Outdoor Writer Denny Vasquez penned an article entitled “The Five Stages Of A Sport Hunter.” Many of the topics he discusses can be effectively addressed if organized events for hunters, such as HunterShooter format, were more widely utilized. I’ve added some comments

The Five Stages Of A Sport Hunter

by Denny Vasquez

As with all things in life, a hunter’s prospective of his sport changes as time goes by. According to the Hunter’s Education manual used by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, there are Five Stages of a Hunter’s life. They are the Shooter Stage, the Limiting Out stage, the Trophy stage, Method stage and the Sportsman stage.

As the sport of hunting itself changes through the years, so do the factors which are used to determine what “successful hunting” is. Add to this the changes that take place in each hunter’s life and things can get a bit confusing. Some of the factors that can play a part in what kind of hunter we become are, a hunter’s age, hunting companions, role models, personal ethics and years of hunting experience. All of these affect our ideas of “success.” Where a hunter may fit into one of the five groups changes as he progresses in his hunting career. Where are you now? Where would you like to be?

Shooter Stage
A hunter that is in the Shooter Stage talks about satisfaction with hunting being closely tied to being able to “get in some shooting.” Often the beginning duck hunter will relate he had an excellent day if he got in a lot of shooting. The beginning deer hunter will talk about the number of shooting opportunities. Missing game means little to hunters in this phase. A beginning hunter wants to pull the trigger and test the capability of his firearm. A hunter in this stage may be a dangerous hunting partner.

HunterShooter solution: Every successful hunter has to be a “shooter” sometime. It is essential to test and get some trigger time, otherwise the hunter will never learn his equipment. However, we should NEVER test or “get in some shooting” on live game. Testing and shooting should be done within the safety and controlled conditions of a shooting range where the only thing you can wound or miss is your pride.

A miss on a cardboard or steel target on the relatively controlled conditions of a range is black and white. Only the shooter is to blame. This is better than missing (or wounding) real animals.

This will get the hunter away of the bad consequences of the “Shooter Stage” by properly keeping it at a HunterShooter event. They can be a shooter on the range, allowing them to concentrate on being a hunter in the field.

Limiting Out Stage
A hunter that is in the Limiting Out Stage still talks about satisfaction gained from shooting. But what seems more important is measuring success through the killing of game and the number of birds or animals shot. Limiting out, or filling a tag, is the absolute measure. Do not let your desire to limit out be stronger than the need for safe behavior at all times.

HunterShooter solution: Limiting Out is the effort to meet some goal, to “prove” oneself. Meeting a set goal is good, but it may be unrealistic, and possibly unethical, if done to extremes on live game.

The solution? A hunter who feels the need to compete or prove himself should do it in organized competition, not against live game. Want to show you’re the baddest dude with a hunting rifle? Challenge every hunter in your area to a series of man-on-man shoot-offs with everyone putting up an entry fee to participate, winner take all. Limiting out should be done on the range, leaving the hunter to concentrate on hunting when in the field.

Trophy Stage
The satisfaction of a hunter in the Trophy stage is described in terms of selectivity of game. A duck hunter might take only greenheads. A deer hunter looks for one special deer. A hunter might travel far to find a real trophy animal. Shooting opportunity and skills become less important.

HunterShooter solution: Shooting skills should NEVER become less important! A Trophy Stage hunter needs to be even better because they will pass up easier shots to wait for “the trophy,” whatever that has been defined as. This type of hunter will then have more limited chances when the trophy does finally show up.

To satiate the drive to get a trophy, let’s offer a trophy of a different type. Look at the current “world record” trophies, as measured by Boone and Crockett points. They were shot by mediocre marksmen at unimpressive distances (43 to 100 yards) with very common equipment. To anchor such a trophy takes some skill, but even more luck, namely, being at the right place at the right time. There are millions of hunters who could have anchored the same record-setting animals, if they had been there instead.

A trophy is better when you prove that you, and only you, could do what you did. Winning a trophy against all-comers in an event shows that you EARNED that trophy, not by dumb luck, but raw talent.

Method Stage
When a hunter has reached the Method Stage, he has accumulated all the special equipment that he could possibly need. Hunting has become one of the most important things in his life. Satisfaction comes from the method that enables the hunter to take game. Taking game is important, but second to how it is taken. This hunter will study long and hard how best to pick a blind site, lay out decoys, and call in waterfowl. A deer hunter will go one on one with a white-tailed deer, studying sign, tracking, and the life habits of the deer. Often, the hunter will handicap himself by hunting only with black powder firearms or bow and arrow. Bagging game, or limiting, still is understood as being a necessary part of the hunt during this phase.

HunterShooter solution: A hunter that chooses to increase the challenge by limiting himself (using a muzzleloader or bow) needs to be even more skilled with that equipment and knowledgeable to make up for the limitations of the chosen method. This makes practice even more crucial, and such practice is still best done on the range where organized events allow the hunter to thoroughly test and prepare before the hunt.

Sportsman Stage
Finally, as a hunter ages and after many years of hunting, he tends to “mellow out.” Satisfaction now can be found in the total hunting experience. Being in the field, enjoying the company of friends and family, and seeing nature outweigh the need for taking game.

HunterShooter solution: Hunting days are limited. In my native Wisconsin we are limited to a nine-day gun season all year. If you aspire to spend more time in the company of fellow hunters, but are limited to 9 days, you need to create other opportunities. Attending HunterShooter events can bridge the time between hunting seasons, and allow the same types of experiences and the company of hunting acquaintances.

Not all sport hunters go through all the stages, or go through them in that particular order. It is also possible for hunters who pursue several species of game to be in different stages with regard to each species. Some hunters feel that role models of good sportsmen, training, or reading books or magazines helped them pass more quickly through some stages.

Can you find one of these categories that fits you? Where are you in your hunting career now? Where would you like to be? We each have to make a decision as to what kind of hunter we want to be, and then be the best that we can.