I Am A New Hunter

Throughout our lives we seek challenges, whether that’s through sports, jobs, school, or harvesting a game animal. Yes, I said “harvesting a game animal.” Hunting is rewarding, enticing, fulfilling and at times challenging. Let me tell you my story and how I came to seek this challenge.

My mother never took up hunting, so naturally neither did I. Instead, volleyball and school took my interest and time. In the winter of 2016, my Division One volleyball career had concluded and my grandfather was just wrapping up his deer season with his annual boast about his hunting success. Usually I replied “Oh, sounds exciting Grandpa” while trying to appear very interested, but this year was different. I found myself drawn to his story like I was hearing it for the first time. He explained his many mornings in a tree, his walks through the sinking muck, his buck fever, and at last the satisfaction of the harvest. I could picture myself as if I was in his shoes, firearm in hand, camouflaged with my surroundings, while this animal steps perfectly into my crosshairs. Right then and there I made my first connection with hunting and felt the lure of a new challenge. Yes, I grew up eating wild meat. Yes, hunting with my grandpa was always available for me. Yes, my love and passion for the outdoors was always there. But the one thing that made me want to take my first step toward actually becoming a hunter was my desire for a challenge, a desire that I usually satisfy through sports.

My “trophy” was a mix of feelings rather than one thing. It was a memory rather than an object.

My very first attempt at hunting was during the spring 2017 turkey season. For a new hunter, a big game hunt was something I knew I had to work for, especially because I was hyped up on getting a trophy bird. By my third day of hunting, I was not accepting failure that easily. My competitive side was irritated and defeated. I had failed to get a tom to answer me. On the fourth day of turkey hunting, I heard my first tom answer me back. It was like every failure and every emotion melted into one feeling, that one feeling you get when you challenge yourself and succeed: accomplishment. One of the ways you become a better hunter is through failure, a connection sports has taught me to recognize. I ended up shooting a turkey with a 12-inch beard. My “trophy” was a mix of feelings rather than one thing. It was a memory rather than an object. My trophy comes with respect for the life of the animal. My trophy is just a part of what makes the challenge of hunting so enticing. Everyone who feels the challenge of hunting can have their own meaning behind a trophy. 

I have not always been comfortable in sharing what drives my hunting, but through my experience as an intern with QDMA, I learned that I am not the only one out there who feels this drive. In his recent article, Kip Adams wrote that the challenge of hunting has not always gotten the spotlight. It is one of the many shades of emotions hunting is fortunate to bring us, and it’s not one to be ignored for fear of being criticized. Like Kip, I believe this very motivation of a challenge can drive a new wave of hunters; these individuals may not have a traditional background in hunting but should find the beauty of this challenge through pushing themselves, providing for themselves and others, and preserving wildlife and their habitats. This is a challenge that I will never tire of. There will always be a new, enduring and unpredictable obstacle, and that’s a part of what makes hunting so addicting.

One of the best things about being an athlete is you get an opportunity to meet so many people who have a similar passion and love for the same sport as you do. I soon realized that the hunting community resonates this same type of connection, for I have met new friends who share my passion for hunting. Also, I have had the privilege of sharing my journey by educating others and encouraging my family members to join the hunting community. I truly feel as though I have found my future career through this journey. I see a new challenge in front of me: How many people can I educate about hunting? How many stereotypes can I turn around? How can I leave a lasting impression about hunting? How can I better my knowledge to help the hunting community? A challenge to turn around the declining number of hunters, a challenge I want to pursue through conservation education.

My name is Autumn Christenson. I am a new hunter, and I am proud of the traditional ties my grandfather brought into my life. I am grateful for the wild protein these animals provide us. I am thankful for the connections I have made with other hunters, and I am completely at the mercy of the challenge of hunting. I know I have found my lifestyle.

In October 2018, after writing this article, Autumn killed her first deer.

Autumn Christenson of Michigan served as an intern in the QDMA Conservation Department in Spring 2018. She studied zoology at Michigan State University, and she was an intern with the Boone & Crockett Club, where she worked to develop her own outreach program that was presented to the Department of Natural Resources. She also volunteered her time as a CWD Deer Surveyor and learned about population studies.