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July 25, 2008

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Why We Finally Stop Hunting

I have an unnatural fascination with prehistoric man and, like a lot of paleontologists, spend time wondering what killed off the Neanderthals. They were around for 260,000 years in the face of some of the worst weather the earth has experienced, but 2,000 to 10,000 years after Cro-Magnons showed up, they vanished. Neanderthals lived in small family groups, and bit by bit, the groups ceased to exist. Finally, it probably came down to one man or woman, and that must have been the loneliest death imaginable.

I'm sure that last Neanderthal's last thought, just before his (or her) heart stopped was "Screw it. Why bother anymore? There's no one left."

And so it is with hunters. Hunting and shooting are intensely tribal. Only another hunter or shooter can understand what we do, and we tend to hang around with hunters and shooters of our own age. The pissant punks who can't remember before GPS and Gore-Tex and laser rangefinders will never understand how older generations view things.

Eventually, you reach the point  where you look around and there is no one left who remembers the things you do. Unlike the poor damned Neanderthal, you may not decide to die, but you very well may decide to hang up your guns. If you have no one left to share your sport with, why bother anymore?


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If you look around I’m sure that you’ll discover that you already know one of these “lost boys”; a neighbor, a co-worker, that awkward kid at church who spends way too much time alone in front of a computer?
If you’re divorced, if you’ve been one of those Dads, I’m not dumping on you, you may have been shown a bad example, you may have lost your father. Get to work, make up for that lost time with your kids.
Everybody, get out there and take a new outdoorsman (or woman) with you when you go. You probably even have enough old gear that you no longer use (shrank in the washer, yeah right) to outfit an entire party of hunters or anglers, so don’t be stingy. What are you saving it for?
I know that it takes work, but for the future of the sport, it’s worth it. My brother and I hunt with a 14 year old boy whose dad is deceased. He sometimes doesn’t have the smoothest gun-handling skills, but anyone who catches him unintentionally pointing a gun anywhere it doesn’t belong gets a free kick to his rear. He was a lot better last fall, than the year before, and he’s an awesome shot. You never know, it might even stoke your ego a little, to give away some of your best outdoor info, or take it to your grave, the choice is yours.


My father has a 300 acre farm up in Northern Wisconsin. It is a beautiful place set in between the Wisconsin River and a Creek. Unfortunately, it is also only a few miles from city limits and land has been developed all around us in the last 20 years. At night, there is hardly a spot you can stand without seeing lights in some direction through the trees unless you in in the middle of it. I love this land. I grew up there. I now have many of my own friends that would die to get a spot on our hunting crew. But my father (in his 60's now) would not have it. He let someone he did not know hunt with us a hand-full of times and it has back fired on him every time. Everything from someone shooting through our party of guys at a deer running through camp to the cops coming because some yahoo hunting on his own decided it was okay to chase a deer down the center line of the neighborhood road firing off shots 200 yards down the road. My father's trust has not only been shaken, it has been devestated. And now my friends and I are paying for it. I am too the point that I might not even hunt there this year because there are so many rules that it isn't hunting anymore, it is more like a simon says that goes on for 9 days. I am going to hunt on public land this year. It is like starting over.


Holy smoke, Dave, I would expect someone like PETA or an AP writer to equate us with Neanderthals, but you caught me off guard with this one. Grab an adult beverage and go vegetate on your porch or patio until you feel better. Your readers like you edgy, not depressed.


Check out traditional bow hunters(the guys who dont use compounds) if you want to find a group of hunters who hunt for the right reasons.

Im not saying none of them carry a GPS and they often wear modern fabrics- but they hunt for an interaction with nature not for a technology adventure.

I have hunted with guns much of my life and enjoy them greatly, but if we are honest hunting with a 300 Win is easy mode compared to hunting with a Sharps in the 1860s. And that was easy mode compared to hunting with a flintlock.

We as a species always find ways to make it easier for ourselves - and its not exactly sporting. Becareful that you dont mistake your youth for the golden era justbecause its yours.


If I was a critter I wouldn't want Dave Petzel hunting me. He's cagey. Seems smarter than hell.


You forgot to mention trail cameras. How many times have I heard someone attribute their lack of success bagging a trophy buck (meaning near B&C) because they didn't get their trail cameras up in time, or didn't have them in the right place. What happened to scouting on foot with binoculars and enjoying being outdoors? I know one yo-yo who can check his numerous trail cameras from the comfort of his den via the computer. He is so proud of his high tech prowess as a hunter. BLEAH!



You sound as if you feel like you've been cheated -- like you've put so much in and gotten so little out. If I was your boss I'd call you in and say, "What's really eatin' at you?!?!"

I agree with Kieth at 11:02 = teach the younger ones the old ways -- or at least be content to tell about the old ways around the camp fire.

Incidentally we read about the "worst weather on earth" in Genesis 6 - 8. "...and God said to Noah, make yourself an ark..."

