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'Why Hunt?' guidebook balances novelty, tradition

John Motoviloff

Photo of book titled Why Hunt?

Mentors are one leg supporting the stool that is the future of hunting. Another is the new hunters themselves, whether they be college students like UW-Madison's Badger Hunting Club or a cohort of food-motivated young adults recruited through a food co-op. It's crucial they have the right tools to jump-start their hunting careers.

One indispensable resource is "Why Hunt? A Guide for Lovers of Nature, Local Food, and Outdoor Recreation," an 84-page volume published in May by the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Just as the work of Aldo Leopold served to link hunters and nonhunters in his time, Leopold's legacy continues to be a bridge between these groups today.

Buddy Huffaker, executive director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, sees the book as "a catalyst for bringing these sometimes mutually exclusive groups into conversation together."

As the book's subtitle suggests, it is not your father's or grandfather's hunting guidebook. While traditional outdoor media often takes for granted the fact that people hunt, "Why Hunt?" frames it as a choice. The book reaches out to potential hunters by talking about game as responsibly harvested protein and hunting revenues as the underwriter of conservation funding.

It's not just the book's point of view on hunting that sets it apart from traditional publications, it's also the book's authors. Six of the book's eight chapters are written by novice hunters, many of them women. The photos in the book, the reasons for hunting — even the call-out boxes for Madison's Willy Street Co-op and Milwaukee's Outpost Natural Foods — will have resonance with a population that is more diverse, urban and female than traditional hunters.

At the same time, this thin volume is thick with information that new hunters need: discussing gear essentials, finding a place to hunt, identifying game species, assessing their relative difficulty to hunt and finding a mentor. An insert card contains links to additional resources.

As an instructor for novice hunting programs, I am frequently at a loss for class materials that are not, on the one hand, written for seasoned hunters or, on the other, for children. "Why Hunt?" threads this narrow needle by providing a book for novices that is written largely by novice hunters.

With support from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bast Durbin Advertising and several conservation organizations and businesses, the guide is for sale, $10, on the Aldo Leopold Foundation website, with bulk ordering information also available. For details, check Why Hunt?.

John Motoviloff is the Hunting and Shooting Sports R3 Coordinator for the National Wild Turkey Federation in Wisconsin.