fudd, hunting means fair chase and a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .270. The arrival of the controversial AR platform made hunting a contested second amendment issue. If you came out against so-called black rifles, you were not only anti-hunting, but indirectly, anti-second amendment as well. Because hunting is not a right, hunters realized they had to bow down to second amendment politics (and its marketplace). Then Jim Zumbo came out against the AR platform and became the sacrificial Fudd. He was struck down by the outdoor powers that be, which seemed at the mercy of the new market for the AR. 

This progression towards a popular hunting identity has lumped hunters into a monolithic group synonymous with powerful rights-based politics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the more unified a group is, the more leverage it tends to have. However, unified and homogenous are not the same thing. Groups that are too homogenous are weak because they alienate members who disagree as well as those like-minded non-members who would help the cause. 

It’s at this moment when, consciously or subconsciously, hunting shows begin to appear that challenge the status quo. You can read the efforts of hunters like Steven Rinella, Randy Newberg, and Remi Warren as in no small part responding to those aspects of hunting that the post-9/11 landscape has downplayed, ignored, or even repressed. In Rinella, it’s the materiality of food consumption and its relationship to history and landscape; for Newberg it’s the egalitarian principles of public land hunting; in “Solo Hunter” Warren invokes a tradition of rugged self-reliance. Independent YouTube also contributed to the changing landscape of outdoor media.

These were not so much rebellions against the status quo of mainstream hunting media as proof that hunting is deeply varied in practice. Hunters do not all agree on what constitutes hunting, nor do we all agree on what the future of hunting should look like.

Which leads to the single biggest problem with hunting today: It is the culture itself that is prohibitive in the way we hunters get to decide how our economic and political power should be used. We can’t agree on the biggest threats to hunting because we’re not allowed to disagree.

Hunting is a deeply regional activity. A whitetail hunter in Iowa will face different roadblocks and conservation issues than an elk hunter in Idaho. This basic fact should invite differences of opinion, even irreconcilable ones, into the hunting discourse. Yet we’ve developed a climate where to disagree with one form of hunting is to disagree with the whole and be labeled an anti-hunter. This behavior is not what’s going to get us through the long nights ahead of us. 

My Thoughts on Hunters Criticizing Hunters: Do it

Image: http://www.prohuntersjournal.com/

Image: http://www.prohuntersjournal.com/

By Jack Kredell

When did hunters become so sensitive? Every other week some think piece comes out in one of the major outdoor publications warning hunters about the dangers of criticizing other hunters. In the big hunting forum I frequent, whenever somebody posts something critical of high fence operations or comes out in favor of wolves, they get called an anti-hunter. You’d think we were the most sensitive group in America. Most recently, “Outdoor Life” published an article by hunter and blogger Tyler Freel that faithfully repeats the dogma:

Worse than any anti-hunter’s criticism is friendly fire, attacks from within our community of hunters. The only thing anti-hunters would love more than to see us destroy hunting from within is to see all hunting gone. I don’t know if hunters attacking and belittling each other’s methods is more common now than in the past, but it is certainly more audible and visible. And it’s often reduced to a simple and damning phrase: “That’s not hunting.”

This appeal to self-censorship is a disturbing trend within the outdoor community. It’s disturbing for several reasons, the most obvious being the apparent inability of hunters to deal with criticism. Another disturbing pattern is the deep and self-righteous investment in what non-hunters think of their activities. So much so that hunting is often depicted for them as opposed to other hunters. This kind of extreme reactionary behavior is the real reason why hunters and anti-hunters have a problem with one another. It’s how we’ve arrived at the silliness of people posting bloody grip and grins on Facebook and then getting upset when they’re called a monster. The problem comes from within, not from without.

Within, not from without: Hunters are afraid to pass judgment on one another because the mainstream elements of our culture tend to promote the view that our way of life is under attack from the outside. The modern hunter lives more or less in a constant state of emergency. There isn’t a day that goes by where the modern hunter’s inbox isn’t bombarded with emails begging for attention and money about this or that politician and this or that company refusing to accommodate gun owners. It follows a logic that we should all be familiar with from this political cycle: Blame anything or anybody for our problems except ourselves. Not enough jobs? Build a wall. Elk are all gone? Kill the wolves.

