Hunters in the Modern World

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In ancient times, from generation to generation, homo sapiens developed key traits that improved their ability to track, hunt and kill game (and each other, probably).

Then, as society moved to an agrarian model, these were no longer favoured for survival, and therefore faded away -mostly. While these traits are retained by some – they are at odds with the civilization in which we now find ourselves.

So goes the theory, put forth by talk show host and author Tom Hartman. It’s called Hunter vs. Farmer – the idea being that those with ADHD are the Hunters, and those without are the Farmers.

I like this theory because it reframes what is perceived as a disorder into a skillset or natural ability that was once – and may someday again – be critical for survival and a huge benefit to one’s community.

Here are the traits that are associated with this theory.

The Hunter is:

  • Comfortable with, if not drawn to, risk-taking
  • Independent
  • Constantly shifting focus to better survey a varied landscape/environment
  • Hypervigilant
  • Able to hyperfocus

Whereas the Farmer is:

  • Able to engage in long, sustained tasks
  • Able to implement a long-term strategy
  • More comfortable working in a group
  • Able to exercise more self-control
  • Adept at problem-solving

This theory isn’t problem-free, of course. And Hartman never meant it to be hard science. However, it does raise some interesting points about the value of ADHD in different environments – and how that can be tapped into to thrive in today’s world.

I’m Metis. My people used to hunt buffalo on horseback. When the buffalo dried up, they largely pivoted to livelihoods like trapping and hunting small game. Turns out we made lousy farmers.

And while I’m not a big fan of recreational hunting per se, I have to admit that there is some part of me that finds the act really compelling. And while I’m not the kind of person who would boast that they could go into the woods with an axe and come out twenty pounds fatter, I do think I would be alright at it.

I’ve had the good fortune of going on several solo camping and fishing trips in remote locations, with absolutely nobody else around. It’s challenging, and dangerous, sure… but after a few hours out there in the wilderness, something amazing happens to my ADHD. It disappears.

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When the constraints and the constructs of civilization don’t weigh on me, I feel like I can be myself and simply exist in a space. My thoughts are scattered, sure, but they’re free to roam as they wish. And they are always focused on my surroundings. I start thinking about animals and how they move, and where they may show up. I follow game trails and keep a closer eye on the weather. And most importantly, I don’t engage in negative self-talk, or feel shame or guilt over anything. And whenever I’m out there, I realize how much I need to get out there more often, and for longer periods of time. Hartman’s theory certainly reinforces that notion.

Let’s assume Hartman is bang on. The question becomes, ‘How can we be more in tune with our inner Hunter?’ Here are some suggestions:

  • Hunt. Okay, I’m not a fan of hunting, but obviously, this has to be on the list. Just don’t post photos of your kills on Facebook. I hate that.
  • Spend time in the wilderness. Camping, walking, canoeing, or if you are fortunate enough – working… anything to get you outside and into the Hunter’s world. Not only will it scratch your Hunter’s itch, but we know that being outside is good for you!
  • Seek out alternative forms of hunting. Some people hunt with a camera, and the pics they get serve as their trophies. Green Hunting – tracking game and shooting it a non-lethal tranquilizer dart – is also rising in popularity. Lastly, virtual reality (and even some video games) provide satisfying hunting experiences.
  • Extend your Hunter mindset to the world of shopping. Hit thrift stores and yard sales and hunt for treasures, or seek out bargains at your grocery store. Take up a hobby (like coin collecting) that will have you hunting down some rare items.
  • Forage for wild food. Mushrooms, nuts, plants, and all kinds of delicious edibles can be yours, if you’re willing to put some serious effort and time into finding them.
  • Find a sport or activity that is similar to hunting. I’m thinking orienteering, snowshoeing, archery, or biathlon may just do the trick.

ADHDers often feel like they don’t fit in with their communities or their workplaces. In the Hunters vs. Farmers model, though, where we fit becomes very clear. And seeking out experiences that are similar to hunting could give us the much-needed feeling of belonging that we can’t get elsewhere.

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Thanks for reading.

I’d love to know if you engage in any activities that feed your inner-Hunter! Please let me know in the comments section below. 

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