Why do you hunt? It’s a question that I’m often asked by friends and family members who don’t partake in the activity. Sometimes, I’m tempted to answer with “Because I can.” But I don’t, because I feel that it’s more important to take the time to share the real reasons behind the hunt.

For me, hunting is much more than just a trophy photo to put on social media—it’s about conservation and preserving wildlife, making memories with family members and friends, and sharing my passion with future hunters, to name a few.

Respect for the outdoors

From day one, my dad has instilled in me a sense of deep respect for the wildlife that we hunt. He is a licensed professional hunter in South Africa and guides clients for the safari company that we own together—Starr & Bodill African Safaris. He gives an audible “thank you” to every animal that is shot, regardless of whether it is taken by his gun or by a client’s.

We all show gratitude in different ways, and I’m often overcome with emotion after having pulled the trigger—partly due to the adrenaline dump that happens after the shot, but mostly because I am thankful for making an ethical kill.

The author with a nyala she harvested on her most recent safari. Image by Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer.
The author with a nyala she harvested on her most recent safari. Image by Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer.

It’s infrequent that non-hunters are able to witness this overwhelming emotional response. My guess is they only see trophy photos posted on social media, which don’t tell story of the hunt as a whole. If they were able to witness it for themselves, they may understand more about why exactly we do what we do.

Conservation

Conservation is most effective when wildlife has a value to humans. Dollars spent on hunting translate to dollars used toward habitat management. This is especially the case in Africa, where I have seen firsthand the positive impact that hunting has on wildlife populations, habitat, and local economies.

According to a recent article by Outdoor Life, the 18,000-plus hunters who travel to Africa on a yearly basis generate roughly $200 million and fund the protection of more than 540,000 square miles of habitat.

Additionally, organizations like Safari Club International (SCI) are working to raise funds for conservation worldwide. According to the 2013 annual report, SCI’s revenue totaled $8,046,479, of which $5,358,769 was spent on conservation efforts, outdoor education, humanitarian services, and the International Wildlife Museum.

I’m proud to be a member of SCI, as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Rifle Association. They are all organizations that work to safeguard the future of hunting through conservation.

Fostering future hunters

There is nothing that I love more than sharing my passion for hunting with others, except when others are inspired by my passion to try their hand at hunting, too.

Cindy Grove's impala. Image by Andrea Fisher.
Cindy Grove’s impala. Image by Andrea Fisher.

Five women joined me on my most recent safari. Cindy Grove came as an observer and photographer, accompanying her sister and accomplished outdoorswoman Andrea Fisher. During our two-hour drive to the lodge, we chatted about how excited we were for what the hunt might have in store for us during the following 10 days. Our excitement was contagious, and Cindy decided that she might want to hunt an animal during our safari. Her professional hunter Mike recommended that she shoot Andrea’s rifle during the sight-in time that day, just in case. Having shot guns before, she did a fantastic job of handling Andrea’s 7mm Remington Magnum, and Mike said she was ready for her first hunt, if she decided that’s what she wanted to do.

After a few days of witnessing Andrea’s time on the veld, and listening to the rest of the group recount their daily activities around the campfire, Cindy decided that she definitely wanted to hunt for an impala—and that she did! Under the close supervision of Mike and Andrea, Cindy connected with a gorgeous impala—her first animal ever!

It’s hard for me to sum up my passion for hunting in just a few short paragraphs. Hunting has shaped me as a person, and changed my life in many ways. I’m grateful for all of the memories and life lessons that I have experienced because of it. Outdoorsmen and women hold the key to the future of wildlife, and with conservation and fostering future hunters, I hope that it continues to flourish.

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  • Michael Sabbeth

    I liked the article. However, one reason she likes to hunt raises some perplexing questions for me, even though I know what she intended to say and I agree with her thinking. Ms. Starr is saying one reason she likes to hunt is that she respects the animals, as a consequence, in part, having respect instilled in her by her father. Ms. Starr wrote that she is grateful for ethical kills. But I am not convinced that she or anyone else likes to hunt because he or she can make an ethical kill. Making an ethical kill, hopefully, is a consequence of hunting, which, in turn, is a consequence of having reasons to hunt. The argument that she hunts out of respect for the animal probably is not crafted very well. A non hunter could justifiably ask, if you respect animals so much, why kill them

    • Leupy

      First I would like to say I agree with your comment about this article. Second most of the time when I am asked this question it is from some one wanting to start an argument which is why my most common answer is, “I just like to kill things”

  • Glenn H

    I used to hunt more for sport, but now I hunt for food(meat) and when I have enough I put my guns away and go fishing!

  • Francis Morin

    I like to hunt big game, but only here in the USA or Canada- maybe someday, Alaska after a Kodiak–In our area we have lots of feral pigs, and while my M70 30-06 (1947 mfg year) will nail those p0rkers with the `180 grain Remington Core-Lokt rounds it shoots so accurately- I like to use either my M71 (1939 mfg. year) in .348 with open sights, and sometimes my elk rifle, a G&H custom Mauser 98 actioned BA in .35 Whelan, mfg. pre-WW2- Why the fire power, one might ask? Two good reasons: The late Robert Ruark’s advice to “Use Enough Gun” and a quote in a Gene Hill story about his friend, Winchester Sales Mgr. Jim Rikhoff- “I guess I just like to hear the loud whack of a large caliber bullet smacking into solid animal flesh”, as do I.