3 years and painfully honest


New member
Aug 12, 2015
Knowing where to start in a conversation, in hunting, or in life for that matter I guess has always been problem for me. I once heard a guy say you know when your being completely honest when u feel like you have walked into a room naked, and from there you can grow. I am 34 years old and have spent the last 3 years attempting to learn the responsibilities and skills of a hunter. Having yet to harvest an animal I would not call myself unsuccessful, because I have experienced some of the most rewardingly difficult things I could have imagined that have changed the trajectory of my life.

I grew up very much around hunting but you could say the worst aspects of it. Ethics was never term used in my household and definitely not when it came to hunting and the law was more of a hindrance to a given right than a protection and management resource for those that could not protect and manage against unnatural circumstances. Its interesting how when growing up in a situation like that you have no perception of where the lines of right and wrong are legally but your moral conscience can still be very accurate. At the age of 14 I decided I didn't want anything to do with it anymore and walked away. 16 years later after reading a few books on hunting, watching the change of the expression of hunting on television, and listening to podcasts that really changed my view and reignited a passion for being in the outdoors and hunting I found myself on the last day of the season with a bunch of falsely created self pressure and the person that taught me everything I didn't want to know about hunting and a deer at 60 yards. After months of road hunting I rolled out of the truck stepped off the dirt road found a rest and chose to make one of the most unethical shots imaginable, it was extremely fatal and was over before the deer found his final bed but I can not look back at that moment with anything but sadness and regret for the actions I chose and chose to be apart of.

That moment created a very large emotional response inside of myself as I am sure it does in others for good reason, but it has been a catalyst for change in the most positive way in my life. For the last three years I have hunted alone, finding a mentor can be very difficult as a new hunter but you can still put yourself into a situation of learning from others. I have hunted only with my bow and on foot in an attempt to learn and develop woodsman ship and raise my level of being by meeting nature on its own terms.The night can seem very heavy like the whole forest is sitting on top of you when you are inexperienced and alone in the woods and honestly I have not made it through one completely yet to the point of doing some extremely dangerous things to get to what I considered safety. I have tested and become certified as a hunting instructor not to teach but assist the instructors and surround myself with the most ethical and law abiding hunters I can find. The learning curve is very steep with hunting but I try to remember a quote I heard " Not any man can race to the top of the mountain but any man can make it ten steps at a time."

I wanted to share my experience for two reasons. The first, I read a lot of things about hunting but I don't find much about what its like to find your way into hunting when your not "raised" in it. Also I am sure if I had this experience others have as well and I would love to hear how it has shaped them and what they did to build themselves as hunters and conservationists.

I have one multipart question. The hard skills of hunting i.e. marksmanship, locating, calling can all be learned through experience and for the most part on your own with various teaching aids. But how important is it to learn the soft skills such as respect for the animals and nature, being able to find harmony in the environment, and the subtle cues life gives when your in the moment? and how to find a person/mentor to pass this knowledge, because the reality of the situation is that resources can appear somewhat limited which creates a reluctance to share time in the woods.

Thank you for any thoughts


Well-known member
Jul 7, 2010
Piedmont region of North Carolina
I think you've reached a plateau for which all hunters should strive. It's not about the horns, antlers, the kill or freezer full of meat, It's about being in nature and making your way by your own devices, respecting the animals and trying to figure out exactly where you fit into the mix.
My father taught me a few basics and I began roaming the fields and woods with a Red Ryder BB gun at the age of 8 and then with a .410 at age 11. I am pretty much self taught in all the skills and philosophies of hunting, and the ethical part came about naturally when I realized that I was an interloper in their world and thankfully I take away much more than a carcass from the experience when I do get to go hunting.


Dec 5, 2011
Hunting Ethics are ultimately just Ethics. The outdoors presents so many opportunities to reveal your true character. It's one of the reasons I love it and want to expose my kids to it. When nobody is around and nobody will ever know, you find out who you are deep inside. So many people wave the "Integrity" banner, but would be deeply shamed if their actions ever came to light. I'll share my own confession and growth.

