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Is Hunting a Hobby or Craft?

I recently met someone new while visiting with a few friends. After a few minutes of small talk, the guy asked me, “So what keeps you busy?”

I pondered the question and offered up my usual comment about my work and family. When he asked what I did for fun, I explained that I was an outdoorsman. Behind his smile was a hint of confusion, so I said that I loved hunting – particularly deer.

“That’s cool, what do you do the rest of the year?” he asked.

I could only grin. It was going to be hard to explain.

The Hobby Hunter

For some, hunting is a hobby. Every year, thousands of rifle, shotgun, and bow hunters around the United States flock to hunting clubs, leases, lodges, and public lands – all for a weekend or two when their quarry of choice is in season. For some, that’s as much as they can get away with. For others, a weekend or two is enough to satisfy their interest. In either case, this is more than okay.

Hunting as a Craft

Then you have those who literally spend all year perfecting, planning for, and generally obsessing over hunting. There are few days of the year that these individuals aren’t somehow planning for the harvest of their next game animal. For these hunters, their hobby is almost like a job, albeit one that pays in fun rather than money. As such, terms like 365 Hunter have gotten legs, largely in the world of whitetail hunting.

Elite Archery KURE Hunting Bow
Hunter with his Elite Archery KURE Hunting Bow

A Craft Made up of Sub-Hobbies

For simplicity, I’ll continue with the term 365 Hunter. For this breed of hunter, there are a litany of sub-activities that support their hobby (or craft). Here are just a few of them:

Shed Hunting

The period shortly following deer season marks a special time for many hunters. During this time, typically in February, whitetail bucks drop their antlers and passionate hunters hit the woods in search of them. Shed hunting isn’t only a great means of scouting, let’s face it – it feeds the hardcore hunter’s fascination with antlers. At a minimum, it reveals which area bucks likely survived the season.

Shooting

Most hardcore hunters shoot their rifles, muzzleloaders, and bows. These days, there are even those who hunt with pistols which requires more off-season practice. In all these cases, individuals turn to sport shooting to stay sharp for hunting season. It’s also an enjoyable activity in and of itself. In fact, some ultimately move on to competition archery and firearm shooting during the offseason.

Scouting, Stand Prep, and Intel

The offseason entails repairing and moving stands, cutting shooting lanes, and determining bedding areas. Ardent big-game hunters, particularly deer hunters, spend the offseason studying and organizing trail camera images in preparation for the next season. Additionally, they continue to deploy them during this period – especially in the summer months as antlers eventually reach full growth and early season patterns can be determined. Some hunters even engage in other strategic activities like mock scrape creation in anticipation of the pre-rut and rut periods. Though all these endeavors take effort and time, many a hunter would have it no other way.

Nutrition and Habitat Management

During the offseason, many hunters also prepare food plots, deploy free-choice protein feeders, and create and maintain mineral stations. For the 365 hunter, there are also timber management activities to tend to, like raising and eliminating canopies and hinge-cutting – all to increase food and browse for whitetails. The fact is, many hunters are enthusiasts of agriculture, land management, and conservation as a whole.

Wild Game Cooking

Since the dawn of time, preparing and cooking wild game has been not only a means of sustenance, but a celebrated activity. Most any hunter will attest that the culinary tradition associated with hunting provides a direct connection to the game they hunt. From Uncle Joe’s deer camp venison chili to masterpieces from professional chefs, wild game cooking is an art. It’s also healthy and a great tool for hunter recruitment. As a matter of fact, despite declining hunter numbers, it has experienced a resurgence, with many millennials taking an interest in it. This hobby knows no bounds and truly extends the hunting season.

This list is by no means comprehensive. There are many other sub-hobbies associated with hunting, including knife-making, bow maintenance, and shell reloading. Sure, these activities entail hard (sometimes physical) work but, for hunting junkies, they’re gratifying. Further, they will usually gladly be done in lieu of regular household chores. Survey a few spouses and you’ll see it’s true.

Is hunting a hobby or a craft? As I see it, it represents the latter. It’s much more than an activity, hobby, or sport. Rather, it’s a craft made up of activities and sub-hobbies that enhance a hunter’s skill and success. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

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