Progressive or Purist? Which one are you? Chances are that you probably lean towards one of these categories but your stance may vary on each end of the spectrum.

In my 30 years of hunting I have had the privilege to see the sport come a long way! What I mean to say is, in all of the “categories” within the realm of the hunting sport, there have been some genius advancements that have allowed hunting to become what it is today. Weaponry, electronics, camouflage patterns, you name it, it’s changed!

Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of those changes have allowed us to become better equipped to hunt different quarry around the world! You could argue that it’s allowed us to become more “humane” in some ways. Quicker kills, surer shots, etc. It’s allowed us to become more successful, harvesting more nutritious fare for the table. You could even say that it has put man back in the place of “predator” or at the top of the food chain. Regardless of what the advancement may be, I don’t see the pace changing anytime soon.

As a hunter I’ve been blessed to grow with the changes and ultimately use many of them myself. And because of them, I’ve been able to harvest quite a list of trophies that I have been proud to put on my wall. But I cannot deny, the more success I have, the more complacent I become. And the more complacent that I become, the more I desire a challenge once again.

I’m not saying that I will tell you which end of the spectrum is “right” to be on. That’s not my point at all. However, I will raise a question that I would like you to think about as I continue to compare a few “advancements” in the industry. The question is this, “Is the balance of the game off?” Or in other words, have we gained too much of the upper hand when it comes to the challenge of hunting? Is it right? Is it fair? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

This is an easy topic to point out. It seems that every year a gun company comes out with something new that shoots better, faster, or farther. In that same manner, bow companies have accomplished the same things. Vying for the fastest shooting, the lightest, most compact, or accurate bow on the market.

The truth is this; we will buy it if they can make it better! Somehow, in our mind, we will be a better hunter or a more successful hunter if we have what is new. It’s a trap that I’ve fallen into many times! (At least as long as my wallet will allow it!)

Has it truly made you a better hunter? Have you truly increased your harvest of animals? For me, I would have to say, in some instances, yes. Even as I celebrate those harvests and am thankful for them, I find myself missing the challenge that I used to have. You know, when things were “harder” and not as advanced.

Fred Bear, although he made advancements in the design of the long bow, still favored the old “stick and string” to anything else. And look at what he accomplished! He is one of the most celebrated and decorated archers in hunting history. Even bringing those hunts to our TV’s and theaters back in the day!

I myself am a huge fan of the Realtree AP camo pattern. It has proven time and time again to hide my silhouette from deer and turkey as they pass closer than they should to me. This pattern even hid me from the occasional hiker or fellow hunter being able to see me on public lands! But here again, patterns have come a long way over the last 30 years! Has that given us an unfair advantage to hunting these critters in the timber?

I can remember, when I was about nine-years-old, tagging along on my first Iowa shotgun deer season. Back then, when you applied, you were issued either an antlerless tag, a buck tag, or if you were lucky, an either sex tag! The camouflage within our hunting party consisted of the “army green” pattern. My father, grandfather, and friends all wore the same basic camouflage when conducting our deer drives.

But in 1986, Realtree introduced a new camouflage pattern for hunters. It was modeled after the bark of a tree! From there, branches, leaves, twigs, colors were all added to the pattern over the years making them more realistic and better matched to the surroundings. It allowed hunters to “sink” into the timber right in front of their quarry giving them the element of surprise in the game of hide and seek!

I truly enjoy the moments that I have been in a tree electing to pass on a young buck as he bobs his head up and down, twitches his ears forward and back, checks the wind over and over, simply because he knows the things that he’s seeing or sensiing is not right, but he can’t put his “hoof” on it!
But again, I wonder, are we gaining too much advantage? If you look back at some of history’s greatest hunters, you will see that they are not dressed in the “advantage” giving camouflage that we have today. Teddy Roosevelt was usually in his buckskins or his western wear. Fred Bear, pants, shirt, and his famous brimmed hat. Saxton Pope and Arthur Young too wore just the basics that were needed in the woods. They all relied on stealth, tactic, being still, and playing the wind to bag their quarry. Not the ability to blend in like we do now.

Have we lost our ability to win the game on “even grounds”?

How about this category! Rangefinders, electronic ear assistance, calls, decoys, and more! It seems like every year there is something new that some electronic “geek” has invented to give us the advantage in the chases of our choosing. And once again, I’m one of the hunters that has appreciated the advantage over the years.

I have a range finder with “ARC” technology that has allowed me to properly place an arrow on many a deer making for a quick and humane kill! My cousin has used the electronic ears on more than one occasion making him aware of any sound that could be in his 360 degree radius. My electronic coyote call has proven time and time again more successful than that of my tireless, winded, squalls coming from the efforts of my mouth! Trust me, I’m not trying to ostracize anybody here.

However, once again, I raise the question, is it becoming too easy? Are we taking advantage of the advancements of our era and unfairly gaining the upper hand on our game? Fish finders, depth finders, cameras, plot watchers, feeders (while not during hunting seasons), and so much more have given us a true advantage and filled our freezers and our trophy walls. But, are we being challenged enough?

Lately I have begun reading the memoirs and books of Teddy Roosevelt, one of our nation’s greatest presidents and outdoorsmen. When he writes, you can tell that there is desire for the ultimate adventure anytime he was on the hunt. And back then, most all the time, his hunts were conducted on horseback.

Let’s look to now. Bad Boy Buggy, Arctic Cats, Quiet Kat, 4X4 trucks, Hemi’s, and so much more have taken the place of hunts that, for years, have been conducted on horseback or on foot. Why? Are we to lazy? Are we looking for “ease” in our hunt? Are we even willing to put forth an honest effort anymore to catch up to our trophies?

Hog hunts from helicopters with a hunter/shooter hanging from the side door with an AR-15 in hand to eradicate a population of hogs that have taken over a ranch! Exciting, no doubt, but ethical? Fair? Honorable? I know that it helps the rancher, but what has happened to an honest effort?
I know that there is always a need and our tendency is to answer that need. For me, when I head out West to hunt antelope, a truck is a vital tool! In order to cover the miles and miles of wilderness to find what we are looking for, we like to have the “comfort” of the 4X4 truck. But the more times we head West, the more I long for the day when instead, I use my truck to haul my horse out there to use for the hunt. I desire to move “back in time” to accept the challenge that our forefathers had.

Progressive or Purist
I know that if I continued to bring up all of the modern advances with the hunting industry, we could continue to make list after list after list of what’s “fair” about them and what may not be “fair”. And with each topic, you may side on the “progressive” side, to say that you like the change and advancement that our culture had made, or, you may side on the “purist” side, wishing you could do things the “old way”. Reliving those memories of your younger years.

Bottom line, one trend that I am seeing unfold before my eyes is the yearning by outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to have an adventure! And those adventures may call for more “modern” advancements or they may call for the “old ways”. Is one right and one wrong? No. I don’t see it that way. But I do think you have to ask yourself, “What do I desire most?”

For me, I desire more challenge. And challenge for me, come this fall, will be putting my compound aside to use a longbow. And not just any long bow. One I fashioned and carved from a fallen Hickory tree that I found on one of my past hunts this year. As I’ve spent hours discovering this bow from the middle of the log, I can’t help but wonder, many years ago, who has chased deer in the woods in the same manner that I desire to. Maybe some of those giant oak trees have already seen this story over the years. But my hope is that they will smile at me as I pass by, stick and string in hand, quietly stalking the deer that might be over the next ridge!

As for you, chase your passions as you see fit, but remember the roots! Hunting is a time honored challenge between man and animal. Be you “pure” or “progressive” enjoy the game and have an adventure! Good luck.