Wellness & Hunting – A Perfect Match

By Johnny Mack

Wellness & Hunting

How much thought do you put into health and wellness?  Do you prepare every off season for your next adventure or does your health ebb and flow like the ocean tide depending on what you have planned?  The term “wellness” is synonymous with health, and is a common word that most people would be able to understand or describe. Yet even with it being common, it is not something that is used in everyday language nor do people truly understand the full breadth of its meaning.  Wellness is something that most hunters would associate with exercise and healthy eating, and for the most part, that is true. However there is so much more to the term than what the general public probably knows.

On top of being a hunter and avid outdoorsman, I am a physical education and health teacher when I’m not out chasing my dreams and goals in the wild. Being a teacher, it is my job to inform and educate people about how to take care of themselves.  Most people only consider sickness, exercise, and diet when asked if they are healthy. The problem with health and wellness being associated with those three things, is that it only hits the tip of the iceberg. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, I want to make sure that hunters and outdoor enthusiasts learn to make the connection to why hunting and being outdoors does more for you than just allowing you to eat lean organic meat and get fresh wild air to fill your lungs while you are out enjoying all that nature has to offer.  Being able to fully understand what wellness and health truly is, is quite an empowering thing. Having the understanding and knowledge of how to be well not only can provide youwith a better foundation for life, but it can also be a stepping stone in which to recruit new members to such a wonderful sport and lifestyle.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) stated, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, not merely the absence of disease.”  Hopefully as you read that statement, you are thinking to yourself, “Duh, that is obvious.” But how many of you would have been able to define what health means?   To be completely healthy there are 6 aspects that you must take care of each and every day to reach maximum wellness. Wellness is the decision to create a lifestyle to achieve a high level of health in the following 6 aspects: spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and vocational (commonly known in the health world as SPIES-V).  Each aspect of wellness is similar to a spoke of a wheel. If a wheel is missing one spoke, when it hits a bump in the road, it is likely to get dented and bent, therefor no longer able to roll as smoothly down the road of life as it once did.

To be spiritually healthy means more than attending church or reading religious text.  It can be defined as the ability to discover one’s basic purpose in life. To experience love, joy, peace, forgiveness, connection, and a reverence for living.  As a hunter you probably already have a reverence for living every time you climb into a tree stand or blind. Or everytime you lace up your boots and hit the mountains.  But it is important to stay focused on the experience and not the outcome. Remember that is it a blessing and a gift every time you get to chase animals in the great outdoors, and that is why it is called “the present”.

To be physically healthy is an easy one for us as hunters to be aware of.  But as much as we all wish we could be the young stud backcountry hunter that can hammer out more miles than Cameron Hanes, for most hunters that is not the case.  Too often, it is hot deli trays and monster energy drinks. To be physically healthy is defined by the care of ones body. Exercising regularly, eating healthy and not exposing your body to harmful chemicals is what it takes to be physically healthy.  Just like you would expect nothing less than to give an animal a humane and quick death by the marksmanship you provide, expect nothing less of your ownself. You are only given one body in this lifetime. Use it or lose it! Don’t blame your lack of physical health on the fact that you were too lazy to exercise or to lacking in self control to eat healthy.  It only takes a decision to change, and it only takes a spark to ignite a fire. Be the change you want to be and start living a physically healthy life.

Being intellectually healthy is a something that all hunters should be conscious of.  To be intellectually healthy means that your mind is exploding with wonder and curiosity, along with the ability and desire to learn new things.  As a hunter, we should never rest on our laurels. Rather we should always be striving to continually seek after getting better at our craft. Either you are getting better or you are getting worse.  There is no such thing as being stagnant in life. Just like when your muscles begin to atrophy from lack of exercise, you too need to be actively pursuing intellectual health. As easy as it is to sit on the same stump every hunting season, just remember that if you are not trying to get better, than you are getting worse.  Why not try something different the next time you go out. Maybe it is new gear, weapon, or a new location to expand your knowledge and experience.

This next aspect of health is a touchy subject in today’s society.  That subject is emotional health. A lot of people would say that a majority of violence in America stems from people’s inability to control their own emotions.  To be emotionally healthy means to be able to create and maintain a peace of mind while dealing with and maintaining one’s emotions. Some people call it mental illness, while others call it mentally unstable.  Either way, if you are a roller coaster of emotions, and being controlled by your emotions, then you are not living a healthy emotional life. As hunter’s, we constantly have to face our emotions and learn how to overcome them.  How do you react to missing a shot? Or when you make a poor placed one? What about if you are consistently not seeing animals? Do you let your emotions get the best of you? Do you give up or quit?

Moving on to one of the most important aspects of health that I believe to be overlooked is social health.  Social health is something that is being completely lost in today’s youth. Social media has taken over and it feels and looks as if manners have gone out the window.  As a teacher, I constantly have to remind students that manners can take you further in life than some of the other knowledge you gain in schools. Hopefully my words are not lost on them or falling on deaf ears of you either. To be socially healthy means that you are creating and maintaining relationships that contribute to a sense of belonging and love.  As veteran hunters, when was the last time you took the time to mentor someone? How are you building community within and outside of the hunting world? Or are you so self consumed that all you can think about is protecting your honey hole and defending what you have laid claim to? Being socially healthy is important to keeping a balance in life between self obsession and being a doormat for others.  Either way, just remember that whatever you do, say, or how you act will impact others in either a positive or negative manner.

Last but definitely not the least, we have vocational health.  This is one that is often forgotten or not even mentioned when it comes to health and wellness, and yet I feel like by being a hunter or outdoor enthusiast, it is a mainstay of what we do and who we are.  To be vocationally healthy means that you enjoy the work you do, and that you find it rewarding and challenging. Now for some, working in an office cubicle may not be that rewarding. I do not blame you for that one second.  That is where the hobby and lifestyle of hunting comes into play. If you do not know by now, hunting is an extremely challenging activity. It requires early morning dedication, hours of research, some grit and determination, and hopefully a little bit of luck. Just by getting out and enjoying nature and all that it has to offer can help if working towards your vocational health.  Nothing that is good for you comes easy. So when you are out grinding away pursuing your prey, just remember that even if you do not succeed in notching a tag, you can be proud for the fact that you enjoyed the work you put in on the the chase.

It can be a struggle to stay focused and conscious of all aspects throughout each and everyday, but as you practice to maintain good balance in your life.  Walking the balance beam of life while messing up any aspect gets easier and easier. Pretty soon before you know it, it will be second nature, just like moving slowly and walking quietly in the woods.  Some people are naturally gifted at it, while others need lots of practice. Either way, when you are preparing for your hunts this coming fall, do not forget to take care of yourself so that you can be the healthiest you possibly can be while reaching maximum wellness.

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