Hunting is and always has been a social endeavor. In fact if you look across the animal kingdom you will see that there are numerous species that hunt in cooperation with other members of their pack. Since prehistoric times, man has banded together in small, tight-knit groups in search of food and exploration.
Even where we currently find ourselves, in the hustle and bustle of our technologically advanced society, individuals from all walks of life continue to seek out others who share their same passion for the outdoors and come together to experience the community of a fading lifestyle. It is the harvesting of a big Kansas 8 pointer as it walks out in front of our shooting lane or knocking down a 5 man limit of mallards while standing knee deep in the flooded Arkansas timber that first gets us into hunting. The thrill of these moments is what hooks us, but that feeling eventually fades. What keeps people involved in hunting throughout their lives is camaraderie and those we choose to share these experiences with.
An American Tradition
Camaraderie is defined as a spirit of friendship and community between two or more people. Camaraderie can be found taking shape in its most basic expression within hunting in the form of hunt camps. Hunt camps have been a tradition within the hunting culture of the United States since the mid to late 1900’s.
These camps take on various embodiments depending on the region they are located in. In the north you have deer camps, where entire families come together a day or two before opening day in the pursuit of arguably the most hunted species in America.
In the south duck camps are formed with a wide array of individuals, all who live to see the silhouettes of mallards as they dip down into the decoys at first light. In the west, traveling bird camps can be found with feather crazy nomads, much like myself, wandering from state to state with their buddies and dogs in toe, chasing the rush of a flushing rooster. And finally, it’s in the east where grouse and woodcock are king and draw groups of hunters together for a day of wandering through the sanctuary of the hardwoods.
It is in these places that bonds of friendships are formed, lessons are learned, and stories of what was and what could be are shared. In each of these camps you will find old timers passing on the traditions of their fathers. You will find the young’uns being initiated, not only in proper woodsmanship, but in the art of sportsmanship, honor, and conservation. Within the confines of these hallowed spaces new hunters are invited and adopted into the fold in the hopes of continuing a legacy that sets our country apart from that of our neighbors. It is these camps that are the foundation of the very essence that makes up the history of hunting and the soul of the American hunter.
I recently spent time in one of these camps as a friend of mine looked to harvest his first Kentucky bull elk. Our group spent 4 days together working towards the same goal, helping one of our own in the hopes that our sacrifices might help lead to a successful and memorable experience for him. We endured hikes up steep ascents, long and uncomfortable truck rides deep into the hills, and late nights analyzing the events of the day and professing our hopes for the next. More importantly though we discussed life and what it means to be a good man, husband, and father.
When we recount the hunt, you won’t hear us talking about the bull that was harvested with minutes to spare on the last day. Instead you will hear us rattle on about all of the seemingly unimportant events throughout the trip that brought us together as a crew. We will reminisce about the laughs that we had, the food that we ate, the time spent with our buddies away from our 9-5’s, and the number of times I fell asleep in the back of the beater Chevy we were hauled around in.
As the great Steven Rinella says in the opening of his show MeatEater, “Hunting isn’t about the pursuit of an animal…”, though this is originally what we go out in search of. Rather it is about the building of kinship between strangers. When you are in camp there is a beautiful blending of old faces that you look forward to seeing every year with that of the new ones, whose presence quickly becomes unnoticeable as ever having been out of place. In camp everyone shares a commonality. It’s not the chase, harvest, or the sport that binds us. It is each other. Politics aside, it was Colin Powell who said it best, “The bottom line in all of it is that, in life, it’s all about people”. Surround yourself with the right people and you will never experience an “unsuccessful” hunt for the rest of your life.Shop for Hunting Blinds Online – CLICK HERE