5 Stages of a Hunter Series: Sportsman Stage

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photo(2)This is the final part of the 5 Stages of a Hunter Series. Make sure to read the complete series. What Type of Hunter are You?, The Shooter Stage, The Limiting Out Stage, The Trophy Stage, and The Method Stage.

Article Contributed by S. Buoy

“If you consider an unsuccessful hunt to be a waste of time, then the true meaning of the chase eludes you all together.” -Fred Bear

The sportsman stage of a hunter is usually reserved for the older generation. The guys that have been there, done that. They have trophies on their wall and pictures on their mantle. They have forgotten more memories than our generation has made.

Maybe I was spoiled in how and where I was raised. Growing up on a ranch with crops, canyons, and game galore I had every opportunity my parents could give me. My cousin and I spend countless hours chasing trout through streams in our canyons, with very little success. The groves surrounding my house had an abundance of sparrows and rabbits. They were a BB gun hunters dream. Thankfully, because I was taught proper gun safety I never needed the ever popular “Don’t shoot your eye out” warning. Believe me there were many tubes of BBs fired, and very few sparrows were fed to the cats.

photoI have great memories of hunting growing up one of the first clear ones, was turkey hunting when I was maybe five years old. Dad and I were backed up into a yucca plant, he was calling and the tom was answering. He snuck up behind us and dad nailed him with his twelve gauge. There were other instances of firsts. Like my first deer, the first time I got to go deer hunting with someone other than dad, and up to a few years back with my first bow kill whitetail.

The meat in the freezer from those experiences was great. The trophies to hang and the pictures are all there. However the best memories, the best experiences are from just being there. The camaraderie, the laughs, the jokes about the “one that got away”, the donuts my aunt would make for us to last through opening weekend, the nasty pickle and pimento loaf lunch meat my uncle always brought to put on his sandwiches, the task of packing two adults and three kids in the front of the 69 Ford single cab pickup to bounce around the hills looking for mule deer. It wasn’t about convenience, or making sure the best odds on getting a trophy where met, it was about escaping reality, bonding with family and learning life’s lessons. So much of it about the hunt itself and so little emphasis on the kill.

photo(1)Maybe these are the reasons I consider myself in the sportsman stage. Maybe these are the reasons I feel I always have been. There could be an argument to me being in the trophy stage, because I let so many little bucks go by at very close range. Or that if it’s not going to be a “wall hanger” I’d rather shoot a doe for the meat. Which could and should be considered a version of a ‘trophy” in itself, but that’s a story for another day. I could see some placing me in the method stage as I primarily use my recurve to take game. I feel that is easily disputed by the fact I will shoot a doe in late season to fill the freezer, and I killed my bear with a rifle. Although, next time my bow will be making the trip. Over the last few years, and actually through most of my life, there are many examples of why I would consider myself to have been in the sportsman stage from early on.

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I suppose when it comes down to it, hunting needs to have the different stages to exist. The bag limits are carefully set by the game and parks, to keep a healthy population of game. Therefore hunting needs the limiting out stage to keep populations under control. As animals get older they are more susceptible to suffering a cold miserable death to starvation or predation. That’s where the trophy hunting stage is needed. It will not save all animals from this bitter end, but people hunting mature animals will definitely reduce the numbers that find their life ending that way. In my opinion the method stage is needed as a guideline for each discipline. It is the hunters in this stage that ultimately have the most knowledge of a particular skill, because they have dedicated their time, effort, and focus on that method.  They also will be the ones to go to when changing tactics. There is a lot to know and if you can find these “method hunters” in your field you will not regret it. To an extent I feel we all have a little bit of the sportsman stage in us, or we wouldn’t be interested in going out in the first place. It’s just a lot more prevalent in others. With the sportsman stage I feel I need it just as much as it needs me. It’s my escape from my everyday life. It’s my chance to become one with nature and not need a specific outcome. I feel with the sportsman stage of hunting, and I bet others in the same stage agree. Just being there was enough.

Read about the other stages of The 5 Stages of a Hunter.
The Shooter Stage
The Limiting Out Stage
The Trophy Stage
The Method Stage

A.J. Fick

Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in southern California, central Texas, and currently reside in western Idaho. I consider myself a western hunter at heart, enjoying being part of vast landscapes and the thrill of the stalk. One of my hunting mottos is “stretch the stalk, not the shot”. My motivations as an outdoorsman are rooted in the sustenance, independence, and challenging physical aspects. In fact, my largest driving factor for physical fitness is preparing for upcoming hunts and ensuring I’m well-prepared to climb mountains and cover ground with a heavy pack. I also recognize and respect the importance of conservation efforts for our wild animals and wild places and the close connection to hunting and fishing. If we want future generations to experience the wonder and adventure of the outdoors, and gain the countless benefits, we must continue to make wildlife conservation today’s priority to ensure continued opportunity.

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