Addiction – Taking A Passion Too Far

Posted on September 18, 2018



“In nature, everything moves in the direction of its hungers.” – A.W. Tozer



The white-tailed deer must eat. The one component in a deer’s life that drives its movements and patterns is primarily food. Find the food they are eating, and you’ll find the deer. While eating may not necessarily be classified as addictive, seeing as every living thing must eat to survive, it demonstrates the premise of whatever you hunger for is the direction in which you’ll move.

Whenever we hear about addictions, some of the first thoughts that may cross our mind are alcohol, tobacco, gambling, porn, drugs etc., but in reality, anything that is taken to the level that it completely consumes the individual would be considered an addiction. And yes, some of the most wholesome things in life that are taken to unhealthy levels quickly turn into addiction. Eat too many whoopee pies, cakes and cookies and before long you are grossly overweight with potential diabetes on the horizon. Other than substances that have the effect of addicting one to its seductive grip, most addictions first begin psychologically. Once ingrained, actions take over and drive one to start doing whatever it takes to feed this craving. Left unchecked, the sky is the limit as to how far it will go or what damage can be done.


The Sad Saga of the Addicted

Directly following a deer seminar I spoke at in Pennsylvania a few years ago, a gentleman waited patiently behind a crowd of folks purchasing books at my table. Once everyone had left, the man approached, shook my hand and said, “Continue to give that message wherever you go, it’s that important.” Part of my speech that night included the following of which he referred, ‘Please don’t let what either does or does not hang from your game pole at season’s end define who and what you are. Whitetails are not the most important thing in my life, far from it.’



With tears streaming down his cheeks, the man explained that due to his addiction to whitetails, and his desire to shoot top-end bucks, he had lost his entire family. His wife divorced him, the kids vacated, and he was left with nothing more than some dead stuffed deer in an empty house, and the realization that he’d bought into a deception. It didn’t deliver as hyped. What it did deliver was unadvertised consequences that he hadn’t anticipated. By following his passion to hunt whitetails with the chief end of bringing him satisfaction, glory, and fame, he, like so many others tragically found out that due to this compulsive behavior his ultimate reward became only regret and loneliness. Sure, he had his trophies, but let’s face it, mounts hanging from a wall offer little in the way of total fulfillment.



Because I’m in the business, I know of several whitetail addicts that have lost their wives due to this obsession. Some who have yet to be cured have lost multiple spouses. Thousands of dollars have been spent on hunts they couldn’t afford just to chase a dream. Sadly, this has become all too common. One individual that I know personally took his addiction to whitetails to such a degree that he actually compromised the safety and well being of his family, a wife and three small children. To feed his insatiable addiction, he moved his family from the Northeast out to the mid-West. The structure they moved into was nothing more than a tarpaper shack without any appliances. And instead of spending what money he had left following the move on a refrigerator and stove, he purchased a four-wheeler that had to be hauled behind his vehicle wherever he went for fear of it being stolen.
These stories are but a small sampling of how deer hunting, when taken to the extreme can suddenly turn an otherwise accomplished hunter into what would be the equivalent to an alcoholic. And like any other forms of addiction, there is the nasty side of the equation.


Nefarious Actions



Like a drug addict that desperately needs another fix, the deer hunter who has fallen victim to his obsession will do whatever it takes to get his next high, legal or otherwise. Les Davenport expounded on this very thing when he wrote, “Desire by whitetail hunters to kill trophy bucks seems to have hit epidemic proportions. This drive has been fueled by the fame, fortune and the promotional value attached to such success.” Often, once success has been met, the need to duplicate or better the last accomplishment becomes an all-consuming fire. This is when the pressure begins to mount. Decisions are now made based on what is going to feed this fixation, usually at the expense of the good name you have worked to establish, and unethical behavior creeps in. Game laws are broken, friendships fractured, character tainted; lies and deception become the byproduct of this addiction. Why would anyone want to risk family, friends, career and their good name just to be revered by some fan base, you may ask? Why would someone knowingly break game laws in order to shoot a trophy that has eluded them through fair chase efforts? It must be understood, when someone reaches this condition, their judgment and rational thinking no longer exists, they are now only consumed with getting their next whitetail fix.


Inferiority Complex

The number one question I am routinely asked following a hunt is, “How was your season?” When I exclaim that I had a great deer season it is immediately assumed that I must have shot something of great proportion. The next inquiry becomes, “How big was he?” During those occasional aftermaths when nothing was hanging from the meat pole I would confidently utter, “He won’t fill a soup bowl, but he sure gave me great sport.” Far too often today’s hunter is fixated more on what has or has not been killed, how large a specimen it may be, and what that set of antlers is going to score, as if that becomes the benchmark for success. If truth were told, most of the largest bucks killed annually fall victim to unpretentious huntsmen whose names we were ignorant of prior to them making that fateful shot. Without coming off disparagingly, had anyone beyond his family, friends, and neighbors ever heard of Milo Hansen prior to him shooting the world record?



In his classic book, The Still-Hunter, T.S. Van Dyke writes, “I never saw the time when I cared a cent for records or anything of the sort and have always despised the ‘trophy’ business which too often means beastly murder…What I wanted from a deer hunt was not that particular bit of meat or that head of horns, but to know whether I could get that buck or he get me.”

Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner in his classic essay, Race at Morning asks this reflective question: “Which would you rather have? His bloody head and hide on the kitchen floor yonder and half his meat in a pickup truck on the way to Yoknapatawpha County, or him with his head and hide and meat still together over yonder in that brake, waiting for next November for us to run him again?”



There is no shame in being outdone by a crafty old denizen of the forest wilds, nor should there be cause for anyone to feel inferior for shooting something that didn’t quite meet one’s personal goal. It’s a contest betwixt the hunter and the hunted, the results of which ultimately become the weapon bearers as Faulkner states,
“I hunt not only to pursue but to overtake and then to have compassion not to destroy, and then let go because then tomorrow you can pursue again. If you destroy it, then it’s gone it’s finished. And that to me is sometimes the greater part of valor but always it’s the greater part of pleasure, not to destroy what you have pursued. The pursuit is the thing, not the reward, not the gain.”

What’s the Cure?



Perhaps as you’ve read this you can identify with what has been written. Maybe you see yourself currently as someone that may well be heading down this dangerous path, or because of this piece, you now realize that indeed, I’m that guy. Please, take it from someone who has had his share of fame, notoriety, and the limelight; all that glitters is not gold. Marching to the beat of a fan base and their fickle adoration is not the answer to fulfillment. Fame is a hollow meal, and fortune in a monetary sense comes to darn few in the hunting industry. By placing your identity in the seductive world of big whitetails and placing your hopes and dreams of being the next whiz-bang celebrity only sets you up for the inevitable fall. And trust me, its not if, it’s when you fail to fill your tag that this dilemma will come upon you. Your whole world will indeed come crashing down.

Davenport rightly relates, “Whomever the hunter might be, the inner drive to succeed in harvesting a record-book buck is no more of a problem than attempting to do well at any sport, activity or hobby. It’s only when participants cheat the system, show envy or let the sport dictate their lives that it becomes less enjoyable for them and those they affect.”



Count every achievement in proportion to the effort involved to accomplish it. Success is an admirable goal and should not be diminished, however, it should not come at the expense of what’s really important in life. In the words of Charlie Alsheimer, “Realize your deer hunting experiences amount to far more than a rack on the wall or meat in the freezer. Racks and meat vanish in a moment, but lessons learned will last a lifetime.”

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer