Note: This passage served as the introduction to The Wilderness Hunter. Roosevelt wrote it at his famed Sagamore Hill residence in 1893, with the book published that same year. Minor edits were made to the punctuation, but otherwise it remains as it fell from TR’s pen more than a century ago.
For a number of years much of my life was spent either in the wilderness or on the borders of the settled country — if, indeed, “settled” is a term that can rightly be applied to the vast, scantily peopled regions where cattle ranching is the only regular industry. During this time I hunted much among the mountains and on the plains, both as a pastime and to produce hides, meat, and robes for use on the ranch; and it was my good luck to kill all the various kinds of large game that can properly be considered to belong to temperate North America.
In hunting, the finding and killing of the game is, after all, but a part of the whole. The free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with its rugged and stalwart democracy; the wild surroundings, the grand beauty of the scenery, the chance to study the ways and habits of the woodland creatures — all these unite to give the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar charm.
The chase is among the best of all national pastimes. It cultivates that vigorous manliness for the lack of which in a nation, as in an individual, the possession of no other qualities can possibly atone.
No one but he who has partaken thereof can understand the keen delight of hunting in lonely lands. For him is the joy of the horse well ridden and the rifle well held; for him, the long days of toil and hardship, resolutely endured, and crowned at the end with triumph.
In after years there shall come forever to his mind the memory of endless prairies shimmering in the bright sun; of vast snow-clad wastes lying desolate under gray skies; of the melancholy marshes; of the rush of mighty rivers; of the breath of the evergreen forest in summer; of the crooning of ice-armored pines at the touch of the winds of winter; of cataracts roaring between hoary mountain masses; of all the innumerable sights and sounds of the wilderness; of its immensity and mystery; and of the silences that brood in its depths.
For more from Roosevelt, pick up a copy of African Game Trails and Good Hunting in the Sporting Classics Store. John Seerey-Lester’s The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt makes a beautifully artistic companion to Roosevelt’s own words. Get all three today!