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For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

by Patrick Durkin 15. March 2012 00:48
Patrick Durkin

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

Morel Mushroom Hunting Tips and Tactics

by John Mueller 27. April 2011 13:41
John Mueller

Hunting Morel Mushrooms is much like bow hunting Monster Bucks. It seems like some guys have all the luck or all of the best places to hunt. While I’m not claiming to be an expert, I have had some success and I have been hunting these treasures for as long as I could follow my parents into the woods. I’ll share some of my 45+ years of experience with you, but keep in mind, no 2 places are alike when it comes to Morel Hunting.

While I do have some favorite types of places to hunt Morels, they can be found just about anyplace or nowhere. If this doesn’t make sense to you, you’re obviously not a mushroom hunter. If there is one thing predictable about where to find them it is, there is no way to predict where to find them. With that being said, I like to start my search early to mid April in low lying moist areas, such as around ditches or creeks. They definitely need moist soils to grow. But during rainy years you can find them on higher ground as well. I have found them well into May some years, but many years the season only lasts a couple of weeks. Right now is prime time.

I found these one afternoon after turkey hunting. Part of 305 found in one weekend.

Here is a nice haul from a couple of years ago.

Once you have an area you think might produce Morels you need to figure out specifically where to look. They like to grow around the bases of trees, both alive and dead. Sometimes they even pop up around old stumps. Now what kind of trees do they grow around? Ask 10 mushroom hunters this question and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. When I was a kid and used to hunt with my parents, we had an old abandoned orchard near our house. The Morels would pop up around the old fruit trees in the middle of the woods. We would also find them around sycamore trees. If the tree was dead it seemed it would produce more mushrooms. We didn’t have many elm trees in the woods at home but we would also find some around the elm trees, both live and dead ones. Since I purchased my property a few years ago, it has turned into a Morel factory. I have never found them anywhere else in the numbers I find them on my farm. The key on my property is live elm trees. If you see an elm tree you better look around it, because there is a great chance that there will be Morels popping up sometime during the spring. While they seem to be somewhat predictable on my farm, you still never know if there will be 1 or 2 around any given elm tree or 20-30 like I have found on occasion. That’s when it really gets to be fun. If you don’t have any of these trees on your property don’t get too discouraged. I know guys who find them around oak, cottonwood, maple, poplar, and hackberry trees.

With all of the rain this year, I'm finding more Mushrooms on higher ground than usual.


You don't find bunches like this very often.


I think they actually pop up when you turn your back on them.

Now that you have an idea where to look, don’t plan on finding them in exactly the same location every year. Many times they do show up for a few years and then one year you go to your honey hole and there isn’t a mushroom to be found all season. But on the other hand, you may have never seen a Morel growing in an area before and walk by it one year and they are popping up everywhere. I guess this is why they have never figured out how to grow them commercially.

When you finally do find your first Morel, stop and look around. More times than not, but not always, there will be more of them around. They seem to like company. If you find one there will probably be more growing close by. I have found as many as 40 growing within arms distance in a couple of locations. But that is like killing a Boooner, it doesn’t happen very often.


My best day of "Shrooming" ever. I found 244 mushrooms in about 3 hours of hunting. It doesn't get much better than that.

Now that you have an idea of where to find these tasty morsels, get out in the woods after your turkey hunt or fishing trip and go mushroom hunting. It’s great exercise and they do taste great when breaded and fried up in a pan.


Now that makes my mouth water!!

Just remember, when your talking to another mushroom hunter and he says always or never, he’s lying. Nothing about mushrooms is always or never. It’s almost as hard to predict where to find them as it is to predict where to find that big buck in bow season.









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