Dressed head-to-toe in camouflage, clutching a beer in one hand while toting a rifle in the other, the stereotypical hunter seen on TV or in popular media is often used for comedic value and purpose. The hunter is called a “redneck,” derogatory slang often used to describe rural Southerners in America as crass and unsophisticated.
However, behind the laughter is something of much more substance and meaning. Hunting holds significance for lots of students who participate, as it is a familial custom for many and a way to connect with the outdoors for others.
Junior Lauren Tulp’s family has hunted for decades and Tulp herself has hunted since the age of eight. As the only girl in her family who hunts, Tulp takes pride in upholding the tradition.
“Hunting has been in my family for a long time and we all hunt on my grandpa’s property. I learned how to hunt from my dad, uncles and grandpa,” Tulp said.
The role of family plays a significant part in how students got their start in hunting. Similar to Tulp, junior Bryce Twiggs was first taught the basics by his grandfather on a trip in West Virginia.
While Twiggs has not always had a desire for hunting, many of his favorite memories stem from the sport due to the memories made with loved ones.
“I shot my first deer and my grandpa shot one 20 minutes after me. We were sitting in the same stand and that does not really happen a lot,” Twiggs said. “It was really special.”
While Twiggs cited his first deer as his biggest hunting achievement, he acknowledges that luck plays a large factor. In some places, as the Boone and Crockett hunting organization finds, the odds for capturing a record-breaking deer is 1 in 20,000.
The likelihood of breaking a record can vary, especially with location and timing. Animals can migrate during different seasons, and in some states, regulations and laws change according to the state of wildlife.
For example, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission generally regulates the capture of deer to five per hunter during one trip on conditions of the deer’s age, species and whether it has antlers or not.
Despite this, students remain unfazed. For them, hunting animals does not just mean taking home a trophy every once in a while.
Food is junior John Frawley’s primary reason for hunting. Frawley also believes hunting is beneficial in controlling wildlife populations; his hunting camp faces problems with an overpopulation of coyotes and bears.
While junior Sarah Rosarius does not hunt, her friends, family and neighbors often go out shooting and bringing back game. Rosarius hopes to soon join in soon; she is most excited for deer jerky, which her family and neighbors make. She also finds that meat from a deer is cheaper when one catches it themselves, rather than purchasing it at a store.
Although hunting is seen as a “manly” activity, Rosarius believes that hunting is for both genders—– anyone who is interested in it.
“Girls can hunt just as well as guys can,” Rosarius said.
As captain of the marksmanship team at Hagerty, Rosarius feels that she is very comfortable with the weapons and items needed. A marksman is defined as a skilled, precise shooter working with projectile objects to shoot at long distance targets.
Rosarius deals with air rifles on a daily basis, and often visits shooting ranges to hone in her skills. She still continues to be cautious and is still afraid of some aspects.
“I am most afraid of the kickback of the gun,” Rosarius said.
With the tense political climate involving guns, specifically the debate on whether to ban them or not, one might assume that students could feel conflicted with their use of the firearms.
Senior Garet LaGrange remains unaffected by the heated discourse surrounding assault weapons. LaGrange uses a shotgun when he goes to hunt deer and hogs and he does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
“Gun control is getting out of hand. I strongly believe that people kill people and it is not the gun’s fault,” LaGrange said.
Still, students find gun safety and taking precautions to be important when hunting. LaGrange recommends learning Florida’s rules and regulations. Guns pose a high safety risk, both to those who are inexperienced and people who have been using them for a long time.
Junior Reece Germer often has a sore shoulder from carrying around a gun, which is fairly mild. Tulp’s gun once exploded when it got jammed on a hunting trip.
Junior Wyatt Wilson clarifies that hunting is not just for the sake of killing, which is a common conception about hunters. He believes in taking care of the environment and being considerate of those who live there.
“Be patient. Respect the outdoors. It is not always about killing everything that is out there. Enjoy nature and the peace,” Wyatt said.
Many students share this same sentiment. Frawley has great admiration for the environment, which is reflected by his use of a gun. Frawley believes that a gun is a more efficient and moral option compared to other weapons.
“Everything in hunting is a balance. It is not about hurting animals, you give them a quick and respectful death,” Frawley said. “You do not shoot to hurt, you shoot to kill.”
Along with proper use of assault weapons, having the right resources is important to be successful in hunting. Germer uses trail cameras to scout wildlife and utilizes feed to lure them to certain areas.
Hunting involves lots of patience and work setting up trails, stands and cameras, however this can eventually lead to success. LaGrange, who regularly goes hunting and fishing, enjoys every aspect of the sport, finding that even the waiting can even be peaceful.
“Patience is key. I relax out on the water or in the silence of the woods,” LaGrange said. “All the hard work pays off. One can spend hours and hours on the water or in the woods and not see anything, but it only takes one big fish or animal to make it all worth it.”