Spend any amount of time around a long-distance hiker and you’ll likely hear the phrase, “hike your own hike.” For these extreme individuals who rack up twenty to thirty miles per day for months on end, the idea of “hiking your own hike” serves as a reminder to focus on making their hike uniquely their own, and to not compare themselves to others on the trail. I can’t help but think how the same mantra can apply to how we approach our hunts.
I grew up watching hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel and would find myself glued to the screen when a monster buck came wandering in under a hunter poised in a tree. Moments later, the cameraman would capture the shooter drawing back and releasing the arrow that would result in some of the coolest photographic moments I’d probably never get to experience for myself.
Because I didn’t have a private hunting ranch with trophy whitetail bucks running through it, and I didn’t have a production team to mark the moment of my success. I lived in the Pacific Northwest, where an abundance of hunting opportunities could be found right at my doorstep, but I recall thinking as a teenager how my hunts would could never compare to those I saw on television — as if my environment would never be extreme enough or “cool” enough. I was inspired by these hunting shows, but I was also falling victim to the age-old trap of comparing myself to others. As a result, I never fully appreciated the opportunities that were available to me, and I spent a number of years never making the most of what I actually had at my disposal.
The Internet and social media are jammed packed with picture-perfect hunting moments that awe-inspiring at the very least. The grander the setting, the more popular the image; but I often wonder what the impact is of showing off these trophy class animals and landscapes. Are these images supposed to define what hunting is or isn’t? If so, and if I don’t have a picturesque hunt, should I be searching for one? If I never bag a big buck, does it mean I’m not a dedicated enough or worthy enough to even call myself a hunter?
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized,
“If I continue to let others define what hunting should look like, I will never be content with the opportunities available to me.”
I made the decision that when I did make it to the field in the fall, I’d hunt in a manner that suited me best — be it a day hunt, or an overnighter, with a rifle, or with a bow. If it required that I dive deep into the thickest of the thick to root out those ninja-like Blacktails, I was going do it regardless of whether or not I’d have a cool picture to show for it.
My hunts were going to be on my terms and the only person that had any reason to critique what I was doing was me. I was finally beginning to “hunt my own hunt.” As a result, I’ve become not only happier with myself come the end of the season, but I’ve also become a much better hunter — because instead of chasing the picture, I was now chasing the hunt.
The fall hunting season will be here before we know it. If I had one thing to ask of those reading this post it would be to consider whether or not you’re chasing the picture or chasing the hunt. Do you use those images on social media as fuel for waking up extra early for a chance at the buck of a lifetime? Or, do you see them and find yourself downplaying where you hunt because you wish you lived somewhere with rugged peaks, deep valleys, and trophy class game? If it’s the latter, then I urge you to spend some time reflecting on what it is you’re doing out there in the first place and why you think your adventures would be any less “cool” than ones seen online.
When you find yourself entering the woods this fall, do it for yourself and “hunt your own hunt.”
Be it big game, small game, water fowl, or upland birds — when you stop comparing your hunts to what you see online, the more valuable each moment in the backcountry will become. Sure, some landscapes might be a little more photogenic than others, but who really cares? A cornfield in Iowa is no less special than the wilds of the Northwest Territories and a button buck is no less important than a trophy found in the history books.
You, and only you can decide how memorable each hunt is. Hunt your own hunt and be proud of those wild places you call home.
Emory is the creator of By Land, a website dedicated to helping others make the most of their backcountry experiences. He enjoys backpacking, traditional archery, and hunting Roosevelt Elk and Blacktail Deer in the fall months. Emory is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and currently resides in SW Washington State. In addition to his website, you can also connect with him on Instagram and Facebook.