As hunters are we athletes? This is a contested subject but being that we base our brand on the idea that outdoorsman are athletic, it is probably necessary to explain why we think so.
1. a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
Synonyms: sportsman, sportswoman, sportsperson; More
If you follow the true definition of “athlete”, then yes, hunters and outdoorsmen are in fact, athletic individuals. I believe that the contradiction arises due to the modern interpretation of what an athlete is. The term has become a bit gray. Many people instinctively picture an NFL running back or MLB shortstop when the term athlete is used. But in fact, an athlete should not be confined only to the major sports outlets that we have been programmed to associate them with. Is an individual classified as an athlete because of physical appearance or by the level of talent he/she has attained to become proficient at a given activity? To me, an athlete is both mentally and physically tuned over time to become better at a particular skill that involves physical exertion and mental toughness.
Hunters have been categorized into too many classes, some of which are less than flattering. The “hunter-athlete” has re-branded the media stereotyped image of a blood thirsty, beer guzzling, cigarette smoking, can’t wait to get away from the wife, redneck. This re-branding is a much-needed asset to the modern hunter’s identity. When it comes to non-hunters and those that have not experienced the wilderness, I think that it is important to maintain a positive image that associates hunters as advocates of the outdoors. There are those of us who see the outdoors as more than a weekend pass-time. Instead, it shapes who we are as men and women. In a sense, it defines us.
I would argue that the dedication and year round prep that many of the hunters I train with would undoubtedly classify them as athletes. Many of them regularly put me to shame in shooting skill and athleticism but they also push me to become better. Archery in itself is a sport and the time and proficiency it takes to become a skilled archer classify the shooter as an athlete, bar none. Aside from shooting skills, the physical hardships and mental preparedness that go along with year round training lead me to further associate hunters and outdoorsman as athletic individuals.
In today’s society we have been programmed to sit; sit in your car, sit at your desk, sit and watch tv. Outdoor physical activity has been replaced with the simplicity of indoor technology and media. Modern technology has in an essence de-conditioned us from our roots. What attracts me most to hunting mature animals is the challenge and physical nature of it. It becomes a year round endeavor to locate, pattern and hunt them. The exploration fused with trial and error and unpredictability make it a challenge that can be very difficult to conquer and incredibly gratifying to succeed at.
The face of our sport is ever evolving. Advances in technology have changed how we hunt. GPS and computer mapping software, trail cameras and ATVs have changed the game; how we hunt is dramatically different than it was 40 years ago. Previous generations relied on a map and compass whereas today our navigation is battery powered. 50 years ago, fitness and preparation were not as large a part of daily routine as it is today. Generations preceding us simply lived more active lifestyles because they had to.
Today, pursuing trophy animals has evolved into a sub-category of the hunt itself. Much of the time, we are not solely hunting to provide food for our family, but rather for the enjoyment we get from preparing and spending time in the outdoors. In the grand scheme of things, the leisure hunter is a relatively new idea to the hunting community. The environment was much different for previous generations of hunters and the demand to survive overshadowed the leisure aspect of what it meant to hunt and provide food. The ideology of the hunt was not for pleasure but more so to sustain life through the harvest of a game animal.
The modern hunter deals with an array both mental and physical barriers that can be difficult to overcome. The physical hardships that hunters face while pursuing game and exploring the wilderness are very different from one region to the next but all require some form of preparation. For me, hunting is pushing myself to see what is beyond the next ridge. It is exploration, adrenaline and emotion wrapped up into one well prepared yet unpredictable package. The mental edge that it takes to focus and stay calm when a shot opportunity presents itself tests every bit of composure both mentally and physically.
Being in healthy physical form opens doors to the hunter that can increase the odds of success. Physical endurance, mental toughness, and shooting will make you a better hunter. With that being said, if archery and shooting are classified as sports and to be proficient the hunter must prepare and practice, in my eyes the hunter is an athlete. An athlete should be defined on an individual basis, not by the athletic category that one is lumped into. You don’t have to wear a jersey or receive a salary to be an athlete. It is the training and lifestyle that you live to better yourself at an activity that you want to excel at. Has the term athlete unjustly been refined to represent a very small segment of individuals? Do first basemen or a point guard exert more physical athleticism than a finely tuned backcountry hunter? Are we as outdoorsman athletes? You be the judge. I challenge you to think differently about hunting and what it means to be a hunter.
Being a hunter is an ancestral heritage and instinct that is biologically programmed into our genetic code. It means tapping into the true meaning of what it is to be the best and most efficient predator possible.