Hunting has been a way of life throughout the history of mankind. From hunting and gathering for survival to a cherished family tradition passed down from generation to generation, hunting has remained the most natural way to obtain fresh, organic meat.

While today the practice of hunting for sport is heavily scrutinized, for many it is still an extremely important aspect of everyday life. To be a hunter is so much more than simply shooting an animal. It requires a unique respect and reverence for nature that can only be found through hunting.

It is a responsibility and way of life that runs in your blood. In fact, many hunters will tell you that the greatest parts about being an outdoorsman have nothing to do with killing animals.

Fred Bear, a celebrated TV personality and author also known as “Papa Bear” to much of the hunting community, once said, “Go afield with a good attitude, with the respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forests and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.”

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The Badger Hunting Club is a student organization at University of Wisconsin which teaches students hunter safety, the importance of conservation and gives its members the opportunity to get out of the city and into nature.

Currently, there are 37 members and club president Lucas Olsen says those numbers are only rising.

“Last spring for us was really successful all in all; especially on the conservation front,” Olsen said. “But hunter numbers [in the community at large] are declining … One of the big things hunters need to step up and do is teach new people how to hunt, and that’s something we really try to do.”

Hunting currently accounts for around two-thirds of all conservation funding in the U.S. according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as hunter numbers decline, so does the amount of money that goes into preserving wildlife.

Aside from the financial benefits, hunting also brings people closer to the environment.

“When you’re hunting, you’re sort of connecting with nature on a different level than you would doing other things,” Olsen said. “I’ve always participated in other outdoor activities but it never feels quite the same as when you’re hunting. Hunting just has a different feeling.”

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No hunter forgets his first time being up in a tree stand, hearing the wind whistle through the spruce trees, the sun peeking over the horizon to paint an array of colors over the morning sky, the stillness and peace of the woods around him as it awakens and the immense respect he feels for the perfect balance of nature.

The Badger Hunting Club tries to share this tradition with the student population at UW by taking students hunting for the first time, bringing in guest speakers to share the importance of good hunting ethics and providing opportunities and ways in which students can help better the world they live in through conservation.

Many students at UW were never given the opportunity to hunt growing up because many of them are from urban areas where the tradition of hunting has fizzled out. But as you move further north, you begin to see the deep-rooted tradition come to life.

Olsen said he vividly remembers growing up in a small town in Wisconsin where nearly everyone he knew was an outdoorsman.

“It wasn’t an uncommon conversation to have … when we’d go to church on Sundays it was normal to hear folks ask one another what they were seeing or if they’d had any success hunting over the weekend,” Olsen said.

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The tradition of hunting brings families and communities together and teaches important life lessons very early on in life such as accountability, responsibility, respect and patience. Olsen said that hunting has helped shape him into the person he is today and has taught him skills that prepared him for the real world.

“I think hunting taught me a lot about the uncertainty of life … each hunt I equate to a life story … you try some things and [they] doesn’t always work out in your favor and sometimes you can do all the right things and still take a shot and miss,” Olsen said.

Being an outdoorsman is a way of life that many people misunderstand and are quick to judge. But it’s a passion that is difficult to describe to someone who has never had the opportunity to experience it. Of course, there will always be people who smear the image of hunters today but The Badger Hunting Club does an extraordinary job educating its hunters and reminding them of the importance of fair, ethical hunting.

“You know there [are] a lot of great hunters doing a lot of great things out there and they’re not asking for any credit for it,” Olsen said. “They’re interested in the long-term well-being of the animals they’re pursuing … I mean hunters are just a group of really really good people.”