Two widespread categorizations of hunters are that of the "trophy hunter" and the "meat hunter". Some hunters gladly self-identify as one or the other. Many hunters would say that they are both. Some would say they are neither.
At their core, these labels attempt to establish the underlying motivations for why someone hunts. But, more often than not, a hunter's motivations are mixed. Personally, I don't question why someone hunts — as long as they hunt ethically, with respect, and abide by the law.
The idea that you have to be a meat hunter or a trophy hunter is a false dichotomy. Like nearly all this-or-that categorizations, there is little room left for nuance, complexity, and mystery. You don't have to ascribe to any label or be a certain type of hunter.
That said, if I were to choose a label for myself, I would ascribe to a third way. A label which, to my knowledge, is a new one.
I am an experience hunter.
If you want to label my underlying motivation for why I hunt, it is for the experience.
I hunt to experience nature, not as an observer, but as a participant.
I hunt to experience life outside of our artificial, digital age, and to reconnect with my innate, primal instincts.
I hunt to experience the original means of survival — by consuming a life that sustains life. (Maybe that makes me a meat hunter, too.)
I hunt to experience my physical limits and challenge my abilities to endure hardship, as I leave the comforts of the modern man's world and enter the animal's world.
I hunt to experience wild places that are only accessible by true exploration.
I hunt to experience a deeper connection with other hunters, which is forged in shared adventure, shared goals, shared struggles, and shared conquest.
I hunt to experience moments that carry into the future by way of memory. And I value tokens of the hunt, such as antlers, which represent and rekindle the memory of those experiences. (Maybe that makes me a trophy hunter, too.)
Because I am an Experience Hunter, how I hunt is always more important than what I hunt.
Because I am an Experience Hunter, where I hunt generally more important than what I hunt.
Because I am an Experience Hunter, I have learned to find increasing value in the process, and less value in the outcomes; allowing me to truly appreciate the hunt itself and not just the results.
Because I am an Experience Hunter, I have learned to be less selfish when hunting with others. You may or may not be able to share meat or trophies, but you can always share the experience.
Because I am an Experience Hunter, I don't get too caught up in what, where, how, or why other hunters hunt. Or caught up in what other hunters think about what, where, how, or why I hunt. I hope you'll do the same.
Enjoy your hunt.
Mark Huelsing is the host of the Hunt Backcountry Podcast and works at Exo Mtn Gear — though he's never been able to figure out his job title. Connect with Mark by sending him an email (mark at exomtngear.com) or connecting on Instagram, @MarkTheFark.