The idea is that we have to band together to combat this external threat, a threat that never actually occurs (meanwhile the guns and ammo fly off the shelves, and it’s a victory for the NRA). It’s ironic how the prohibition on judgment reproduces the very political correctness that annoys conservatives.

Does PETA want to end hunting? Yes. Are there lots of groups that would like to see an end to hunting? Sure. Is the EPA part of a liberal conspiracy to weaken industry from within and close rivers and streams to fishing? No. Did the auto insurance industry, in cahoots with state fish and wildlife agencies, introduce wolf-hybrid coyotes to the eastern United States to reduce deer vehicle collisions (many hunters in my state believe this)? Doubtful. The only way we’re going to get out of this insane deadlock between hunter-conservationists and environmentalists and between hunters and anti-hunters is if we mutually disown the more irrational elements of our respective sides and really come to terms with what we both want. Because I really do believe that the majority of us want a similar thing: Land that belongs to everyone and no one simultaneously and that anybody can enjoy the way they see fit.

Why My Grandfather Stopped Hunting

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org/

By Jack Kredell

Once my grandfather reached the peak of his hunting prowess, sometime in his late 50s, he became more and more reluctant to hunt. It seemed odd that a man who had killed a deer or elk almost every year since he was a teenager would suddenly lose interest in hunting. Was it apathy? It didn’t seem likely.

At the end of a yoga class a few weeks ago, we were instructed during shavasana, or corpse pose, to let our mind wander freely. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled, and let my mind go blank. I soon found myself on a ridge top looking through binoculars at the 8-point I would shoot a few minutes later. I raised my gun but found the shot too difficult to take standing, so I began slowly to crouch, letting my left elbow come to a rest on my left thigh. Here I breathed, exhaled, and pulled the trigger. For the first time since killing that deer, I recalled the physical violence of the gun going off, the way it popped and bucked deep into my shoulder, the half-moon gash on my forehead from the impact of the scope.

That one was so much more violent than the first two, but not because I couldn’t handle the recoil. It was violent because I felt I knew this deer better than the first two. Finding this deer had been a little different. For the first time, I had stalked a deer and entered its world completely undetected. I had plenty of time to decide not take this animal’s life. I almost felt his equal, and I didn’t want the experience to end. Killing him felt like an act of betrayal.

When you’re first starting out, getting a shot at a deer occurs when your world and their world suddenly and fortunately (for you) collide. That moment of chance is where most hunting takes place. Throw in the pressure you put on yourself to get a deer, and you can understand why people routinely miss or wound deer. That moment is fleeting (you think), and so you take the shot. The difference between this kind of hunting and the hunting where I felt I had slipped into the buck’s world is that in the former, the trigger pulls you while in the latter, you pull the trigger.

It was then, during this vision on the yoga mat, that I understood my grandfather’s waning desire to hunt. Simply put, hunting had become too intimate for him. His ego was no longer part of his practice. He was more aware than ever of death and dying, both for himself and for others. He had practiced the art of still hunting his entire life, and by middle age, he had no problem entering an animal’s world. The labor it now took to get within range of a deer required neither evidence nor reward. But it wasn’t the satisfaction in knowing he could kill the deer that prevented him from doing it. For the first time in 50 years of hunting, he knew he actually couldn’t.

Skin a Deer or Elk with an Air Compressor

Are you ready to explore the unexpected relationship between skinning large game and compressed air? If you are and find yourself in possession of an air compressor, I highly recommend this clean and quick method to skin your next deer or elk, brought to our attention by @SMHuntington.

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

1. Hang It Up

You can hang your deer head up or head down, but if you hang it head up by the antlers, you risk detaching one or both. This is more likely to happen later in the season as the bone base weakens following the rut. The other advantage of hanging a deer head down is that it tends to be more stable because the legs form a wider base than the head. Butchers, for example, hang deer head down.

2.  Cut a Slit and Insert Nozzle

Use a knife to make a very small incision in the skin covering the deer’s thigh. The hole should be not wider than the nozzle so that when you insert the nozzle it forms an airtight seal. If your cut is too wide or the hide rips, insert the nozzle and seal the edges with duct tape.

