Is Retiring From Hunting What You Really Wanted?

by Oct 7, 2019Hunt/Fish

Many retired professional athletes that played hockey, football, basketball or baseball come out of retirement to play again. In fact, many people from all woks of life have retired from their jobs and then gone back to work. What changed for these folks? What motivated or inspired them to jump back into their former careers? There are likely as many reasons as there are people that have done this. I bet one common reason is that they loved what they did so much they wanted to get back into it.

Have you retired from hunting but yearn to hear one more elk bugle, sip another hot coffee in the duck blind while scanning the sky at daybreak or relax in the solitude of walking your old favorite “grouse road”? If so, why did you give up hunting and what’s preventing you from getting back out there?

A lot of things in life happen that can draw us away from hunting and fishing. Going to university put a serious damper of my hunting for several years. Careers and family become priorities at some point for most everyone.

With age comes wisdom but also a host of physical changes that can make hunting more challenging and maybe even less enjoyable for some. Hunting is hard work and fitness is important for getting around safely in the woods. Declining health, strength and even debilitating illness can set a hunter’s desires adrift. Even little things can become big frustrations like needing glasses or hearing aids or struggling to see at dusk or dawn. All kinds of changes happen throughout our lives and as humans, we hunters aren’t immune to the march of time.

I remember seeing a study many years ago that showed that the rise and fall across a large segment of Canadian hunters was correlated with fathers who quit hunting shortly after their sons were grown and left home. It wasn’t until the son had kids of his own that hunter numbers started trending up again.

For other seasoned hunters, the life change that ends their hunting career might be the loss of their lifelong hunting partner, who may have also been their best friend or even their spouse. Maybe for some hunters, going out alone is just not what hunting means to them, so they give it up.

For others, growing old might cause the onset of bitterness and anger towards the way young people hunt nowadays; the crap they put in hunting regulations or the idiots in charge of game management might be their excuses for retiring from hunting (which might be a blessing in this case).

If you are a retired hunter, my big questions for you are – is getting out of hunting what you really – I mean really – wanted to do? Are your reasons for quitting hunting seriously honest reasons beyond your control or are they convenient excuses? Are you living with any regrets?
If deep down inside, your heart yearns to be back out in the woods hunting in any capacity, then why not come out of retirement? Why not lace up the ol’ skates and let’s take another crack at the Stanley Cup.

Three years ago, after turning 50 and getting into mountain archery hunting for elk, the realization of being a half-century started to hit me. The limitations to the rest of my hunting career were coming into sharp focus if I didn’t do something. I wasn’t in my prime, but I wasn’t going to give up either. I wasn’t going to let age get in the way of my hunting lifestyle, but I needed a plan. How do I change the way I hunt to adapt with me getting older?

The plan started with dropping about 30 lbs. Muscle loss as you get older is a risk. I had no choice as a guy over 50. My plan required incorporating weight training into my life. Weight training and losing weight helped immensely, and last year I got my first bull elk in the mountains with my bow. But 2 days of packing out of the high country showed me my next limitation and that was that I wasn’t doing enough to be fit for the mountains.

This following year, more training made me much stronger and my performance in the mountains this archery season was even better than last year. Starting this fall, I will be using the expertise of a professional fitness trainer to get me even more ready for next year – to take me to that next level. Throw in my new yoga classes and I’ll be 25 again before you know it! I’ll be honest. I hate exercising. But I love hunting more than I hate exercising. This is my motivation.

Another part of my plan to hunt as long into my old age as I can is to diversify the types of hunting that I incorporate into my season. Despite loving to live here, hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains is a grunt. How long will I be able to keep doing it? Who knows; hopefully a long time? But to me, hunting is hunting, and I started making backup plans, too.

I started waterfowl hunting a few years ago and learned about it from a retired waterfowler friend of mine. Duck hunting is great! I love it. There’s a bit of physical energy required but duck hunting can be way less physically demanding than elk hunting in the mountains. Because I never grew up in a family that hunted ducks, I had no idea how to hunt them.

It was my objective to learn from my friend, and if duck hunting is all that I can do when I’m 80, then I’ll know how to bring a few ducks home for the pot. Just wheel me out to the duck pond, prop me up in blind and pick me up at dark. I might sit in the bling looking up at the mountains reminiscing about hunting elk, but I’ll be having a great time hunting ducks, too.

I spend more days hunting small game like grouse and snowshoe hare now where I just casually walk some old grown over roads. It’s a different kind of hunting than big game hunting but no lesser of a hunt. Of course, I will always be out there hunting turkeys where I can spend a good amount of time on my butt listening. Maybe if I ever must get hearing aids, they will help me hear gobblers even better!

The big message here is, if your heart desires to be back hunting, there is always some type of hunting you can incorporate into your life to suite your age and abilities. You may need to work at a few things to get back out there, like incorporating an exercise routine into your life and losing a few pounds, but there are benefits of doing those things that extend beyond hunting.

Even young physically fit hunters who served and were seriously disabled in war have found ways to hunt simply because they have the drive to not let their situation hold them back. Another friend of mine lost his arm in an industrial accident, yet he is an accomplished bow hunter. He says it sucks when he falls because he can’t stick out his other hand to break his fall. He has it all in perspective. Hunt first-fix your bow later if you need to.

It was Henry Ford that said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

You might be thinking, that’s all great but my situation is different. I agree your situation is different. So, here is my offer to you. If you are an older hunter who has retired for whatever reason, but you want to get back into it again and just don’t know where to start, I want you to write me. Write me at [email protected] and say, “Mark I read your article on coming out of hunting retirement and yes, I want to go hunting again.” Then, tell me your story. I will work with you to help you come up with a plan to achieve your goals!

Send me that email right now!

Cover Image: © / Adobe Stock








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