I grew up in a family of non-hunters, in a more urban environment close to the city, and interact with other white-bread professionals, most of who also don’t hunt. This doesn’t lend itself very well to knowing much, if anything, about the lifestyle. I say this because if I can figure out a way to do this at 42 years old, so can you. And while I’m just starting, this is already yielding some great results for relationship building with my son as he is figuring out what it is like to be a man.
Much like masculinity (as our society becomes increasingly feminized), hunting has declined in our country. In 1970, over 40 million licenses were issued. Today that number is about 11.5 million, with percentages continuing to drop. The average hunter age is nearly 50, which illustrates that it is not as big a part of our culture any more, and with that comes a loss in that camaraderie and self-sustaining skills that come with this lifestyle.
As a middle-class, white collar worker I have attempted to model behavior I want to instill in my son (Loudboy, 10) and daughter (Birdsnest, 12), but I’ve always felt it was lacking something.
Have you ever asked yourself “What does it mean to be a man?”
It is a tough question to answer. They may include words like strong, steady, reliable, brave, trustworthy, or ethical. The challenge is how do show to ourselves, our wives, and our kids that we are men. The opportunity to exhibit these traits in our cul-de-sac safe places are rare. I love my dad a lot, and I learned a lot from him over the years, but we’ve never been especially close nor do I think he really figured this stuff out when I was growing up. Part of my red pill journey was unlearning the societal castration of masculinity and figuring this stuff out in the context of marriage and parenthood. I’ve learned I want to be a better example of this for my kids, than my dad was to me and my brothers.
My bachelor brother (no kids) cut his own path as a MGTOW. A few years back he quit his corporate job, cashed out some of his 401k and moved to the middle of nowhere in a small home on a good sized wooded property. A few years ago at 36 he taught himself to hunt without a mentor, which isn’t easy. He learned how to clean a deer by watching YouTube videos. In the last year or so he’s had success both in gun season and bow season (crossbow due to an injury). Knowing that he was able to figure it out was the impetus for me going down a similar path. I’ve taken Loudboy out to his place on a ‘guys’ weekend’ where we’ve shot guns, trampled throughout his woods, and shot archery with shit poor garage sale equipment. This got our imagination going, and Loudboy was bitten by the idea so we jumped in the deep end together.
In January we took an intro to archery class at a local bow club. By the third week I had bought us quality equipment (used, but still expensive) that will last us for years. This alone made the shooting experience so much better. After wrapping up our class, we joined a local bowhunting club for $50 for an annual family membership. Best purchase ever. This got us access to their indoor range, 3D course, and outdoor range out to 60 yards. He gets to interact with men now on a regular basis, men from different walks of life. Hardscrabble men who work construction or auto mechanics or farming. As a professional desk jockey, I’m the rarity.
A few weeks ago we finished up our hunter’s safety class. I was one of two adult men over 40 there, the rest were youth. Spread over parts of four days, we went through gun handling, bow hunting, tree stands, survival, and general hunting topics. We are now licensed to kill. I have no idea what I’m doing, but my white-belt mindset allows me to learn. I’m focusing on bow hunting and this year will be more about improving and learning what I need to do. Making a clean, ethical kill is my main goal and I’m not confident yet on my skills. My son isn’t sure if he wants to hunt yet, which is fine, but he is game for sitting in a blind or stand with me and being in the shotgun seat as I go through my own hunting adventure. We’ve already got to spend more one-on-one time going to and from class or indoor shooting than we ever have before. We’re fortunate in that we’ll have private land to hunt on and the ability to shadow family this year who already hunt. While we have state public land to hunt on, it is easier to wrap my head around the whole process when others have paved the way. What I’ve seen though in my class and at our bow club is the willingness for hunters to mentor and teach. I’m guessing this is a common factor wherever you may live.
As we were wrapping up hunter’s safety, my wife texted me:
“I’m so glad Loudboy has you to learn how to be a man.”
Now if that isn’t an illustration of what stretching your boundaries does to how others perceive you, I’m not sure what does. I’m far from a perfect husband or father, but I know that what I do and who I am has a huge impact on their lives. We spend a lot of time as a family, which I’m really thankful for, but hunting is something that will have an impact on everyone in my family. It doesn’t matter if I’m successful in my endeavors, or if Loudboy ever hunts, it is the process. It will be hunt camp with my cousins or brother-in-law or brother. It is knowing how to shoot a gun and bow and arrow and handle a knife and basic survival skills. It is appreciating where our food comes from and what it is like to take a life. It is spending more time in the woods away from the stresses and distractions of daily life. If I don’t model this, there is a good chance my kids won’t learn it.
It is never too late to learn and grow into someone that you want to be.
It is hard to escape the train track patterns that are grooved into our daily life and who we are, but you can take that off-ramp if you have enough desire and are humble enough to begin at the beginning. Joe Rogan is a relatively new hunter, as is former SEAL Andy Stumpf. Finding inspiration to start something new is there, you just have to find it. I’ll be sure to post more as I travel on my journey, and maybe I can inspire others in my own small way.
Good luck my brothers.