Staying Young in the Field
by Patrick Smith

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   No, the subject is not the aging of meat- though that might be a good topic for a future essay. Rather, I'm talking about the aging of us hunters. When I was a young buck I could put up with just about anything- any old sort of gear, any deprivation- in pursuit of my hunting or other outdoor goals. And, usually, still get the goal accomplished.
It gets harder and harder to do that over the years. I consider myself very lucky to have been in a position- as a manufacturer of outdoor gear- to design gear that kept up with my aging process, undeniably keeping me functioning in the field as if the years weren't slipping by. My packs get more comfortable, more stable, more forgiving of my creakier carcass. The advent of my heated tipis allow me to get thoroughly warm and rested daily- keeping me humping when the less-endowed, equipment-wise, young bucks are wilting.
Equipment for being "out-there" does make a difference, and never more so as we age. I'm in my mid-fifties now and still kicking butt (with some serious help from my gear). Rest assured, fellow foot hunters, that my gear, regular exercise- which, in my case, mostly means simply continuing to hunt whatever is in season, year round, getting out there rock-shooting as often as possible too- and good old-fashioned determination will keep this writer in the field until my offspring eventually put me under it (or scatter my ashes over it.)
I will never "give up" on hunting. To me, it is vital, fundamental, elemental to life, especially in this reality-denying world of cut-off-from-nature, politically correct urban snivelers. Of course, a lot of us are urban or suburbanites. But we hunters aren't among the effete classes- what Jeff Cooper terms the rabbit people. On the contrary, we know the roots of life, the gene-deep realities that death accompanies, defines, life; that the natural world, the real world, countenances killing-to-live; that the Chase is essential to living fully, connectedly, to all that we are, and to where we came from.
So, never quit because of age. Do whatever it takes to stay afield. Buy my gear. Climb stairs. Get away from your T.V. and your P.C. and stay strong, fit. A whole lot of what it takes is lodged in the grey matter between your ears. Live peaceably. If that's not possible, strike forcefully at those who would restrict you, demean you, rob you of your heritage. 
As a hunter, you are a member of the first profession, a part of the provider-of-life class, and a warrior/participant in the natural world. 
Someone among my readers in surely muttering by now on behalf of 4-wheelers for old-folks. And maybe when I'm 85 I'll have to go that route. Don't know. They are not all that easy to handle and are cold as hell for old folks as drivers. And, as I've maintained all my hunting life, nothing is as effective as hunting afoot, and the further back in the better. So I think a more likely route for me, when I presumably can't carry 100 lbs. of elk meat in my own pack off the mountain (unlikely as that seems) is that I'll still be afoot, but with a llama or a burro or somesuch helpmate alongside. These critters can go pretty much where I can, unlike horses (though mules are better, they still can't go where a man on foot can) and can carry out the prize. So hang in there with me. I'll design and build whatever gear it takes to keep us productively in the field. Our great-grand kids will continue to enjoy the annual jerky from us and will greatly admire the "old man" for providing it. And we may just be the impetus to preserving hunting until such time as the present artificial world realizes its roots and begins to honor them. Maybe then we can quit. (Nah! We'll never quit!)

Patrick Smith
July 1999

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