Why Is Hunting So Complex?

Tim Esterdahl Hunting 560x420I play a lot of golf and I’ve been a high school football referee and baseball umpire. I understand that most sports are more complex than what we perceive them to be. However, I’ve never encountered a sport with as complex as hunting. Never mind the large fines and penalties if you get something wrong. Why does it have to be so complex? What am I talking about? All of it from the tags, to the hunting spots to planning out the various hunts.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

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The first complexity is getting the right paperwork. For example, my first year hunting, I got a landowner’s type 8 whitetail doe fawn deer tag for hunt area 15, region T. I also bought a Wyoming hunting license and conservation stamp. Also, since I’m an out-of-state resident this added another “flavor” to the purchasing process. This is quite a few different pieces of paper to say I can harvest a nuisance animal destroying crops and damaging vehicles.

Gathering all of these items was surprisingly easy to purchase, yet difficult to know if you got it right via the Wyoming’s Fish and Game website. The site, at times, is great for a first timer trying to understand what he needs.

Adding to the complexity was statements like this: “For example, nonresident Region B Licenses are valid in Deer Hunt Areas 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 21, which are open to general license hunting. However, Region B licenses are NOT valid in Deer Hunt Areas 10 and 22 (although these two hunt areas fall within Region B) as these hunt areas are limited quota.” This may sound simple to veteran hunters, but as a newbie, it is a lot of confusion early on. Once I figured out what deer hunt area I was in simplified things, but at the onset, it was not so user-friendly.

However, I also placed a call to the regional office to verify what I needed. Thinking I had it all correct, I was to learn I didn’t really get what I needed.

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What did I miss? I should have gotten the type 6 tag which would have allowed me to hunt whitetail AND mule deer which are plentiful. After hunting for months, (yes months Oct 1-Dec 31), we had one real chance at a whitetail and a hundred chances at mule deer. I never pulled the trigger on any of those hunts.

There is another complexity based on biology – the hunt timing. Wyoming starts their hunt in October while Nebraska (where I live) has there hunts around Thanksgiving. I wonder if the deer know where the state lines are or if the deer know when the season starts. In Wyoming, the temperatures are still warm in October and the corn is still in the field. Basically, good luck seeing a deer during the first days of the hunting season.

For seasoned hunters, this complexity is likely not an issue. They understand all the hoops to jump through, yet why does it have to be that way? Reminds one of what life was like crossing from East to West Germany. PAPERS! SHOW YOUR PAPERS!

Hunter’s Education

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Hunting seems to a generational sport in that you learned it from your parents and pass it along to your kids. This is great when it comes to understanding the sport and taking hunter’s education courses. As a working adult nearing 40, the hunter’s education course is a whole different animal.

Again, reading through the myriad of bureaucracy, I learned I could take Nebraska’s hunter’s education via online computer courses while with Wyoming, I would have to complete a shooting day in order to get my certification. The timing of these shooting days was off with many of them over plus passing the course the morning of my first hunt, the later simply an option. What was one to do if they wanted to hunt in Wyoming? Simple take the test in Nebraska. Turns out it doesn’t matter where you get your hunter’s education done, you just need to get it done.

Completing the courses online in Nebraska in order to hunt in Wyoming was naturally the better option and I wonder how many new other hunters do the same thing. I imagine there is a listing somewhere of the more lax hunter’s education states somewhere online.

Time to Hunt

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With all the boxes checked, I collected my paperwork and was ready to hunt a whitetail doe from Oct 1-Dec 31 in hunt area 15, region T. This sounds great, but the real complexity with hunting is figuring out where to actually hunt.

With hunting come two choices: public or private. Looking over the various maps for public lands and trying to figure out which ones would be good spots to find said whitetail deer was a nightmare. What is a WHMA? How about a Hunter Management Area? What about a Wyoming Wilderness Area? I still have no idea. Oh and when looking at the interactive map on Wyoming Game and Fish deer hunt area 15 isn’t listed. Nope, you need to know it is Region T instead.

Fortunately, my hunting mentor is good friends with area farmers to get permission to hunt on their land. Private hunting then is easier. Well, it should be. See deer don’t know those darn boundary lines.

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Hunting and watching deer in nature is an awesome experience. It is also a maddening experience when those deer are residing on property you can’t hunt because you don’t have the owner’s permission. And there resides another complexity – finding places to hunt.

All of this complexity leads one to a simple truth – hunting is more about planning than the hunt itself. Gathering documents, making a plan and coordinating places to hunt besides the hours, days, weeks spent scouting the area for deer is an exhausting process. While I’m a novice, it is also clear why the sport isn’t gaining thousands of new hunters.

As the season came to a close with no deer tag filled, I thanked my mentor for all the time he spent helping me. His reply drove home how complex the sport is at first.

“If I don’t take you hunting, teach you how it is done and spend the time to help others, my sport will die,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.