3. Air Time

Once you turn on the air, the skin should start to separate from the muscle. If your progress is slowed by air leaking from a large entrance or existing wounds, turn the air off and seal the holes with duct tape. It shouldn’t have to be perfectly airtight to work. Lastly, you’ll want tie the deer down with an anchor rope to prevent it from floating away after it fills with air. Deer balloons are a hazard to aircraft.

4. Rinse and Repeat

Assuming your first effort was not a resounding success, repeat the first three steps as needed. The goal is to completely separate the skin from the layer of fat between the hide and muscle. Once separated, the skin will appear loose and flabby.

5. Peel

How you perform this step depends on how you intend to use the hide. If you want a complete hide, make the traditional cuts along the inner thighs and down the belly so that the hide peels off in one oval-shaped piece. If you’re not particular about the hide, you can pretty much cut anywhere and begin peeling. Keep your knife handy for any spots that may not have separated.

Women Hunt Too: Huntresses We Admire

Often there’s a misconception that only men hunt (or fish), but we want to dispel that myth. Getting down in camo in a hunting blind is not a gender exclusive activity, and there are more than a few awesome huntresses that we admire out there.

Women have been involved in hunting since the beginning of history. Cave drawings displayed women joining in on the hunt, mythological huntresses were depicted in ancient Greek and Roman culture, and ancient Egypt saw queens often hunting from the comfort of their chariots. It’s no surprise that in today’s society there are plenty of noteworthy huntresses paving the way for the outdoorswoman of the future.

Andrea Fisher

Andrea Fisher with a buck.

2011 Prois Award winner, Andrea Fisher. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/]

Huntress and conservationist Andrea Fisher was the 2011 Prois Award winner, an award that honors women who are dedicated to hunting and conservation with involvement in their community. Fisher won a trip to hunt elk, mule deer, wolf, and whitetail in the Canadian Rockies alongside Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief for Savage Encounters and Sports Afield.

Eva Shockey

Eva Shockey and a whitetail buck.

Eva Shockey and a beautiful whitetail buck. [Image: http://outdoorchannel.com/]

Canadian huntress and daughter of Jim Shockey, Eva was featured on the May 2014 issue of Field & Stream Magazine, the first woman to be featured in 30 years. Eva has grown up in the face of hunting media, following in her father’s footsteps. It’s no surprise that she is now a cohost of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, blazing the trail for huntresses worldwide.

Debra Card

Debra Card and her moose.

Debra Card and her amazingly antlered moose. [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/]

In 1999, Debra Card snagged a number one Safari Club International (SCI) spot for an Alaska moose she killed right outside of Cordova. Its antlers spanned over six feet with 39 points and scored her 731 1/8-inches. This monster has held the number one spot for more than a decade now!

Mary Cabela

Mary Cabela and a bighorn sheep.

Mary Cabela and a beautiful bighorn sheep she shot. [Image: http://www.outdoorlife.com/]

Everyone’s at least heard of Cabela’s, and it’s not surprising that co-owner Mary Cabela is an impressive huntress. She has records for more than 200 animals, many of which are SCI trophies. Some of her kills include cape buffalo, caribou, Dall sheep, elk, and much more.

The Things We Lose

Dark trees on a foggy day in the woods [Image Credit: Jack Kredell]

Image Credit: Jack Kredell

I’ve lost all manner of things in the woods including, but not limited to, the following: hats (so many hats), knives, rope, extra socks, a thermos, lighters, tobacco, rolling paper, my glasses, a glove (alas, to lose one is to lose both), prescription pills, smart phones, animals I might have shot, a salt shaker, bullets, gun powder, and my wallet. I’m not sure if my knack for losing things is a consequence of the way I hunt, which can be described as overzealous at times, or if I’m simply prone to losing things. Here are a few of the more unfortunate highlights:

Grandfather’s Gerber

image: uhrforum.de

Image: uhrforum.de

After my grandfather passed, his wife sent me a box of hunting gear and included was a little Gerber folder from the early 1980s. Though unremarkable and cheap looking, the knife was used for over a decade by my grandfather to dress elk and mule deer in Idaho’s West Mountains. Put in the hands of an amateur, its story would end unceremoniously on a frigid mountaintop in Pennsylvania. While deer hunting one winter, my feet became so cold that I had build a fire to get circulation back. After making the wood shavings I stuck the knife in a bed of frozen moss thinking I would eventually need more. But I forgot about the knife and walked away. I went back a few days later but the knife was either gone or I couldn’t find the original location. I picture it still out there, rusting defiantly in its grave of moss.

