I should also point out that I’ve never actually been hunting. The opportunity never actually arose without any effort on my part, but nope, never been hunting. I’ve also never shot a gun. Both of these things don’t bother me that much, even if people who think that half-chromosome called Y is the most important thing ever would call a sissy.
Now that all that is out of way, I need to get something off my chest. Hunters are nerds. Nerds nerds nerds nerds nerds NERDS. Not only are they nerds, but they even be the biggest, saddest nerds in all of nerddom. Allow me to explain.
As I said before, I’ve never gone hunting. I never had a chance to, and even if I did, I wouldn’t go, simply because it doesn’t appeal to me. It involves donning the aforementioned goofy clothing, traipsing the woods for hours on end, shooting an animal that did me no wrong, doesn’t taste that great, and can’t fight back a tenth as well as I can with a gun, and then there’s something going on that involves deer pee. I don’t know.
In fact, when I start thinking about, I’m a little hard-pressed to come up with reasons why this would appeal to anybody, actually. When I was younger, I went fishing with my grandfather. Although I didn’t know anything about fishing or care or even enjoy it, these are still some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Why? Because I got to spend quality, quiet time with a man that I admire, talking about mostly nothing, listening to the sound of nature, and stealing the pieces of American cheese that were meant to be used as bait. At its best, I suspect hunting is like this.
However, when my grandfather (not I) would catch a fish, there would be a moment of fanfare, and then we’d throw it back. There was a sense of achievement when the fish was caught, because it, like hunting, involved patience, luck and skill, but there was no need to kill our fish. We did what we set out to do. Even if we did kill it, there would be no joy or fanfare in it, no necessity for the act of bonding that we were in engaged in. If a few guys wanted to put on those stupid clothes (seriously, you guys look like such asses) go into the woods, drink a few beers, and then peg a doe with a paintball gun, that would be fine. That would be bonding. But then, the killing must be done, mustn’t? I can’t imagine anyone actually going through all the effort of hunting without actually killing or trying to kill something, which means the appeal of hunting over other activities must lie elsewhere.
There are two things that separate hunting from other sports. Aside from bullfighting, hunting is the only recreational activity that requires real weapons and actual killing. So what’s the appeal in these two things? Well, I think it’s pretty easy to see that the appeal is acting like a badass. I mean, don’t you feel cool holding a gun and shooting it? Doesn’t it make you tough to kill something?
Well, no, not really. Because buying a gun and shooting it really isn’t being tough, but just a facsimile of what actual tough people do when they’re in a war. And because killing something doesn’t make you badass, especially since the thing you’re killing doesn’t fight back and you’re holding far superior weaponry. (Try killing a deer with two dull kitchen knives that are taped to your head and then I’ll be impressed.) Also, feeling cool for killing something should be cause for concern about your mental state.
So, alright, killing and shooting isn’t actually badass under these circumstances, but instead just makes people feel badass. I want to make this clear: that’s totally ok. Really. Because we all do things all day long in big ways and in small ways that make us feel cooler than we really are. When I listen to music, and when I really rock out, I get to pretend that I’m as cool as the singer is. When I play video games with my friends, I get to pretend that I’m as cool as the character I’m playing (which, come to think of it, is usually something lame like a clinically depressed mummy or a fucking unicorn person.) Hell, even the act of writing this article let’s me pretend that I’m somebody cool. So the point is, pretending to be cooler or tougher than you actually are is fine.
With this in mind, this “let’s go into the woods and pretend like we’re tougher than we actually are” activity, I’m immediately reminded of something very similar: LARPing. For those of you who don’t know what LARPing is, bless you. However, I have to explain it. LARPing is live action role-playing, and it involves dressing up as a fantasy character, using tinfoil swords or make-believe magic, and vanquishing fake monsters. This is almost exactly the same thing as hunting. Ok, maybe not superficially, but the components are the same. You have your specialized outfits, your weapons and a creature that you must best, all while pretending to be tougher, cooler and stronger than you really are. Hunters are LARPers. Hunters are nerds.
So, alright, why do I say that hunters are the nerdiest of the nerdy? Well, the reason LARPers feel so comfortable openly playing make-believe in public is because they’re not afraid to call it make-believe. LARPers and paper-and-pencil role-players have never been shy about the fact that imagination fuels their experiences, and you can only call it imagination when you know that it’s far removed from reality. If they didn’t openly admit they were just pretending, if they thought that they were actually a knight in a shining armor, or a wizard casting spells, you would, first of all, worry about them, and then feel an immense amount of pity for them. Hunters are like this. Some of them even use bows, just like Legolas. They hunt to feel cooler than they are, but then instead of admitting that they’re just playing pretend, killing animals that can’t fight back as though it’s tough and cool, they think they’re actually tough and cool. They think that this whole process makes them more of men, they think that because of this they’re tough. Whereas a LARPer knows that pretending to be cool doesn’t actually make you cool, hunters get confused on where reality ends and make-believe starts. First you worry, and then you feel sad.