Have faith Dave, Im eighteen and the thought of people replacing scouting with trailcams and balistics compensating scopes with practise and experience turns my stomach inside out. As long as Im hunting, I hope i do not get lured into the technological frenzy that is engulfing our sport. In the end, it is the major companies that we support that are tainting hunting with technology. We may be a fading memory, but there are still a few young hunters that will adopt more traditional ways.

Edward J. Palumbo

Hunting was quality time afield with good friends, and I will admit that I've hunted much less since I relocated to the west coast. I'm delighted to have friendships that I value highly here, but the "chemistry" of the old crew was a little different. I now live in Oregon and, despite the excellent hunting opportunities that surround me, my priorities and economy of time have changed. I continue to enjoy varminting and I share that with my son, but our outings are limited to weekend overnighters. I remain in contact with old friends stilll living in the east (NY-NJ-PA-CT) and we often trade memories of past hunting trips. At this point in life, I'd trade the sight of a whitetail or muley for my crosshairs on a coyote. In other words, I spend more time shooting than hunting. I still have two of my favorite deer rifles, a .250 and a .30-30, but they digest significantly less ammunition than my .22-250, .222, .223 and .22 Hornet. There's a time for everything. I expect to move elsewhere in Oregon in a few years, and we'll see what develops.

Chad Love

So does this mean I can have that sweet little NULA 6.5x55 you showed us all last year?


I muttered something about the "good ol' days" to my dad once. He was a Depression Era child, born in 1920.
He sat silently puffing his cigar and said, "Know what I like most about the good ol' days, Bubba?"
"No, sir." I replied.
"They won't ever be back!", he said to me with a smile!
Plowing all day, stareing at the back side of a horse. Spending the day with a two man crosscut saw and a double bit axe to cut, split and stack a cord (not today's FACE cord) of firewood for fifty cents!
I use a range finder. I can't judge bow ranges accurately anymore.
I use a crossbow. My shoulders won't allow me to pull and hold a compound though I still possess one. (and probably won't ever sell it!)
I don't need a GPS, I'm never more than one half mile from a road.
I use an ATV. I have a metal hip and a crippled foot.
I don't buy "Scent-lok" clothing. It's too stinking expensive.
I use a grunt tube, rattlin' horns and a "bleat can". They work.
I don't use trail cams. I'd rather be surprised!
I HAVE a trail cam. Sure did like all the deer/hog/cow/coon/horse/other hunter pictures. They are really neat! But it's too much trouble for an old f**t!
When fall rolls around, I'll pack up my Moultrie hanging feeder and fill it with corn. I'll load up my Ameristep pop-up blind and folding chair and set them up with a shooting lane to the feeder about 50 yards away. I'll hack out a spot in a thicket within 20 yards of the blind to park my ATV.
Then, some cool, frosty morning, I'll put on my Carhart insulated, camo bibs. My White River hooded camo, insulated coat. Load my Ruger No. 1 .270 Win with it's 4X Redfield scope on my ATV gun rack and trundle down to my blind with my grunt call, rattlin' horns, doe bleat cans, binoculars and insulated gloves with a Thermos of hot coffee and sit a spell. If that big hoary buck doesn't come by, maybe a big, fat doe will. Maybe I'll just sit there and see what all comes to the feeder. Cleaning a deer can be a real chore. But I'll be out there. No doubt! If all the "stuff" out there intrigues you, by all means, go for it. Laugh at me if you like. I'll probably laugh too. But, I'm happy doing it MY way. So, just leave me alone!


Chad Love

I'm not nearly as old as Dave, but probably not quite as young as the aforementioned "pissant punks" he refers to.
Maybe a proto-punk.
At any rate, Dave, I think you're a bit mistaken in assuming said pissant punks can even afford Gore-Tex and rangefinders.
I suspect there are a lot of younger guys out there now who are in the same boat I was in in my teens and early twenties, the one christened SS Abject Poverty...
Gore-Tex? Not until I took a chunk of my first Stafford Loan in college and bought a pair. Up until then it was surplus leather boots, a roll of Saran Wrap and a fervent desire for mild weather.
What I did have was an overwhelming, all-encompassing desire to hunt and fish. And I managed to do it regardless of how crappy, threadbare or out-of-fashion my equipment was.
I really don't think technology has changed that fundamental desire that burns in all of us.
At least I hope it hasn't.
Besides, if the economy gets any worse all those punks are going to find out real quick what it means to get back to the basics, anyway.


Don't worry folks. There are enough poor, young hunters too destitute to afford the fancy equipment (i.e. myself) still out there. We are never going to disappear entirely. The question is will we remain numerous enough to survive POLITICALLY.

P.S. Concerning the Neanderthals (by the way people, please don't pronounce the "H"), my two cents worth is they were wipped out by H. s. sapiens (that would be us) in history's first case of genocide. They may have been far stronger but were completely unable to derive projectile weapons. I've also heard theories that H. s. sapiens and H. s. neanderthalensis interbred and so they became extinct in a more subtle manner. I'll have to reconsult my horde of National Geographic magazines...


