Smokey Merkley

From time to time I am asked by someone why I hunt. If you were to ask a few hunters why they hunt you would probably get a lot of different answers to the question. However, I think it is a fair question, so I hope most hunters would take the time to give an honest answer.

One of the reasons I hunt is because the meat from wild big game is leaner than store bought meat. Three ounces of venison has about 130 calories compared to 247 calories in 3 ounces of beef.

Another reason I hunt is because hunting skills have been handed down from father to son for generations in my family. My youth was filled with hunting trips to the mountains of the Little Lost River country, Sulpher Canyon by Soda Springs, the Fish Creek area between Lava Hot Springs and Wide Hollow, as well as other places in Idaho, Utah and Texas. Hunting is part of who I am and how I define myself. To not hunt each year would require me to give up something that is truly important to me and intrinsic to my character.

Someone recently suggested that hunters could do their hunting with a camera and not kill anything. My answer to that suggestion is that a photographer is an observer of wild life, while a hunter is a participant and a part of nature. I want to be able to be fully absorbed in a quieter, deeper and older world with its rugged and consistent life cycle and primitive surroundings

Hunting also teaches us that we can work hard and still not achieve our goal. You win some and you lose some.

Some have said they hunt as a way to spend quality time with their families. That is a particularly good reason now that more women are getting into hunting. My son doesn’t hunt with me very often any more because of obligations commensurate with being deployed wherever the Army sends him. I do remember, though, the times we hunted together and I tried to teach him what my extended family taught me when I was younger.

Hunting also builds character, relationships, self-confidence and a healthy work ethic. You really get to know and appreciate people when you hunt with them.

Hunting also allows one to get away from civilization with its everyday distractions and stresses. It allows one to relax and enjoy nature for a few days, while being mentally prepared for the hunting experience and challenging oneself in a free, self-reliant, adventurous life.

If you prefer sitting by a campfire on a cold evening to watching the late movie; if listening to coyotes hunting in the distant darkness is your kind of music; if venison sizzling in butter over the campfire is preferable to the best Texas Roadhouse has to offer; if you prefer the silent majesty of the high country to the hustle and bustle of civilization; and if you would rather be chilled, soaking wet and excited than warm, dry and bored, hunting may appeal to you.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at