The definition of Churlishness according to dictionary.com states, "like a churl, boorish, rude. Peasantlike, stingy, mean. Difficult to deal with or work with."
People can be mean and ugly.
Maybe a gal posts a picture of her 6-point she shot and is proud of, and people decide it is their job to tell her how small the deer is, she needs to let it grow, her shot placement was terrible, etc. I see this type of behavior almost every day. It makes me wonder, "What the heck happened? Why does this behavior persist? Could people have just gotten crueler over time?"
Perhaps. The roots go deeper than that, however. People have fallen out of love with their first love.
Here are four things to remember about why you and I fell in love with the sport of hunting.
Connection With Nature.
I remember my first hunt vividly. I was 12 years old (legal hunting age in Michigan at the time) when I first walked into the woods with my dad. He dropped me off in a makeshift ground blind with what felt like a thirty-pound Hoyt in my hands that I shot with my fingers. Before he walked away in the dark, he said, "Sit still and don't move until I come back to get you ." I Sat in the dark as a twelve year-old, slightly terrified. I don't care if you are 12 or 40; there is something a little unnerving about sitting in the pitch black in the woods. As the sun came up over the trees, things changed. I saw a raccoon saunter by on the trail ahead. The squirrels woke up and began to chirp at each other. As luck would have it, I saw a deer. Not close enough to shoot, but I saw one. I was hooked. Not just on pursuing the elusive whitetail but on being in the wild.
I have 4 kids myself, and I love sitting in the woods with them as their eyes are opened to the awesomeness of nature and taken away from their devices.
Connection With Our Roots.
Our ancestors hunted. Plain and simple. They did it for survival. It had to happen, or else their families wouldn't survive. Can we go to the local grocery store and purchase meat? Sure. There is something incredibly satisfying when we provide sustenance for our families.
I didn't get a deer that first hunt I went on, but I found a way to arrow a good-sized doe later that archery season. It is hard to explain what it felt like as a twelve-year-old to know I was putting meat in my family's freezer. The meat from that doe tasted just as good and provided just as well as the meat on a mature eight-point buck.
I'm the first to tell you I love the thrill of hunting a mature buck, but that does not discredit the work and provision of a smaller deer.
Connection With Other Hunters.
Since my first year of hunting, I have always hunted with others. They aren't always in the woods with me, but they are a text or phone call away. In almost 30 years of hunting, I have often scouted woods, hung tree stands, and tracked deer with friends, fathers, uncles, and strangers. As cliché as it sounds, hunting builds community. We are wired up to live life in a community with others, and hunting provides that.
I remember when I was 13, and I had gone to bed for the evening, and around 11pm, my father came into the room, woke me up, and said, "Tom shot a buck and needs help tracking it." I had school the next day, but that didn't matter; our friend needed help. We loaded up the flashlights and kerosene lanterns and headed to the woods. We located the deer at about 12:30am, field-dressed it, drug it back to the truck, drove it to Tom's house, and stood around and talked for about a half hour before returning home. I climbed back into bed around 3:00am, only to wake up three hours later and head off to school.
That community made me feel like a man. I was included. It didn't matter that I was a thirteen-year-old kid; my dad and his friend wanted me there. I could contribute. When you are part of a community, you are expected to contribute meaningfully and positively.
To this day, if a friend shoots a deer, we get the text message and if we aren't at a kid's soccer game, tennis match, swim meet, or whatever other family event, we all meet up and go help. We help each other hang stands, put out cameras, clear shooting lanes, or do whatever needs to be done.
Connection With Hard Work.
Not only are we wired for community, but we are wired for hard work. Some of you reading this work physically demanding jobs every day. You work with your hands in fields or in factories. I tip my cap to you. I worked on a farm for 4 years in my younger years and loved it. It was hard work, but I loved it.
Now I work a desk job. I meet with people. I sit in meetings. I'm not plowing a field, working in the elements, or lifting heavy things day in and day out like some of you do. If I am being honest with myself, sometimes it feels as if something is missing.
Hunting is hard work. It's the hour-after-hour scouting. It's hanging tree stands and setting up blinds. It takes challenging mental work to figure out what the animal you are hunting is doing and when it will do it. It's field dressing an animal you have harvested, dragging it through the woods or mountains, and loading it into the vehicle. For many of us who sit behind a desk all day, this is the hard-physical work we need in our lives.
A couple of years ago, I sat in the woods with my daughter, who was 9 then, and we waited in a two-man tree stand. Finally, just before dark, a mature doe walked into the patch of timber we were hunting. I drew my bow back, and my arrow landed. I watched as she bounded off. I sat back down and turned to my daughter and noticed she had a tear welling up in her eye. I asked her what she was thinking. As innocently as a nine-year-old girl could say, she said, "I'm really happy you shot a deer because I know how much you have put into it. I'm also a little sad she is dead." I choked back my voice and said, "I understand." We then had a forty-five-minute conversation about conservation, the ethical harvesting of meat, and what this meant to our family. At that moment, we both learned what it meant to connect with nature, our roots, and each other.
Don't forget your first love. Don't grow cynical and churlish. Be kind. Encourage a new generation of hunters. Enjoy!
Michael Elkins is a married father of four. As a family, the Elkins love the outdoors and have a passion for hunting. Michael is passionate about helping people find their way into the woods! Follow Michael on Instagram @michael._.elkins