Counter Culture: Then and Now

Counter Culture: Then and Now

One of the great joys of my life has been the process of success, not necessarily success itself. To me, anything in life achieved through hard work and perseverance means so much more than something gained easily, with no sweat equity. I first learned that lesson in sports. I was a huge fan of the early Green Bay Packers and their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, who once famously said, “Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.”

I was never the biggest, fastest or strongest, but I was willing to pay the price in both time and effort, and fortunately, I did achieve some success.

This was a lesson applied to all I did in life, believing, as Mick Jagger once said, “Everything worth doing is worth overdoing.” 

When the hunting bug bit me, I went at it with all I had. Not being raised in a hunting household and before the internet made information gathering as easy as clicking a mouse, I read magazines and books and spent much of my free time exploring the woods. I wrote my first outdoor columns back in the mid-1970s and got my first full-time job in the business in 1978. In my mid-20s living out West, I wanted to hunt mule deer and elk in the high mountain country I’d read so much about. So I started training physically all year round to be able to hunt backcountry areas on foot, filled file cabinets with topographic maps and harvest statistics, and spent countless hours in libraries and state land offices searching for little public-land hidey holes where access in and around private ranches was not easily found.

I’d always been a rifle shooter, and started handloading in the ’70s, which was required to achieve the sub-MOA accuracy you can get today with most any mid-priced rifle and factory ammo. Then the bowhunting bug bit me, in no small part because I found punching tags with a rifle was starting to become pretty easy. Because sneaking into bow range of any animal was, and still is, really hard, and learning to put together and maintain an accurate compound bow-and-arrow setup requires a huge commitment of time for regular practice sessions, I was all in. When I worked in the Los Angeles area for Petersen’s Hunting magazine, I helped start, and was the first editor of, Petersen’s Bowhunting magazine. So, three days a week I would get up at 0400 for an hour’s run, then drive an hour on the cusp of freeway rush hour to a public park where I could shoot my bows for an hour, then drive 45 minutes to a gym I belonged to so I could shower and change, then be at my desk by 0900. It was a pain in the petunias, but it enabled me to be a successful bowhunter. And those successes were all the sweeter because of it.

This all came home to me last November, when I hunted mule deer in Arizona with a young man in his mid-20s. The difference between he and I at the same age was like night and day. It was classic old school vs. new school. I doubt he could have navigated the country without OnX on his smartphone; he’d never used a topographic map in his life. Decked out in high-dollar Kuiu clothing, he had probably 10 grand worth of optics, an expensive custom rifle and scope with custom ballistic turret, and he bragged about how he and his buddies could shoot a deer out to half a mile. Like most Gen Z’ers I’ve met, he had no idea who some of the “old school” heroes of hunting are, nor did he have knowledge of the history of how modern hunting came to be, the evolution of modern equipment, or even what the Pittman-Robertson Act was. He did not spend any time or money supporting groups like Sportsman’s Alliance or have knowledge of the political issues that threaten hunting today. His hunting life revolved around technology and a plan on how, over the next two decades, he might be able to draw a handful of premium-unit mule deer and elk tags out West. Why read a book when you can watch multiple minutes-long “horn porn” videos on the phone?

Time does indeed march on. Today, it seems to me, more and more of the younger generation are into instant success. Why spend all that time and energy to become proficient with a compound bow when you can take a new high-tech, scoped crossbow out of the box and immediately hit the bull’s-eye at 50-plus yards, shot after shot? Why learn to stalk close to a buck, bull or bear when you can snipe it at with the aid of a ballistic turret? Why spend all that time sharpening a knife when you can quickly switch a dull blade for one that’s scalpel sharp? Why spend countless days afield learning to become a real woodsman when electronics can do your scouting for you? Why take the time to carefully craft a short written piece describing your time on a hunt, each word carefully chosen to stimulate another’s imagination, when you can create short video segments on your smartphone, then post them to your social media accounts for all the world to see? 

While I’m not a “get off my lawn” guy, I do wonder where the reliance on technology will take us. What about you? Is this good or bad, or does it make any difference at all? Drop me a note at and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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