When I was 16 years old and a junior in high school I went on an elk hunting trip to Noxon, Montana. I was anticipating a week of being in the great outdoors, sharing stories with the other hunters, and spending quality time with my father. Little did I know that my eyes would be opened to a way of living that I didn’t think existed anymore in modern America, subsistence hunting. Many hunters may hunt for sport or trophy, while others just enjoy the outdoors so much they crave feeling connected to it. But subsistence hunters hunt strictly to provide food for themselves and their families. Simply put, it’s hunting for survival. This makes me think of our ancestors as hunters and gatherers and the high stake life that they lived, never sure of their next meal. The people who introduced me to this way of hunting, and for them way of life, were at the time the 20-23 year old hunting guides at the lodge. For them hunting wasn’t a pastime or favorite hobby, it was how they supported their families and put food on the table. Look at it this way. A mature bull (male) elk weighs about 700lbs. Such an animal will yield roughly 200lbs of lean meat. This is enough to last a family of four an entire calendar year. All at the cost of one well placed rifle round or arrow. For reference a 1 pound filet from your local supermarket costs around $14.
The world we live in today is riddled with environmental problems. From threatening biodiversity loss, to irregular weather patterns, and all the other degradations that come with climate change. It is obvious that people want to help and make a difference, but so often it feels like hunting is overlooked as a legitimate option. I do acknowledge that hunting is not for everyone, and not everyone can hunt. But for those who truly love the outdoors, want to do their part, and are looking to feel a little more wild then the next step is to apply for a hunting license.
I take a lot of inspiration from the guides I met on that trip. But being a college student in eastern Massachusetts makes it a little difficult to follow this archetype of subsistence hunting. I hope to one day be able to call myself a subsistence hunter and truly live to hunt and hunt to live.
Written by: Jack Gotta