We interrupt this marriage to bring you hunting season!
As a young bride, I could not even begin to understand the complicated relationship I would have with hunting. I didn’t care about hunting. I preferred beef to elk and deer. I liked hiking without worrying about crunching on leaves and sticks. Sure, when we were newly married, I would follow my husband into the woods, decked in camo, and was often lectured that I was turning the pages of my book too loud. I went to deer camp because I liked hanging out around the campfire with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. My husband’s grandpa, who couldn’t hear a word I said, would tell the famous story about the time my mother-in-law shot a hole in the cabin floor and about the six-foot rattler they found out by the creek way back in ’92.
As the “new” of our marriage wore off, I became a little annoyed (ahem, a LOT) about hunting. It was time-consuming and expensive, and where my entire husband’s passion seemed to be directed. I was jealous. Finally, I asked him what is so special about hunting. Why was he so obsessed? He took a long time to respond. I was smug, thinking that there was no good answer, and I would now get weekends in October to go to pumpkin patches instead of scouting Unit 34 or hauling water to a “good spot” in Unit 30. What my husband said touched me deeply and forever changed how I felt about hunting season. He told me, “It’s not about the hunt; it’s about the fellowship. It’s about being 12 years old, taking your first deer, and feeling a great pride and love emanating from your grandfather. It’s about talking around a campfire, and learning perseverance, and overcoming failure. It’s about future generations sharing a passion for putting food on the table and reverence for all God’s creatures.”
Artesia sits in the midst of some of the best hunting units in New Mexico. Every hunting season, Artesian families have been hauling their campers, gathering their families, and meeting at the campfire. The following are testimonials from some of these families.
Hunter Paige Bennett explains, “Hunting with family is so much more than another activity on the calendar for us; it’s truly a lifestyle. Hunting provides generational engagement that fosters lasting bonds between each one of us. We learn life lessons of patience, persistence, failure, integrity, successes, vast appreciation of the great outdoors, and value creation. It’s a gift that we can pass down to our sons and daughters. Hunting as a family has taken us from our very own backyard to around the world. It’s created a cornerstone for parenting.”
For Greg Cook and Jordan Burnell, hunting is synonymous with family reunions. “My passion for hunting stems from my earliest memories of hunting with my grandparents. I hope to carry on this tradition by hunting with my kids, grandkids, uncles, aunts, and cousins. I can think of no better way to spend time with family than the great outdoors,” shared Greg. Jordan related, “Hunting has been at the core of our family; our whole family looks forward to it every year. It brings everyone closer together and we enjoy getting to have the whole gang sit around the campfire and tell stories.”
Hunting can even help families pull together during difficult times. Dylan Baca, a cancer survivor and hunting guide, explains how his passion for hunting, shared with family, helped him after being diagnosed with cancer as a teen.
“Battling cancer was the hardest thing I’ve endured in my life. During that time, hunting gave me something to look forward to; it kept me fighting, bringing my family closer together. It gave us a chance to spend time outdoors, and for a few days, we didn’t even have to think about cancer. Even since, hunting has given my family the opportunity to spend quality time together and disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, even if it’s just for a few days.”
One could say that none of us would be here today without the benefits of hunting. Hunting is more than just gathering meat to sustain and for these New Mexicans; hunting feeds the soul. As Nathan Carroll put it, “Meat doesn’t grow in cellophane; kids need to understand that. Meat comes from taking the life of an animal. The success of the human race has depended on hunters. We didn’t get 8 billion people on the planet without hunting. In the last 150 years, people have become removed from the sacred process. It’s my goal, and duty, to pass that knowledge down to my children.”
As our world continues to change and expand, it is important to hang on to tradition. Generations of families hunting together maintain the ways of the past. Disconnecting to reconnect in nature is a critical component for many families in Artesia. If we do not impress its importance on future generations, hunting, and all the cherished traditions that go with it, will be lost. It’s up to us to preserve this sacred way of living.
Article written by Morgan Fox and originally published in Focus on Regional 2020 Winter edition.