Hunters have existed since the dawn of humanity. The act of capturing wildlife for sustenance, resources, and population control was an instinctual necessity back then; for many hunters today, it still is.
Of course, plenty of hunters simply enjoy the thrill of the sport regardless of the bounty it brings. This is especially true among traditional hunters. Modern weapon technology can be an effective means to an end, but there’s a reason why hunters aren’t carrying drones into the field.
Traditional hunting is a way for people to connect deeply with nature, their roots, and their spirit. It’s a way to develop new skills, overcome obstacles, and build a legacy. It’s a way to escape the modern grind, live in the moment, and create lifelong memories. It’s an authentic adventure.
Even as hunting tools continue to evolve, there will always be hunters who prefer the old ways. Let’s look at five time-tested hunting strategies that remain ingrained in present-day hunting culture.
1. Traditional Bowhunting
Prehistoric people used bows and arrows to hunt around 71,000 years ago, and the practice remains relatively unchanged in the modern era. While the equipment has advanced over the years, the basic concept remains the same.
Many hunters use modern compound bows and crossbows to increase their accuracy, velocity, and power, but there’s still a large community that prefers traditional longbows and recurve bows.
This style of traditional bowhunting requires that the hunter is closer to the prey, typically between 15 and 17 yards. And, while the bows and arrows aren’t as efficient as their contemporary counterparts, they do allow for faster action that works quite well for taking down moving or flying targets.
2. Falconry Hunting
Falconry is a hunting practice that utilizes trained birds of prey, rather than weapons. Other raptors besides falcons may be used, such as eagles or hawks. Falconry hunters usually target small game, such as rabbits, squirrels, and ducks. The method may also be used to control the populations of invasive bird species.
In the United States, falconry is the most heavily regulated out of all field sports. However, it’s still legal in every state except for Hawaii.
Naturally, falconry is not an easy hunting practice to learn and practice, as a significant amount of training and knowledge is required, and obtaining a suitable bird companion and setting up proper housing is no easy task.
You’ll also need to get sponsored by a licensed falconer, complete a two-year apprenticeship, and pass a written exam. The sport also requires specialized equipment, such as tethering systems, gloves, and a perch.
3. Air Gun Hunting
Inspired by the primitive concept of using air pressure to launch a projectile (originating with blowguns), the first example of an air gun was invented around 1580.
In the past, air guns were used for both military and hunting purposes and were often associated with explorers and marauders. Captain Lewis’s Girandoni air rifle is a notable example that was used during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Today, air gun enthusiasts have plenty of options. Some hunters enjoy the classic look and feel of wooden air rifles, while others prefer sleeker mil-spec air guns. Modern air guns can be outfitted with the latest features and accessories, such as laser gun sights, blending aspects of both traditional and contemporary weaponry.
Air gun hunting is very similar to hunting with a standard firearm, as many modern air guns can produce comparable amounts of speed and power. However, the simpler mechanisms and designs do offer a traditional feel reminiscent of yesteryear.
4. Traditional Spearfishing
Spearfishing combines hunting and fishing. Early humans used crude spears to impale fish that lived in shallow waters. Today’s spearfishing equipment allows for incredible speed, precision, and power, and many spearfishermen also incorporate scuba diving into their approach so they can stalk prey in deeper waters.
While many spearfishermen use high-powered spearguns, there are still some that prefer the traditional method of using a long pole spear to pierce their prey using only physical strength. As you can imagine, the methods and strategies used depend largely on the hunter’s environment, prey, and equipment.
Compared to other forms of fishing, spearfishing is much more sustainable. That said, the sport is highly regulated, so it’s important to check local laws before embarking on a spearfishing adventure.
5. Trapping and Bushcraft
Humans have used traps to capture wildlife since prehistoric times. Traps such as cages, snares, deadfalls, footholds, and pits allow hunters to capture their prey without having to be present, so it’s often a much different practice compared to most hunting styles that involve stalking in real time.
Trapping is usually used for specific purposes, such as controlling pests or gathering resources. That said, many hunters wear camouflage clothing and monitor their traps as part of their stalking strategies.
While trapping on its own isn’t usually done for sport, there’s a thriving bushcraft community that focuses on a wide range of wilderness skills, with trapping being one of them. Other bushcraft skills include foraging, building shelters, making fires, woodworking, fishing, navigating, and plant identification.
Simply put, bushcraft focuses on survival with limited resources, so trapping and hunting are natural extensions of that practice. The hunting practices mentioned above—bowhunting, falconry, air gun hunting, and spearfishing—could also be part of a bushcraft enthusiast’s lifestyle.
Expand Your Horizons
There are many ways to hunt, so why not try a new experience? These traditional hunting practices provide new opportunities to grow your skills or simply enjoy family time in the great outdoors.
While you might not become a full-fledged traditional hunter, experimenting with old methods is a great way to become a more proficient hunter in general. It’s a new challenge that can spice up your hunting trips.
While dipping your toes in falconry may not be practical right now, it can be a goal to work towards. Getting into other traditional hunting practices can be as easy as purchasing an air gun or bow and arrow. Whatever path you choose, adventure awaits!