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A framework for mastering hunting

 Mastering hunting. Systems theory and process management tools. Here's how they all fit together. And the framework that you might use to master hunting yourself.

I've had a hunting license for just under 30 years now. And I've always worked on getting better. But if I'm honest, most of my efforts have been driven by what I thought was fun. Maybe even by gear. Rather than a methodical approach.

Developing functional hunting gear for RedKettle changed all that.

To build great gear, I needed a much more granular understanding of what makes a great hunter. And that resulted in the framework I'd like to share with you.

I hope it will help you improve as a hunter.

Like anything else, hunting is more fun if you are good at it. But I think we have a responsibility as well. As a hunter, you have a role to play in nature. Which means you must be the best hunters you can be. That's at least how I see myself and hunting.

As I worked on the framework, it seemed like some parts of hunting were in conflict with each other.

Here's an example.

I love the outdoors, and a hunting trip is good old fun to me. But how do I reconcile that with the seriousness of killing an animal?

To find mastery and to reconcile the elements, I looked at hunting from different perspectives. Asking lots of "why's". I had some parts dialled in, but I was missing the overall connection. I needed a framework to pull everything together.

I found the answer in systems theory.

Sounds crazy? Stick with me.

Here's what I got from systems theory (apologies to any systems theorists out there if I'm butchering your definitions).

It's the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But how is that relevant to you as a hunter?

To master hunting, you must master the individual parts. And I'll give you an example of how it works below. Let's first identify the parts. After university, I got a job with General Electric. Joining a leadership programme meant I got Lean Six Sigma process optimisation training early on. I loved that stuff, and I've taken those ideas with me ever since.

So it was natural to apply process thinking to identify the components of hunting.

By the way, we can examine hunting on many levels. And I'll talk more about all of them in future posts, but let's start at the top.

As a hunter, you travel to your hunting ground. Maybe far, maybe it's your backyard. Once you get there, you hunt. And you hunt based on a set of management criteria. Maybe loose and set by you. Or perhaps based on a tag system established by an environmental agency. Once you've killed the animal, you bring it home, cook it and turn it into wild food. That's the process.

How do we turn it into a framework with individual parts we can master?

Here's what works for me. I see the four steps in the process as four roles.

The outdoorsman, the conservationist, the hunter and the cook.

Together these four roles represent the hunter I aspire to be. I refer to it as the Steward of Nature. And it's helped me identify and prioritise principles, tools and tricks. It helps me master hunting.

I'll write more about all that in other posts. Pondering this framework, I've looked back at my "career" as a hunter. I wanted to find evidence that proved it. Or indications it didn't make sense.

Did I miss something? Could I see the systems theory in work?

I'm at a stage where I think it makes sense. That it's good enough to help you and me. My trip to hunt ibex in Kazakhstan is an excellent example.

Even though it wasn't conscious work on my side.

One of the vivid memories from the trip is standing by an airstrip. A couple of hours drive outside of Almaty. One one side was grassland, as far as I could see. And on the other side, the terrain dropped into a big ravine. The airport "terminal" was a wooden shed with the obligatory oil drum burning in the background. A row of sticks with soda bottles on top separated the terminal area from the runway. I remember looking at two old propeller-driven bi-planes and wondering who would want to fly in them. I was expecting our plane to be arriving shortly. A whiff of fuel made me realise one of the planes was being prepared for us...

Seeing the pilot didn't give me much comfort. He wore some kind of urban camouflage flight suit combined with oversized aviators and long pointy leather shoes.

Everything about that situation was foreign. My brain was running full steam, processing what I saw.

I was out of my comfort zone.

We flew for about an hour and continued our journey in a 4WD truck that took us to our base camp. And from there, we packed our horses with tents and gear and rode into the mountains.

And that's when I was back in my comfort zone.

I felt at home because I'd spent my childhood outdoors and my youth hiking in Sweden and Norway. Those years honing my outdoor skills meant I was comfortable being in the mountains. I immediately got into a routine. And that routine gave me the freedom to focus on hunting.

Mountain hunting was new to me. Even with proper preparation, it took extra effort to figure things out. A foundation of outdoorsmanship helped me be successful with a new type of hunting. Or in other words. I got more from outdoorsmanship than just outdoorsmanhsip. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

If you're like me, you want to get better at hunting. Regardless of how good you already are. You want to adjust, tinker and improve.

If you want to master hunting. To be the best hunter you can be, I believe you should start by mastering the hunting components..

A good place to start is the Steward of Nature, and the four roles.

The outdoorsman, the conservationist, the hunter and the cook.

I hope you take some inspiration from this article. Or even better, make some of the ideas your own. I'll share more details on the different roles and principles that govern them. Until then, happy hunting and thanks for reading. 

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