As a young duck hunter, I bought into the line of thinking that party hunting was OK. 12 ducks between the two of us was all that really mattered right? Before long, we were pitching anything we thought was lesser table fare and making all kinds of excuses for shooting over the limit, not chasing cripples, etc.

The change for me didn't come from a lecture or shaming, it came from maturing in my faith and truly believing that all cheating dishonored both God and His creation.

Fast forward to last year. I'm on a mule deer hunt in Colorado, and it's the last day. One of the guys in camp says he's done and feel free to fill his tag. I thought long and hard about it. My tag was punched on a small deer, and I was hunting my elk tag. I knew if I filled his tag, my options would be: 1) Lie about it. 2) tell the truth back home and know it was a tainted kill. I felt deep down that it was wrong and I didn't want to dishonor God, who had given me the opportunity to be there in the first place. It ultimately didn't matter what the law was. I was more worried about disappointing God and being a hypocrite than I was about being caught.

Sure enough, I hike up to a ridge where I'd seen elk in the past and there standing perfectly broadside at 250 yards is one of biggest bucks I've ever seen. We stared each other down for over 2 minutes and I slowly reached into my vest and pulled out my camcorder. I got about 3 seconds of video of him as he bunny hopped away, but I never once seriously considered shooting him. I sleep great at night with that decision.


Active member
Jan 26, 2015
Missoula, MT

A lot of what you wrote here rang true for me. I wasn't raised in the hunting lifestyle and the learning curve can be incredibly steep at times. It was discouraging for me at times when the only people who seemed interested in sharing knowledge, didn't mirror my ethics and weren't neccesarily someone I wanted to learn from. In the end, I just decided to take what good information those individuals had to offer and let the rest fall by the wayside. I also haven't been shy about a simple no thank you, to being offered help by the wron individuals. The good news is there are good guys out there. They just seem just as cautious about helping new people as you and I are about taking advice from the wrong veterans. But as I write this, I'm sitting in the airport flying home from a hunt someone I met here on Hunt Talk took me on, specifically to learn some of the things you're talking about. My only advice is to participate, form relationships that aren't solely based on help, but don't be afraid to ask for it when you need it. It sounds like you're on the right track.


Well-known member
Jan 14, 2012
Fabulous first post. If you approach prospective hunting partners the same way you introduced yourself to this forum, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding quality hunting companions. Good luck in your search and welcome to Hunt Talk.

Gerald Martin

Well-known member
Jul 3, 2009
I have one multipart question. The hard skills of hunting i.e. marksmanship, locating, calling can all be learned through experience and for the most part on your own with various teaching aids. But how important is it to learn the soft skills such as respect for the animals and nature, being able to find harmony in the environment, and the subtle cues life gives when your in the moment? and how to find a person/mentor to pass this knowledge, because the reality of the situation is that resources can appear somewhat limited which creates a reluctance to share time in the woods.

Welcome to the forum Jason. I'm glad you took the time to tell your story. Finding a mentor for the soft skill you mentioned can be difficult. I think ultimately the ethic you follow when hunting is a combination of inspiration you from those you respect and your sense of what is acceptable and right at the moment of decision.

With the given that all legal requirements are being followed as the starting point, at that point it's up to you to decide how much further you want to limit yourself and what you should do. I know I find a lot of inspiration from the writings and films of others who share a similar ethic to me.

At the moment of truth however, my checklist looks somewhat like this. #1 Is it legal? #2 Am I going to feel okay about it if I do it? #3. Would I want my son to follow this example?

Deleted member 20812

I can relate to your questions and your thoughts. I grew up being taught by my father and grandfather that the regulations were only a suggestion. Party hunting was the norm and was not even questioned.

