Many years ago, more than I care to admit, I spent a week at a fishing and hunting camp in northern Quebec. I was with my soon-to-be husband and his grandfather along with some other friends and family. I was the only woman.
I have always looked back fondly on that week. As life continues to march forward, it’s become one of my most cherished memories. In part, that’s because many of the people on that trip are no longer living. But mostly, I think it’s because it elicited deep feelings in me of being connected to nature, and to each other.
Particularly during the recent pandemic, I found myself sitting in front of a computer for long hours during the day, only to shift to scrolling social media or binge-watching Netflix in the evenings. Even as things return to normal, we continue to spend more time in front of screens than ever before.
I’ve found myself craving the nostalgic feelings from that fishing and hunting trip. It turns out, I’m not alone. Although interest in hunting has been declining for decades, it saw a massive resurgence in 2020, thanks largely to COVID-19. The sport is also attracting new clientele, with more women and younger hunters joining the ranks.
Besides being a throwback to the simpler days of yore, hunting infuses conservation efforts with cash, contributing to better management of animal and waterfowl populations. And it provides the opportunity to foster an understanding of our relationship with the food we eat.
Given these advantages, I decided to explore opportunities to try my hand at hunting again and was pleasantly surprised by the number of local experiences on offer. As I perused cabins and checked out guide services, all-inclusive meal options, and comfortable upscale lodging, I knew I was onto something.
Here are three reasons that booking a hunting package is on my bucket list this year.
1. It offers balance.
Hunting offers a unique combination of quiet escape and thrilling adrenaline rush. It tends to draw like-minded individuals who embrace peace and quiet by day, followed by engaging conversations that often last late into the night.
Sitting in a hide waiting to spot a white-tailed deer is one of the best places on earth to clear your mind. These animals are particularly skittish, meaning that the tiniest noise can spook them. Hunters joke that they even move their eyeballs slowly when waiting for their prey.
Long hours of isolation from reality bring a rare opportunity to be utterly still and disconnected. Then suddenly, you’ll spot a brown coat through your binoculars and you’re off to the races! Your heart quickens, your breath catches, your adrenaline surges … and suddenly, you’re fully immersed in the addictive feeling of being alive.
2. It’s good for conservation.
Associating hunting primarily with killing is a misunderstanding. In fact, hunters and waterfowls contribute significantly to conservation efforts. Their participation in the sport generates enormous amounts of funds, much of which is used for environmental initiatives.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, a non-profit think tank, Canadians spent nearly 19 billion on hunting, fishing, trapping, and sport shooting in 2018, even before the pandemic generated substantially more interest.
Hunting is intricately linked to the preservation of natural habitats. The cash influx has led to modernized wildlife management, including habitat maintenance, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation efforts directed at protecting the future of sustainable hunting and waterfowling. It’s also resulted in stricter regulations and licensing requirements. Hunting licences alone accounted for more than 500 million in US conservation revenue in 2017.
Ducks Unlimited has been instrumental to Canadian conservation efforts since 1938. As a non-profit dedicated to the conservation, restoration, and management of grasslands and wetlands, they understand the critical role hunters play in wildlife management. That’s why they’re committed to efforts that foster greater hunter retention. Revenue raised by their members has helped conserve 12.6 million acres of North American waterfowl habitat to date. Additionally, they offer support to landowners who manage private wetlands.
3. It’s a great way to eat organically.
Game meat and waterfowl are the ultimate in local, organic eating. Catching your own dinner is as interconnected as you can get to your local food source.
Humans have become increasingly detached from farming practices and growing our own food. The rise of domesticated farms has also led to a substantial decrease in the nutritional value of our food.
Wild animals are more active than their domestic counterparts, which results in their meat being leaner and lower in fat. Their natural diet also promotes higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their meat, which can help prevent heart disease and stroke and contribute to improved brain health, immunity, and a myriad of other benefits.
Hunters and waterfowlers typically consume the game they catch and lodges often offer to clean and prepare the day’s haul while visitors relax by the fire after a day in the field. Legally harvested wild game that isn’t consumed immediately or stashed in a freezer can even be donated to food banks and food insecurity programs, meaning nothing is ever wasted.
This renewed interest in sustainable hunting is exciting. I’m attuned to the daily struggle of reducing screen time, finding more ways to connect with nature, and generally improving the health of my family and the environment around us. I feel like I’ve rediscovered an activity that aligns with my current priorities.
Hunting has come a long way since I visited that rustic fishing camp with no running water and a clapboard outhouse. It just might be the perfect way to unplug from our busy lives and achieve true relaxation.