A Profile of a “Hipster Hunter,” the Next Generation of Conservationists
K.J. Houtman 03.09.15
In a recent article for Sporting Classics, JR Sullivan examined the rise of so-called “hipster hunters”—typically digitally-inclined, 25- to 35-year-old professionals who embody the “locavore” movement—and mainstream perception of the newfound sportsmen and women, and their relation to their “traditional” roots.
But is “hipster hunter” the applicable title for this new generation of 20-somethings who hunt? And who are they specifically?
Nikita Dalke is 27 years old. She loves to hunt with her husband, Kyle, and her two children, ages six and four. Her single biggest motivation is conservation. She isn’t necessarily a locavore per se, but gardening is important to her and so is the meat from their hunting seasons: deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, and bear. She is also a serious predator hunter.
For Nikita, it all centers around a healthy, outdoor lifestyle with a focus on conservation. She started her hunt for the mountain goat shown above on September 10, 2012. After 10 weeks of strenuous challenges managing difficult terrain, she took the animal on her last available day to be out.
“The main reason we should all hunt is conservation. It’s the right thing to manage the land and animal population,” said Nikita. Her home is Cranbrook, British Columbia, an area known as East Kootenay near the St. Mary’s River, east of the Kootenay River. Cranbrook faces the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the north and east. “There is the added benefit you are able to eat 90 percent of the animals you hunt.”
Some hunters focus on trophy racks and tape-measure analytics. Not Nikita.
“I want to take a mature animal for the benefit to the population, definitely,” she said. “But I don’t necessarily care the size of the rack.”
An active outdoor lifestyle is important to the Dalkes—and they even take their children along when they can.
“The kids go on all of our hunts except perhaps goats or sheep where it would be too dangerous,” said Nikita. “But everything else they’re there with us and have always been.”
Sometimes Nikita has to defend her choices to her friends and family.
“Most of my family and friends understand hunting game for meat, but they don’t always support predator hunting, and we need to do that as well,” she shared. “Sometimes I do have to defend hunting wolves or coyotes or even grizzly bear to people who might not get that. I guess it’s all about educating.”
A bow is Nikita’s first choice during hunting season.
“If the archery season is going slow and we’re not getting anything, we might switch over,” Nikita said, referring to her split between gun or bow hunting. It helps that there are different seasons that open at different times, lengthening opportunity. “My husband and I definitely both prefer archery.”
Nikita brought her children afield from the time they were in arms. At age two, her daughter, Pheonix, started archery and now participates in 3D competitions with her mom.
In addition to conservation (and the byproduct of good, organic healthy protein), the biggest benefit from hunting for Nikita is physical exercise and the simple enjoyment of being outside.
“I live in the mountains and there is a lot of hiking and mountain climbing in the process of hunting,” said Nikita. “It is a healthier lifestyle.”
Understanding survival is also important to Nikita.
“There’s still a lot I can learn,” Nikita answered when asked about her woodsmanship skills, giving herself a six or seven on a scale of one to 10. “I know how to build a fire, build a shelter, get food, that kind of thing.” This group of 20-somethings, however, turns to their own circle of friends when questions arise. “If I needed to learn something I would probably turn to my friends. We have a lot of friends with great outdoor skills.”
Nikita is about to embark on bringing the Onca line of technical, layered hunting wear and gear to her part of Canada. Onca’s fabrics are developed and designed in Spain and fit this 20-something’s lifestyle. Nikita is ready for a new business initiative around a hunting lifestyle for her work.
Looking through the lens of young hunters is important, and indeed the future looks bright with Nikita and her friends coming up the ranks. Solid conservation ethics come to the top of decision-making for this “hipster hunter.”
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.