Why We Hunt? The Five Motives of a Hunter

You ask a hundred hunters why they hunt and you will receive a hundred different answers.

Although a lot of the answers will be very similar there will always be little nuances that separate one hunter’s motivation from another’s. While talking to my brother who I hunt with probably more than anyone else, I discovered our motivations for hunting are different.

I have done deep soul searching to find my motivation and I have talked and observed other hunters and have tried to figure out theirs. I came up with a list of five basic motivations. But what makes it so complicated is that every hunter has all of these motivations but in varying degrees. I will go into that a little later, first let me break them down in no particular order.

1. Meat:

It is about filling the freezer. It is a simple motivation – shoot animals, get food. It really is the original motivation for hunting. When I picture a pure meat hunter I picture a subsistence hunter, who relies on the meat to survive.

2. Adventure:

It is the story and the journey that is important. You do not even have to make a kill to have a successful hunt as long as you have a great time doing it. I think of Jim Shockey’s “Uncharted” where he explores cultures and meets people while hunting.

3. Camaraderie

It is all about who you hunt with and the memories you make. It includes sharing in another’s kill as well as being back at camp sitting around the fireplace. I think about a father taking his child hunting.

4. Challenge

It is about how you make the kill. This can include restricting your equipment such as using a bow or even dropping down to a stick bow or only chasing after a certain size animal. Think Tim Wells who shoots birds out of the sky with a bow or kills wild pigs with a blowgun.

5. Spirituality

It is about being in nature and feeling a connection to the land. Hunting offers us a chance to be part of nature, not just an observer. A good example of this is Steve Rinella who did an entire episode of Meat Eater talking about his connection to the land and his connection with bears while he hunted them.

As you read through the list you can start to see that you have all of these motivations. You are your own unique mix. This makes it hard to really lock one person into any one of them. Too often I see hunters trying to generalize a person’s motives. Phrases like, “he is just a meat hunter”, or, “he is just a trophy hunter”, attempts to lock a hunter into a certain stereotype.

Every hunter has a different set of motivations and none of them are wrong. And just because meat for the freezer is more important than a trophy buck does not make that person a “slob hunter.”

If a person wants to shoot a little basket rack – let him, and if you would rather eat tag soup than shoot that same deer, that is fine too. There is too much infighting; too many think their motivations are the only ones that are pure.

So take a moment and do some soul searching. What are your motivations? What drives you to hunt?