I’ve been observing an intriguing trend in the hunting community over the past several years, and while I’ve commented on it a time or two, I’ve never really had the time or incentive to explore it more thoroughly.   (I’m not sure that I have that time or incentive now, for that matter, but what the heck… if I don’t start, I’ll never finish.)

So, then… what I’ve been seeing is an ever-increasing influx of hunters who are coming to the sport late in life.  Some of them may have had early exposure to hunting and shooting, but never got fully involved.  Many others are completely new to it. 

Personally, as someone who literally grew up hunting, I’m curious as to what these folks’ experiences must be like, what motivated them to start hunting, and what challenges they face getting started and becoming successful.  Who do these new hunters turn to for mentoring or inspiration?  How do they learn… and just as importantly… what are they learning?

I’m also intrigued by what this new crop of hunters will bring to the general hunting “ethic”.  What I have seen so far suggests that there’s a very different perspective, and it’s carried to further extremes, by individuals who recently made the decision to take up a blood sport.  I think this fresh point of view holds some pretty big implications for the future of hunting, although for better or worse remains to be seen. 

For now, I’m simply glad to see that there are still more people coming into the community.  We’ve (hunters) been at serious risk of stagnation as the older generations fade away, and the new generations don’t have the interest or the time to take up the sport. 

This train of thought was chugging through my mind back in May, when I saw an article in the SF Chronicle about an organization calling itself the “Bull Moose Hunting Society.”   The gist of the article is that a couple of guys in San Francisco wanted to start hunting, and realized that there were very few resources, especially in the urban environment, for people to learn how to hunt.  They also found that there was a lot of interest in eating wild game meat, even by folks who would probably never hunt for it themselves. 

I followed the article link to the Bull Moose Hunting Society website to learn more about the organization.  These guys had stumbled onto a great idea and a fascinating concept.  That concept has evolved a little from it’s original roots as a sort of “wild game cooperative”, but it’s still an excellent idea.  One of the things that particularly captured my attention, though, was the Mission Statement:

Leave no trace, take a clean shot, respect the animal, be a part of nature; these are qualities we at the Bull Moose Hunting Society express and would like to instill in a new generation of hunters, of human predators. Where the government of this country fails to establish ethical hunting guidelines, we educate and inform. Where the urbanized people of this country are removed from nature, we provide a means to return. Where the private landowners feel repulsed at unruly trophy hunters, we are an alternative. Bull Moose is an organization dedicated to providing a means for those of us who have lost our instincts, our predatory skills and our connection to the wild world to get those parts of ourselves back. We provide guidance through state hunting regulations and equipment purchases. We provide a link between private landowners and responsible, ethical hunters like ourselves. And most importantly, we bring the wild out in you.

That truly is a “statement”.  There’s a lot there, and it speaks volumes about this “nouveau hunting ethic” that I’ve been wondering about… at least as these guys see it. 

After reading and digesting a bit, I shot an email off to Bull Moose Hunting Society founders, Nick Zigelbaum and Nick Chaset to see if they’d be willing to answer a few questions.  It took a while to get our respective crap together, but we did finally get a chance to do a little email interview.   

I don’t really like the Q&A format on a blog, but in the interest of getting everything in context, here’s the entire exchange (excluding a couple of questions that were left unanswered):

Hog Blog: Describe the impetus for forming this organization.
Nick: After getting into hunting the hard way (by ourselves) we decided there needed to be a resource for folks who grew up in the city and away from hunters. Thus we created the society to be a community of hunters and foodies to share knowledge and spread skills.

Hog Blog: How many more hunters do you need?  What ratio of hunters to non-hunting members are you looking for?

Nick:  Since the article we have opened up with a slightly different structure. Nick and I no longer organize and lead hunts. Instead we rely on the membership to organize hunts while we administer classes and other get-togethers. We are now 52 members, roughly half of which have hunting experience.

Hog Blog:  How large would you like to see the organization become?

Nick:  The new structure allows for as many local chapters as there are interested people. I’d like to see a local chapter in every major city in the US with as many as a few thousand members each.

Hog Blog:  How many club members have hunted prior to joining the organization?  If any, how much experience do they bring?
Nick:  About half the club has hunted and maybe a dozen have extensive experience. Most others hunted with their father or uncle as a kid and haven’t picked up a gun in 20 years or so.

Hog Blog:  Do you want/need more experienced hunters in the club?

Nick:  We are open to anyone joining, so long as they share our ethic. Experienced hunters do bring a valuable skill to the club, but there are many ways to contribute to our group.

Hog Blog:  How many members do not hunt at all?

Nick:  Not many since we have changed the structure. Now most everyone will engage in some way with hunting. Those who aren’t interested in hunting might put together or participate in wild food events such as making their own bacon or sausage from a hunted pig.

Hog Blog:  Who is teaching the hunting skills?

Nick:  The experienced members disseminate the knowledge to the less experienced. Instead of the traditional profit-oriented structure of hoarding and selling information, we promote transfer and equity so everyone gets to know how to hunt and everything else associated with preparing wild game.

Hog Blog:  Are you primarily doing guided hunts, or are you hunting unguided as well?

Nick:  This depends on the experience level of the members hunting. The society engages in both.

Hog Blog:  How many hunts have you organized so far?

Nick:  Personally, 3 this spring and 3 last year. Members have set up another 3 this fall.

Hog Blog:  In your Mission Statement, you mention a specific idea of ethics.  Can you describe these ethical principles?  How do you think they differ from the “general” hunter?

Nick:  We hunt to bring us closer to our food, not to mount a ten-point buck in our living rooms. There is no ‘general’ hunter, but there are many kinds of hunting that we would not want to engage in, such as trophy hunting or hunting endangered or rare species. There are places in other countries where you can hunt exotic and rare animals and ship the hide/antlers home. We would not allow such hunting in the society.

One of the most powerful experiences a person can have is taking life. This experience is not to be taken lightly and with the wrong community can became a very negative lesson. The society intends to create the network necessary to help people find the positive side of hunting, which naturally brings the hunter closer to the wild. 

Hog Blog:  Right now the focus of your organization seems to be hogs.  Will you be hunting other game as the seasons come in?  Tell me about some of your upcoming hunt plans.

Nick:  I will be hunting deer in late september and other members will hunt hogs and pheasants. We are open to most game but I am personally wary of hunting predators.

Hog Blog:  Do you see this organization being something that is carried over into other urban areas (e.g. Los Angeles, Sacramento, etc.)?

Nick:  I am working on a Sacramento chapter now and we have designs for the Washington DC chapter as well.

If you want to learn more about the Bull Moose Hunting Society, check out their website.  You’ll find plenty of info about the organization, some great recipes, and everything you’ll need to know if you have interest in starting a chapter in your city.  Even better, if you’re in San Francisco, contact the guys directly and arrange a conversation.

I have every intention of digging more into the trend of the “later-in-life hunter”.  If you have come into the sport recently, particularly through a “non-traditional” route, and would like to share your story with me, please feel free to drop me a note.