Hunting has a rich heritage in America. Obviously, early settlers hunted for food, and most sportsmen identify eating wild game as a primary motivator and benefit of the sport. (Dear Millennial: We were eating “clean” before you invented the soy-free latte.) Then a weird cross pollination happened. The strong European hunting and game management heritage was blended with the Southern plantation lifestyle to create the “Sporting Gentleman.” Equal parts aristocrat and good ol’ boy, you will find it uniquely Southern.
Yes, places like Pennsylvania may close school for the first day of deer season, but nowhere is hunting and sustainable property management a way of life like here in the South. It has created a unique scenario that produces a wide range of devotees. Put it this way, one uncle likes to hunt quail behind pointers while wearing Filson and Barbour, while your other uncle is chasing hogs in the swamp wearing a Hank, Jr. T-shirt with nothing but a pitbull and a knife.
The old saying “reality is stranger than fiction” has long been proved true when it comes to hunting. Why does a man wake up at 4 a.m., drive through the rain, and walk through the mud, only to climb into a deer stand to either go back to sleep or check emails and play Candy Crush?
“Honey, did you see anything today?” asks your loving wife. “No, the deer weren’t moving today,” is your reply. How would you know? You didn’t look up from your phone for hours. Our forefathers are either laughing or crying in their graves. I know we wouldn’t have lasted long back then. Tell Gramps that you need a 4×4 Chevy Crew Cab so you can trailer a Bad Boy Buggie, so you can carry a 50-quart Yeti Cooler, so you can shoot a 7mm mag at a 100-pound deer 400 yards away, and he’ll laugh at you –– or punch you depending on the branch of the military in which he served.
I think in most areas, we have lost our way with technology and innovation, but then I hate to be cold, so I am a sucker for the latest fad in thermal long underwear or insulated clothing. I like it even better if it’s in the latest camo design. I am also pretty sure Chief Sitting Bull wouldn’t mind trading in his homemade longbow and arrows for a Mathews compound bow and a few carbon arrows.
Don’t get me started with duck hunters; they are a whole other level of crazy. These guys will do absolutely anything not to have to spend the weekend antiquing or updating the living room (you know, the room you are not allowed to sit in). These guys don’t just go out in the cold, rain, and snow. No, they like to stand in liquid ice and eat dog fur and duck feather sandwiches. State of emergency weather conditions just means that the ducks are flying!
Speaking of dogs, there is “Dog Guy.” He can be in the retriever camp or the pointer camp, but he loves his dogs more than most of his children. He certainly spends more time with them. And while I have hunted behind a few good ones, most of them were “having a bad day” and not responding to the whistle or the shock collar the way they were supposed to. Go figure. I once got an invitation to hunt with a man who claimed to have a grand national field trial champion retriever in the box. As soon as he opened the truck kennel door, that dog took off for the next county, never once breaking stride and ignoring the pain of the shock collar, never to return. I got my lab-mix rescue dog that had never been trained out of the truck, and we managed a few birds that afternoon, much to the man’s surprise and chagrin. You see, sporting breeds generally know what to do and want to do it. Sniff a bird, fetch a bird — it’s not that hard. It’s the getting tased part that has them a little nervous!
Then there is “Hunt Club Guy.” He spends all summer on the tractor bush-hogging lanes and putting in food plots, only to spend all fall in the clubhouse watching SEC football with a cold one in his hand. Rumor has it he may not even own a rifle.
How about “Scent-Free Bowhunter Guy?” He has scent-blocking clothing and rubber boots, launders both his clothes and his body in scent-free soap, and uses ozone-emitting devices like a hospital, only to be outdone by “Sit on a Bucket & Smoke Guy.” If foreign scents matter so much, why does every guide spit tobacco all the way to your stand?
Then there is the aforementioned “Hog Exterminator Guy.” For the blissfully unaware, feral hogs are a national epidemic. They destroy crops and scar the land. Most states have open seasons all year long, and responsible sportsmen need to keep these invasive pests under control. But Hog Exterminator Guy has a death wish. It used to be they just hunted at night with infrared scoped rifles. Now these recovering adrenaline junkies follow dogs to a bayed pig and attempt to dispatch it with a pocket knife while dodging the swinging tusks.
Famed Southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy did a great bit on the modern hunter a few years ago. To summarize, Jeff pointed out that the average modern hunter spends a ton of time and money each year with very little to show for it. Add it all up, and that venison chili costs more than Maine lobster. All we are looking for is a thank you.
So how do you like to hunt? Pointer or pitbull; T-shirt or tweed? It’s all okay down here in the mighty South!