When I was in college, I knew my dad would ground check bucks to see if they met the 3 point minimum. He told me one year that he had killed three illegal bucks the year before. He thought they were all legal, and was going to fill everyone's tags at once. All three were two points, and he left all three lay. I quit hunting with him after that.

I found my way on my own after that. I learned what self control was when no one was looking. I learned to relish solitude in the mountains and not fear it. I learned that you can put needless pressure on yourself and take the fun out of the hunt.

I'm not sure how you find a mentor. I think really, it's a matter of them finding you. I've had several mentors in my life, at different stages. I learned a lot from each. Now, I find myself in a position that the roles are reversed, even though I don't think I know enough to serve as a mentor. I find myself inviting other people along, when in the past I wouldn't. At the same time, my kids are at the hunting age. While there is more competition and demand for my time now than there ever was, it's all about perspective. If I think in terms of me, I can easily get stressed out. If I think in terms of the impact I'm having in someone else's life, and helping pass along the heritage of the hunt, things are just fine.

Big Fin

Staff member
Dec 27, 2000
Bozeman, MT

Very interesting post. I think all of us can relate to it as a result of experiences and progressions in our lives, whether our hunting lives or our real lives.

Those soft skills are learned, as are the hard skills. But the soft skills come with a different filter by which we absorb them. The soft skills are not how gravity applies force against a bullet/arrow at a known rate. Soft skills are not identification of tracks or map reading.

Soft skills are more subtle and more ever-present. I still have days when I do something, then think to myself, "Why did you start doing it this way; when did you start seeing it in this manner; what event changed your perspective?" And usually the answer comes from something years prior that I am still learning from as my maturity and life experiences allow me to gain more perspective and understanding.

I've found the soft skills we apply in hunting are very reflective in how we apply those same soft skills to the rest of our lives. Those intangibles; those attitudes; those points of self-accountability are not just those we express in the field of hunting. Rather, we probably have carried those attitudes and perspectives from the other parts of our lives.

Like most, I've been though my share of guys who I prefer to hunt with. I gravitate to folks who have a similar approach to life as I do, whether they are hunting, at work, at home, within the community. Hunting brings out frustration and challenges. That is when I learn a lot about myself and those who I choose to spend time with.

Odds are you have life mentors who provide illustration of these soft skills in more important activities. You are probably absorbing from them as you/they go about their daily life; how they look at the world, is their glass half full/empty; do they cheat when nobody is looking; do they respect their spouse in their actions and deeds; do they take responsibility or cast blame; how do they find more from an experience than just the superficial meaning that a casual observer finds.

I know a lot of my life mentors were not hunters. But, I took much of their teachings; the soft skills, and I have applied them to my approach to hunting, what it means to me, my motivations, and my decisions about how I am going to engage as a hunter. And, I've met some people in my life that were hunters who gave me some examples of how I would not conduct myself.

Welcome to the forum.


Well-known member
Jan 27, 2012
Very good first post! I have a few ideas on some resources for you. First, any book by Jim Posewitz. His writings tackle hunting and ethics. Next, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Lastly, a quick one, look up the 5 stages that a hunter goes through (google will find it for ya!). You probably have come across that in the Hunter Safety course material.

One thing that I have learned in my life transcends the hunting world as well. Surround yourself with good people. really good people. Just like being surrounded by bad people will pull a person down, good people will pull a person up. That goes for both the hard skills and the soft skills.

And one more thought. Who can YOU mentor? There are plenty of people that need someone like you to help them!


Well-known member
Sep 4, 2014
Timberville, VA
Wow, what a great first post. I don't have too much to add to this being some of the best and most eloquent guys have already replied. However maybe include some description of where you are located and some of us would feel privledged if we could be of any help on your journey. As a reformed hunter myself I certainly relate to some of your thoughts. The change came for me when I had kids. I was never over the top full blown outlaw. But minor things add up over time. So thanks for sharing and making a change. It is a whole lot easier to just follow the rules and set a standard that you can be proud to share with your kids.

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