busy and couldn't respond. Here's my recent experience:
I didn't grow up hunting, but I remember my dad going with friends down in Monticello when I was under 5. After we moved to Texas, with the private land and getting to pay for access, I never saw my dad hunt again. I didn't pick up hunting until after my mission. I bought a 30.06 at a pawn shop in Texas and brought it up to school. I went a few times with a roommate and then with a BIL a few years later.
I went still for a few years after I was first married. Probably the last time I went hunting and harvested something (okay, "killed" or "murdered" something, I don't care, none of those words bother me) was a year or two after the BYU-Penn State game in Provo (I was actually hunting during that game, too). My kids saw me a couple of times with a dead deer, hanging and butchering it. They all grew up fishing, and the family rule (thanks to my wife) is "you catch it you clean it" even if they didn't want to eat it, so they've never been completely "sheltered" from the realities of "meat and fish are dead animals."
I only went hunting a time or two since then and wasn't successful on those hunts. I would occasionally apply to get bonus points, but would otherwise not even apply for a permit.
In the past three or four years, my middle daughter wanted to hunt. So, I helped her get enrolled in hunter's ed class and took her to the shooting portion. We applied most years since then, either for a buck/bull permit, for bonus points, or an antlerless tag.
This year, we drew out for deer muzzleloader. Our unit ranged from the face of Timp up to the west side of Strawberry down to Diamond Fork and Spanish Fork Canyon. It was a complete blast to take my daughter (now 24 and married) on a hunt for my first time "family hunting experience". The first day we hiked up on the face of Timp. We didn't see anything, but it was fun to get away.
Later that week, I took the day off and we went up by Strawberry. It had been pretty rainy the day before and was drizzling as we drove up Provo Canyon. By the time we got to Heber, it had stopped raining but was still overcast. When we got up to Strawberry, we rounded one of the curves on the main road around the reservoir and happened upon a herd of elk crossing the road. It had about a dozen elk, with two bulls, one of reasonable size. It was so fun!. Then, as we got off onto one of the side roads, we drove up a way until I was too nervous to try to navigate the wet, slick, muddy road further (it looked like a newly plowed road (perhaps done as part of potential fire mitigation - remember the fire in Woodland Hills/Elk Ridge had jumped the highway and made its way over into Diamond Fork area).
We got out of the truck and prepped ourselves for a hike. Off in the overcast, very slight drizzled distance, we heard some bugling elk. It was fantastic! We spent the next three or four hours slowly hiking down a little draw. It stopped raining completely, but an occasional gust of wind would shake the quakey leaves and they'd drop some of the water that was still clinging to them. The rain had dampened the ground and the fallen leaves to where we could walk virtually silently.
She walked down one side of the draw and I down the other. We only had one muzzleloader (she was a student up until last year and we hadn't had prior interest in actually getting her a rifle, much less a muzzleloader), so I let her take it. This was her first experience hunting, so I didn't want to get too far from her. We were typically 50-80 yards apart, but we were sufficiently camoed up that I had to look very closely to see her. At one point, I lost track of her for about 10-15 minutes. During that time, I heard a sudden crashing over her way. I didn't hear any rifle report, so I figure she had just spooked some animals. When we finally met back up, she was very excited - she reported seeing some antlers, but she thought they were probably some elk (I likely agreed based on the sound of the size of animal that was spooked up).
We split up again, each walking down on the opposite sides of the draw. We finally broke out into the open sagebrush area and decided to hikee back up towards the truck, quietly trying to follow some tracks that were headed that way anyway. That area was chock full of scat (quite fresh and older) and other sign that this was an area frequented by animals.
Anyway, we didn't score a buck, but the colors, the smells, the sounds, and the bonding experience was fantastic and worth it all. Thank goodness for selfies with camera phones, we have some nice pictures of the great experience (and my silly daughter, who got a nice Nikon for a graduation present, actually left the nice camera home and instead we were left with the relatively unremarkable color saturation-challenged and resolution-challenged Iphone camera). We will be doing this again, only next time we will make better plans for more than just four or five hours in the field.
I find hunting refreshing and reinvigorating. At times you focus on the beauty of the surroundings, at other times, you are so focused on looking for every shape and color that seems out of place and being silent and listening for every unexpected sound that you completely forget every single thing in the world because you are so concentrating on your senses. You lose the thoughts, the cares and the worries of the world you keep in your conscious mind for those periods of time when you are so concentrated on your physical surroundings.
Sure you can get much or most of some of that without hunting. I just find for me, that without that ultimate goal of harvesting/killing/murdering an animal for sustenance, the hiking in the woods is far less mentally engaging and the depths of concentration are significantly lessened. IOW, I don't find myself nearly as refreshed and reinvigorated after a hike in the woods as I do coming back from a hike in the woods with the equipment and the legal right to kill an animal.
Anyway, that's just the thoughts from a hunter to try to explain the lure of the experience.