You want Gore-Tex?
The Army, Air Force and Navy are all now in the process of trading out their woodland camo and three-color desert uniforms for new green-gray, high-tech, all-purpose camo uniforms for both desert and garrison wear. Right now, the manufacturers can't keep up with the demand for new Gore-Tex jackets and pants, but when they catch up, expect to see the old stuff piling-up in surplus stores and at garage sales.
I am betting that in the very near future you will be able to buy tons of woodland or desert camo Gore-Tex jackets and pants for extremely low prices because the market is going to be flooded.
I know it's not Realtree, but it will keep you warm and dry, and if you sit still the animals won't see you.


My hair was too long for my father's taste but we hunted together till age stopped him. My son's pants are a bit too big and we hunt as often as possible. I don't plan to stop for a long time and he will always be welcome, as will his son. Oh, I gave him a compass some years back.

Mark (A)


I share your thoughts, but maybe not your feelings. Like everything in life, advances in science and technology have unalterably changed the outdoor and hunting experience. Changed it in the same way the invention of firearms unalterably changed hunting and warfare and law enforcement etc. Every generation eventually believes the next will not respect, appreciate, admire the way things were done in the past, and the new ways will, in some way or another, be inferior. Undoubtedly, the next generation of hunters utilizing GPS, sattelite imagery, rangefinders etc. will eventually feel their own young will not have/share the same experiences as them. God only knows what the next generation of advancements will be!

I often wonder what other people, like you and I, in our generation, feel is lost in time and gone forever from the way hunting was. I remember from the time I was a boy of 8 years old and embarking on a 1200 km journey to what seemed like, and was then, a remote area in Canada where all game and wildlife was so abundant, and sucking up every bit of knowledge my father had to on, from survival to botony and meteorology and biology and how that knowledge would equip me well in any situation relating to hunting and the outdoors. Those trips seemed like a true northern safari and conjured up all the feelings that go along with a great adventure. The feeling of remoteness and survival and paring our own situation down to our own rudimentary instincts. Seeing the vastness of the sky at night absent of any incidental light and the comforting hissing sound of a naptha lantern and the smell of the canvas of a wall tent and the way the sound of loons and wolves and moose would travel in such a sterile, soundless environment were truly awe inspiring. Logistical preparation was so essential to a successful hunt, as was knowledge of the lay of the land and habits of the animals and map reading and how to drive, I mean really drive in the bush. Many of the skills seem to be giving way to things like GPS, satellite imagery, quads and trailers and cell phones and range finders and fish finders. These advances to me seem to have shrunk the world and abbreviated the hunting experience and hastened the chase. Then, of course, the same could be said by the generation before ours, of the technological advances we utilized, like gas lanterns and wall tents and rifle scopes!

This year I am returning to those hunting grounds for the first time in 20 years and I wonder how my father would have felt about scouting with google earth, and emailing hunting partners and logistical providers the way that I am now. The way I feel about it is that it no longer feels like the great safari that it once felt like. To have that feeling again would I have to go further north? No, I think not. Because the world has shrunk. Unalterably. By all the "modern advances".

I can only hope that ,despite all the advances, my son and, and his son, and so on, can somehow feel that same sense of adventure in hunting that I found as a younger man.

What do you and other readers feel has been lost?


matt has it right. Most of the guys I hunt with, and myself included, can't afford the really nice clothes and toys. However, I do have one pair of gore tex boots that I saved up for. Previous to those, I had Timberland hiking boots, with no insulation, no gore tex. As of right now,I need to save up for a Marlin XL7, not a rangefinder, or anything else for that matter.


Test comment. I tried posting twice. Both times my comments were were held up as "Spam" to be reviewed. Not sure what is going on.


I just tried posting a relatively long comment again and got the following message:
"We're sorry, your comment has not been published because TypePad's antispam filter has flagged it as potential comment spam. It has been held for review by the blog's author." What do I need to do???

Jim in Mo.

Don't do anything, maybe their testing a new way to keep those filthy wierdos off here.

Jim in Mo.

I didn't mean you!

Jim in Mo.

I didn't mean you!

Mark (A)

Jim in Mo.

Who are you referring to? Canadians?

Peter H.

Mr. Petzal...ill put myself in that Pissant Punk Category....but.....um...lets think a little bit...about everyone of Field and Streams articles towards gear.....including yours sir.....are all about how great this new gear is....how useless "the good old stuff" is compared to it...though not in those words...but deffinitely in mood....

Isnt that talking out of both sides of your mouth...you sell gear as like the best stuff and go buy it now if you really want to be a good sportsman..then you turn around and talk about how sad it is that people are using the gear that you just got done selling.. instead of the old stuff.

Jim in Mo.

It seems like I'm finally going to stop hunting with my Rem. 572Fieldmaster. She's got a broken stock. About five years ago I went to the Rem web site and could have bought stock and hardware. Today can't find a replacement from Rem. Do they have a completely different site for this? I searched their site for repacement stocks.

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