Two weeks from yesterday is the start of Colorado’s second rifle season, for which my hunting partner Noel and I both have cow elk and buck deer tags for GMU 29, which encompasses the southern Indian Peaks Wilderness and Boulder’s foothills. I recognize that hunting is not supported by some fraction of my readers, most of whom follow me for information like this, this, and this, not hunting-related know-how. I respect your perspective, and in this post I’d like to share mine.
This summer has been very productive: successful thru-hikes of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route and Wind River High Route, and a third place finish at Run Rabbit Run 100. I hope that my streak continues, though I fear that the key ingredient in my earlier successes — hard work and time — has not been similarly invested in this hunt. Nonetheless, here’s why I’m giving it a go:
In the past I have been a full-on vegetarian (no meat) and an economic vegetarian (limited meat when I was “living the dream” as a backpacking bum). But I have found that a diet centered around quality meats and fresh produce achieves better results for me: I’m faster, stronger, leaner, healthier, and more durable.
So I want meat protein in my freezer. That brings me to my next rationale:
2. The source of my meat
When I buy meat at the grocery store, I try not to think about its likely history: unnatural feed, repulsive CAFO’s, mass slaughter, and enormous processing facilities. Premium and local meat should be better, but probably still not entirely immune from some aspects of modern industrial agriculture.
In contrast, the elk and deer meat that I hope to harvest is organic, grass-fed, cage free, and humanely treated. Best of all, maybe, is that it will force me to directly confront the ethical dilemma of a meat-eater: that it necessitates the killing of another animal.
3. An excuse to get outdoors in October
Fall conditions in the Colorado high country are tough: brisk daytime highs and sub-freezing nighttime lows, longer nights and a weak mid-day sun, and the gradual accumulation of snow. Like May and June, October and November are ‘tweener periods, when conditions are no longer conducive to last season’s activity of choice (backpacking) but not yet primed for the next season’s (skiing).
An October hunt is better than staying low in Boulder, where I’m reduced to raking leaves, watching Peyton Manning, and dreaming about my next backpacking trips still nine months away.
4. Never stop learning
As a backpacker, I’m still evolving. Since cutting my teeth on a summertime thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2002, I’ve learned how to thrive in vastly different environments, to hike off-trail, to ski and winter backpack, to compete in adventure races and ultra marathons, and even how guide trips, develop new routes, and write books. By branching out, I’ve avoided boredom.
I see hunting as a natural extension of backpacking, and an opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge. I doubt that I will ever self-identify as a hunter: I’ll buy a Subaru before a truck; Amanda would never let me wear camo year-round; and I sure as heck am not moving out of Boulder. But by becoming more hunter-esque, I remain as excited about backpacking as I was 13 years ago.