It’s interesting to me that some of the earliest records of mankind’s hunting history have been preserved over time on the walls of caves in picture form. Each engraving tells a vivid story of mankind’s struggle with the amazing strength of nature. In today’s world, it seems photos and video are king and they are more accessible than ever before. Follow any hunting page on Facebook or Instagram and you can see the stories told in pictures.
Why Photos Fall Short
Sometimes I can’t help but ask, “What really happened there? Did they actually get the animal? Are they just describing a certain portion of the hunt? Are we totally wrong in our interpretation of the photo?” That’s the blessing and curse of a photo alone. Pictures can show so much about where you are and what you are doing, but can a picture tell the whole story? I would have to argue that it cannot.
I love great photos. I have dear friends who make their living in adventure film and media, so I don’t want to come off as though each documentation style doesn’t have its individual value. There is something very special about seeing high quality photos of harvested game, a distant log cabin at the foot of a mountain, a never-ending lake in the North Country, or the plains of Africa, all at my fingertips.
I can’t help but wonder what the hunters of the future will have to look back on. Will they look at our pictures and have to guess what happened in our day? Who will be their Hemmingway, Roosevelt, or Cousteau? One of mankind’s greatest blessings is the written word as a means of clear and concise communication. I’m well aware there are a wealth of great magazines and journals that we all love to immerse ourselves in and there are more hunting shows than ever telling story after story. But let’s face it, there is something invigorating about putting your hands on an old leather journal that has been all over creation and it’s only job has been to receive the penned account of what could once only be chiseled into the wall of a cave.
The Preservation of A Heritage
I vividly remember my first impressions of what an outdoorsman looked like when I was very young standing in my grandfather’s basement. In a small, musty room with a desk and antique lamp that gave off just enough light to see the assortment of hunting or fishing gear strewn across it, hung a picture frame with a collage of old cracked and worn photos from adventure’s past. My young, vivid imagination raced with thoughts of the wild. What happened there? What was the story behind that turkey my grandpa was holding up while standing behind the old Lincoln? How did he get that deer strapped to the hood of the truck? Thankfully, many of my questions were answered because, by nature, my grandpa was a storyteller. I didn’t get the chance to hear all of those stories and I don’t have the photos. And while the spoken word holds great value, I believe the charm and the history of a well-written hunting journal lives on beyond us and helps complete a story that a photo can tell only to a degree.
Sportsmen are creative, expressive, and tell stories in a way that demand a measure of respect for the game they pursue and the places they love so much. When I was doing taxidermy work out of my home, my favorite part was hearing the stories of the sportsmen. It helped me connect with the animal I was reproducing. It’s a part of us. The art of telling adventure stories has been passed down for centuries. To me, hearing the story of the pursuit is grasping the fullness of an adventure.
Journaling our adventures is sharing more than just a photo, it’s sharing the textures and scenes that others may never experience in their lives. And we are doing so in a way that can be preserved for generations.
Passing It On: Making Adventure Personal.
Many of us have seen so many incredible things that we could never have time to sit and tell all of the stories verbally. By journaling, we give the generations after us the opportunity to dig through our old hunting gear and find the only thing left of our passion. If we want our children and grandchildren to preserve this heritage, we must document our stories, struggles, victories and defeats in a way that will inspire them the way the greats before us have.
So my plea to those who love the outdoors and wish to preserve what we do is to begin telling your own stories. They will be so much more effective and personal to those who read it because they will likely be the ones who care most about you. Are you a hunting industry celebrity? Probably not. But to your loved ones, your adventures will be the coolest, most engaging and most inspiring stories they’ve read, because YOU wrote them.
What to Include
I’m not a journaling expert, but when it comes to sharing the details of a particular story, there are a few elements I can think of that can make the experience come to life.
After you have selected and purchased an awesome journal and then returned from an epic journey (or a squirrel hunt in the back yard)…..
First choose a single, powerful photo that summarizes the “ethos” of the trip. (That means you’ll have to take some while you are out.) It can be a culminating moment, or a breathtaking landscape. Watching a couple you tube videos (I recommend this dude Peter McKinnon) on photography can help you make smart phone photos look professional, so don’t shy away from capturing that one moment. Print them off in a 4×6 and glue it to the top of the journal entry page. It will prove to be your inspiration for telling the story.
Second, turn basic details into an actual story. Details are great, but creative and unique adjectives make them better. Yes, record the weather conditions, the place you were, and who you were with, but when you’re telling the story, turn sentences like “It was hot and the turkeys weren’t gobbling.” into “The unseasonable heat caused the gobblers to be far less vocal than years before.” It’s just more interesting for you and your readers because it’s more descriptive.
Third, be creative!!!! Go the extra mile by including more photos, quotes, and other cool things that paint the picture you want to paint! Dull stories don’t make people want to carry on a legacy.
I just love the idea of my kids finding my journal after I’m gone and seeing all the places I’ve been, or better yet, that we have been together. It would be a shame if I didn’t provide them that opportunity.
God bless and good hunting!