Long ago (pre-Vietnam) and far away (a now-unrecognizable USA) there was a thing called the draft. When a young man graduated college, the registrar immediately called his draft board and informed it that said youth’s ass belonged to them now. So a great many well-educated young men went in the service and discovered very quickly that there were a great many poorly educated young men who were better soldiers than they were and, very often, better men as well. It was a great lesson in democracy. That all ended when we began our great crusade in Southeast Asia, and a great many smart kids, such as Bubba Clinton and Dick Cheney, discovered they had pressing business elsewhere.

The draft is ancient history, and the divisions in our society are greater now instead of lesser. One of the few remaining ways for young men and women to mix with those unlike themselves is by hunting. If they pursue the sport seriously they’ll find themselves encountering people whom they never would in ordinary life. And they will learn a great truth: That when you pick up a rifle and hunt, a hunter is all you are, and you are judged on how good you are at that, and nothing else. It is a pursuit in which college degrees, social standing, and money mean nothing. What counts is whether you have the skills, and can shoot, and endure, and suffer disappointment with good grace.

I’ve met a good number of people in all sorts of odd places whom I am proud to know, and whom I would never have met were I not a hunter. It is not just a fringe benefit of the sport; it may be the benefit.