A Doe

The wind was howling so I decided to still-hunt a creek bottom that normally was too loud to walk during the fall muzzleloader season. I promptly walked up on a doe standing 20-yards away drinking from a creek. As I raised my gun she looked up, and I put the sight, which was set at 75 yards (mistake number 1), just behind her left front shoulder and fired. Through the smoke I saw the deer walk about 5 yards before lying down. I put the gun against a tree, reached into my backpack for a bullet (mistake number 2: keep your bullets in your pocket), and began to reload. When I finished, I looked up and the deer was gone. I spent the next 8 hours and the following day searching for a blood trail but found nothing. If I did hit the doe, then there is no excuse for losing her. There is nothing more distressing and painful to the hunter than failing to recover a wounded animal.

Android Smart Phone

I lost my first smart phone during a fall turkey hunt within a week of buying it. Rather than tuck it away in my backpack, I placed it in a bed of leaves at my feet in order to check the time without moving my arms around too much. After four or five hours of calling, I decided to call it quits and head home for lunch. As I stood up, I heard something behind me and turned to see a hen take off flying into the valley. I threw my hands in the air and sulked off, leaving my new Android under the tree for a more deserving hunter. The lesson: glass your surroundings before you stand up.

Thermos

Losing my thermos was a real shame. There was nothing I enjoyed more than pouring myself a cap-full of steaming coffee and watching as the morning sun splashed into valley. It is at that moment when I’m most aware of the beauty and possibility surrounding me, and more often than not, it is the best part of the hunt. The day I lost it I was hunting deer with a flintlock when it began to pour freezing rain. Since I could not prevent the primer from becoming toothpaste, I began the hazardous journey home. On my way down I slipped on the ice and knocked the thermos out of my jacket pocket. I only realized it was gone when I got to the bottom, and in those conditions I wasn’t going back up.

The woods giveth and the woods taketh away.

10 Reasons to Start Hunting

White-tailed deer [Image: www.lehighvalleylive.com]

White-tailed deer [Image: www.lehighvalleylive.com]

Hunting season is around the corner. Here are ten reasons why you should consider hunting for your food this year:

1. Game animals are a natural public resource managed by state fish and wildlife agencies who in turn are funded by your tax dollars. Many of these animals live on public land. It’s the closest thing to having food on tap, only taking a deer isn’t as easy as turning on the faucet.

2. There are no checkout lines, price tags, spills on aisle 4, crying babies, etc. in the forest.

3. You inherited an old rifle but it’s sitting in the attic collecting dust. Hunting rifles haven’t changed much in the last 100 years, so assuming everything is in working order, grandpa’s gun will do the job just fine. Have a gunsmith check the gun out before firing it.

4. There is no meat as local, fresh, or free-ranging as the deer in the hills behind your house. Head for the hills.

5. Hunting is a rich sensory experience. The outcome of your hunt depends on how you interpret the sensory data presented by your environment. Hunting puts you in touch with your body in ways that modern life simply cannot.

6. When you buy a steak from the market you’re only entitled to a small portion of the animal. But if you fill a deer or elk tag, you’re entitled to the whole thing. Animal hides are beautiful and provide warmth. Antler and bone can be used for knife handles, lamps, or decoration.

7. Because you like doing things that are difficult. If you think taking an animal as quick, nimble, and alert as a deer with a modern bow or rifle is easy think again.

8. The venison roast you brought to the potluck is gone in 10 minutes. Now you feel like a boss.

9. Hunting forces you to assume the full responsibility of eating meat. To be responsible for an animal’s death is a powerful and humbling experience.

10. There’s a moment after you’ve settled into your spot or treestand when the birds forget about your presence and you literally disappear. Then the sun begins to rise. It’s sublime.

Suggested Gear List:

  • Osprey Packs Talon 44 Backpack
  • Petzl TacTikka Plus RGB Headlamp
  • Brunton Eterna Compact Binocular

Wondering where to get our suggested gear?
Check out our Gear Store for these and more!