All that lived in the vicinity of Indian Creek in what is now Monroe County West Virginia were gathered in Cook’s Fort. They’d been there for a while due to the marauding escapades of Shawnee Indians. Problem was, food was running low. Jacob Mann, accompanied only by his rifle and his dog, set out on the first of many trips to secure rations for not only his family but all of the fort’s occupants. After narrowly escaping capture he returned to the fort with venison. The year was 1778.

Three years later, eight Indians attacked the home of William Meeks and killed all but two children, which they carried away with them. Jacob rallied six men and took off on a hunt for the savages. Several days later they found the Indians camped along the river and at day break each settler took aim on an Indian and fired. The remaining Indian jumped into the river attempting an escape. Jacob swan in after him armed with only his hunting knife. The Indian never found shore.

Jacob was my Great, Great, Great, Grandfather. 220 Januarys after he was born I became one of his many descendants. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a hunter. Yes, a great deal of it was for sport but I’ve also fed mine and other families with the bounty from wilderness adventures. Hunting for me never seemed like a hobby or bad habit I picked up; it has always seemed like something I should or maybe even needed to do.

My father and mother were both hunters, though their passion for the endeavor, strong as it was, seemed more like a seasonal escape than an occupation. Is me being a hunter a product of genetics, a result of my environment or merely just a chance happening? Luck maybe?

Some will argue genetics will not produce hunters and maybe more precisely that genetics have no influence on a hunter’s ability. They’ll cite the choice to be a hunter as one that is induced by milieu and explain hunting skill as a product of education and devotion to the activity. Those raising champion hunting dogs or even racehorses and trophy whitetail deer would disagree. They stake their livelihood on genetics by acquiring good stock and practicing selective breeding.

Does hunting have to be in your blood before you find it interesting? In reality, if you are human (I have met some folks I wondered about.) it’s in your blood. For much longer than we have been eating Big Macs and slurping soda pops, hunting was a condition of survival. Since humans have been on earth they have been hunting for food in the woods, garden and grocery stores. And, regardless of how hard we try to domesticate ourselves, there’s a lot of evolving that still has to take place to eliminate that drive.

Hunting is human nature. How that genetic code manifests itself in the individual is different for everyone. But rest assured it is there for if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be.

Both of my sons have been surrounded by hunting since birth. My oldest at 22 is full of wit and intelligence but he is far from being a hunter. I think when he did hunt it was mostly to be with Dad or to seek my approval. There are no hunting magazines shoved under his bed and he has never asked Santa Clause for a new rifle.

Born 35 Januarys after me, my youngest son now one year short of his teens, is a tad different. At age four he could successfully identify all North America’s big game animals and his collection of toy guns outnumbered my real ones. Once, about eight years ago, I found him on the floor in our den with his fluffiest Teddy Bear. He was working at it hard with a small plastic survival knife that came with a dress-up soldier set. I asked, “Bat, whatcha doing?” With an expression, as serious as I have ever seen on his face; one that seemed to suggest you should know, he looked up and said, “I’m skinning my bear.”

This fall, just like old Jacob, I’ll take my rifle into the timber with anticipation and hopes of besting a whitetail buck. Skill will determine my success – others will call that success luck. The meat will feed my family, the buck’s antlers will decorate my wall and his hide will cover my bed. It is something I must do. I won’t be alone; over 13 million other American’s are hunters too. With all the other forms of outdoor adventure available you cannot dismiss the choice of hunting by this many folks as occurring by chance. Many hunters were not raised in environments where hunting was common or even existed at all. It has to be something else.

Environment or Genetics? An argument could be made for either. Me? I’m betting on good breeding.

for Mom & Dad


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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5 Responses to GENETICS

  1. Duane says:

    My father and grandfater hunted but their passion was not as deep as mine. I want to hunt anything and everything when in season, and I get drawn, but as old age creeps up on me I’m beginning to limit the hunting I do to those hunts that bring me the most joy – successful or not – like elk, turkey, quail, and dove. Hope to one day get drawn for desert bighorn but that is like winning the lottery. I also hope that within the next 2-3 years I can make a trip to Africa, probably after I retire.

    Thanks for the article.


  2. jonp says:

    Hunting is something that everyone in my family tree has done along with fishing and having a garden. If you didn’t then you didn’t eat as we never had much extra money. Long before standing in line for a government handout became the norm in this country my ancestors just went fishing or grabbed a gun for something to put on the table. During the depression my grandfather trapped, fished and shot pigeons at the local grain elevator to feed his family. The first thing I did when I moved south and bought a house was get a rototiller and plow up 500square feet of the yard and plant. Neighbors thought I was weird and I thought they were odd for having giant yards and no garden. Canning food, making jam from berries, etc..Can’t understand the mindset of people that depend on others to feed them. The satisfaction of looking at a dinner table and thinking “I put all of the food on this table through hunting and the garden” and not by running to the store is hard to describe.

  3. jonp says:

    btw: my family go’s back as far as yours does in WV in Vermont. A direct ancestor marched south with John Stark to the Battle of Bennington and served with The Green Mountain Boys.

  4. Mike W says:

    Great story and history, I’m glad you still have it in the family and that your boys will know it and pass it on. Teddy bears are notoriously diffcult to skin BTW.

  5. Papa Whiskey says:

    That was one heck of a post! I think you won the internet today.

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