TO HUNT OR FISH?
By Montana Grant

Posted: November 17, 2022

What choice is best? Hunting and Fishing are similar but not the same. We do hunt fish but not the way you hunt a critter. In the Fall, Hunting season takes precedent, but you can fish year around. 

What if there could be only one? Which would you choose? We no longer hunt and fish for food or survival, as we once had. Today these sports are more about recreation, sport, trophies, and fun. If you get skunked, you still get to eat when you get home.

Both hunting and fishing are “sports”. Folks enjoy being outdoors, enjoy nature, and gather food. Nothing is more exciting than pulling a trigger or setting the hook. Knowing that your goal is been successfully met is a feeling of accomplishment.

When you Hunt you are “pursuing food”. When you fish, you are” attempting to catch a fish”. Humans are “Hunters and Gatherers”. It is what we do to survive.

Fish can be released. A shot critter is done for. Knowing how much work it takes to tag an elk or deer, I often wished there was a way to make a digital kill and receive a coupon for meat from the butcher.

Hunting is not a cheaper way to feed your family. The expense of weapons, training, processing, traveling, being off work, and all the gear makes wild game the most expensive meat available. Hunting does teach many great life lessons about safety, rules, limits, choices, regulations, and survival skills.

Hunting is way more seasonal. This means that wild game has a chance to repopulate each year. You only have limited seasons to harvest game. Pioneers had no seasons and hunted year around. This eventually made wild game populations endangered. Harvesting forests and clearing cover for agriculture did not help either.

Fishing has seasonal highs and lows but can be done year around. Spawning runs mean major harvests. Feeding, spawning, migration, and routine patterns of movement create better times for fishing. Even if you are not fishing, you can be tying flies, making rods and lures, or preparing to go fishing. Ice fishing is cold but offers hot fishing.

It’s easier to hunt for a place to fish than hunt for a place to hunt. Back in the day, landowners were more grounded to the Earth and hunting/gathering. Today wealthy landowners want no one to step foot on their land or waters. Fortunately, Montana has a generous Stream Access law that allows fishermen to legally wade into our watersheds. Wealthy people hate this law and there is a constant lobby to remove it. For now, there are way more places to fish.

Over half of Montana’s State lands are landlocked by closed private land. That means that they have access, but citizens don’t. Many hunters with great access often take it for granted until it is gone. Then they end up in the same limited boat as everyone else. Every hunter that I know understands the loss of a great hunting spot.

It’s easier to accommodate old or handicapped fishermen than aged hunters. Since rivers move, anglers can float to new spots. Access and transport to remote hunting areas are not as easy to navigate.

My mentor, outdoor writer, master fisherman, Lefty Kreh was a great sportsman. He hunted and fished. As he got older, he quit hunting and focused on fishing. Lefty was an awesome marksman, but fishing was a more year around sport. Access became frustrating and game populations were declining back in the 1980’s. Hunting required jumping through so many hoops that he got tired of constantly looking over his shoulder or being assaulted my anti- hunters and anti-gun folks. I can relate.

We all hope to catch or hunt for happiness and joy in our lives.

Montana Grant