Yes, some hunters are gay


I saw Brokeback Mountain a short walk from my home in downtown Missoula, at the historic Wilma Theatre. Built in 1921 by producers of a Wild West show, it’s a place where Will Rogers once performed his cowboy satire. Between the old sound system and my bad ears (courtesy of the Marine Corps}, I had difficulty hearing what sparse dialog there was. But I could pretty much guess what the two sheepherders were mumbling, having read Annie Proulx’s short story twice.

The first time I read it, I was still closeted and married, fighting, denying and suppressing my attraction to men; often leading a secret, shameful double life. The story hit hard, and I felt doomed to a life of deceit. I read it again last year, when hype about the upcoming movie first hit the press.

By then I was out, best friends with my former wife of 14 years, and living truer to myself. It made me grateful I had found the courage to change my story to a happier ending.

But what surprised me most about the movie was the elk hunt. Jack and Ennis lose their supplies when a black bear, played by a sadly tame, fat, Hollywood bear, spooks their horses. They sneak up on a bull elk and shoot it. We see the bull stumble and begin to drop, followed instantly by a scene where Jack and Ennis are sitting around a fire, cheerfully gorging on wild elk with strips of meat drying on a makeshift rack behind them. It might be the best elk-hunting scene since Jeremiah Johnson.

Like my long struggle to come to terms with my homosexuality, I also struggle with my identity as a hunter. I am sort of an anti-hunter who hunts. Many of the hunters I know seem caught up in an endless quest to kill the biggest possible bull or buck with the least possible effort. They tear up the land with off-road vehicles, spend fortunes on gadgets, routinely take shots at distances that show no respect for either themselves or their quarry, and curse the wolves for eating all "their" elk and deer.

I love wild meat, bloody rare, and I have also come to cherish wildlife and the wild places it needs to roam. I have worked or volunteered most of my life for nonprofits that strive to protect what little wildness remains. I spend a lot of time alone in elk country, hunting, fishing, backpacking, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. There is always the rare chance a mountain lion or grizzly might judge me a decent feast, but no wild animal seems to care who I choose to sleep with.

I occasionally surf a chat room, where fellow bowhunters often post rants against liberals, wolves, grizzlies and tree-huggers. For fun, I posted a new thread: Brokeback Mountain: Best elk-hunting movie? Since folks on this site often and justly complain of poor Hollywood depictions of hunting, I mentioned that here was a good, positive portrayal.

The response didn’t really surprise me. People with screen names like Terminator, Sewer Rat, Bearman and ElkSlayer wrote that "No queers could really hunt elk," "Elk are too majestic an animal to be killed by faggots," "Imagine a gay elk camp: guys would worry that camouflage made them look fat." Bible-thumpers chimed in, quoting all the anti-gay gospel they could muster; one claiming that "No good, God-fearing Wyoming cowboy would engage in homosexual behavior."

I finally asked if anybody had seen the movie. Most said they would never watch it. Since I had seen it, one guy said he sure did wonder about me. Another called the movie Hollywood propaganda to promote a liberal, homosexual lifestyle.

If that’s the case, someone in Hollywood failed. The movie, like the book, is a heartbreaking depiction of being gay. It goes to the heart of the fear and prejudice that lead to so many desperate, unfulfilling lives. Brokeback may change some minds, but I hold no illusions that my fellow bowhunters or most rural Westerners will ever accept me — a gay, wolf-loving, tree-hugging former Marine, even if I do like to hunt elk.

Then again, who knows? Perhaps when the DVD is released, a few might sneak it home, secretly watch it when no one is around, and face their own internal turmoil. For now, fortunately, there still exist remote, wild places where a man like me can still roam and sit around a fire, eating wild elk.

David Stalling is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( He is the former conservation editor of Bugle magazine, published by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and lives in Missoula, Montana.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at

Mar 07, 2006 12:10 PM

David Stalling is much more of a man than those that try to appear manly by acting as they believe manly men would act (because they don't really know). I'm sure they would think that a manly man would beat their wives now and then, too, just to keep them in line.

Mar 27, 2006 10:51 AM

Dear HCN folks,

I just wanted to say thank you very much for publishing David Stallings essay about his experiences as an outdoorsman who is gay and his response to the story and the movie, Brokeback Mountain.

The New York Times reviewer, Karen Durbin, insightfully wrote that Jack and Ennis, the main characters of Brokeback Mountain, belonged to the rural West as deeply as they belonged to each other.

As a gay man from a large Texas ranching family raised in Texas and rural Colorado, I feel in powerful sympathy with Jack and Ennis and with David Stalling.

These men give voice to lives rarely acknowledged in the High Country or in contemporary gay culture.  Thank you for helping our voices be heard.

John Beene
Boulder, Colorado

Apr 22, 2008 12:11 PM

I totally detest hunting, I work in animal management in Scotland and we are reintroducing Elk, Boar, Moose, Bears, Wolves, Lynx and many other species that hunters destroyed. In America they all complain about deer numbers yet they demonized and slaughtered the wolf , the deers main predator! This was even though there had NEVER been a case recorded of a wolf attacking humans in hundreds of years! Even though bowhunting is banned in my country and in most of Europe as an inhumane method it is very popular in North America. But then they are 50 years behind in animal management!

 I too have had the attacks by hunters and their vile death threats, I am writing a book on the psychology of hunters and have come across some very disturbing facts about hunters. For example did you know that 98% of white male serial killers hunted from their youth???

Moderation, logic
Dec 06, 2010 03:25 PM
Just because all A is B, you cannot prove that a significant amount of B is A.
Where A is Manslaughterers and B is Hunters.

If you're trying to convince people that hunting causes or encourages homicidal behavior, I'm afraid you're going to have quite an uphill battle with historians, logicians, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and of course, hunters. Hunting is an activity that spans cultures and millennia since the dawn of homo sapiens. It would be interesting to see if you can produce stats that show hunting societies are homicidal societies.

Yes, some hunters are irresponsible and loathsome, and I certainly won't challenge your statistic on the crazy hunter/murderers. But if you're familiar with basic psychopathology you know that you cannot show that hunting causes homicidal behavior. And what is the point of showing a correlation? Looking through the lens of pure logic, you can more easily demonstrate that LATENT HOMICIDAL CRIMINALS/SOCIOPATHS become ACTIVE CRIMININALS when they have ACCESS to and MOTIVATION to use WEAPONS.

Neither your critique of hunters/wildlife management nor your book on the psychology of hunters seems balanced or rational.

Quite frankly, your comments portray you as someone with an emotional vendetta. As someone who has done a lot of "self work" and self improvement, I encourage you to look at the source of your anger, particularly toward hunters.

I am gay, peace-activist pacifist, work for a conservation organization, am an environmentalist, and I enjoy responsible hunting. As do most of the people writing here.

So, as some of my friends say, don't get it twisted!
Dec 15, 2010 01:36 PM
Do you have a citation for that 98% statistic? One who carries such a bias should not be in game management: your judgment is clouded.

Also, since you like to talk percentages and game management: what percentage of your country is devoted to agriculture? Agriculture directly affects carrying capacity--you are from a much smaller country with very little agriculture; the habitat is barely able to sustain animals, thus requiring strict game management. Try visiting a state like Illinois or Iowa, look at the land, the wildlife. Trust me on this: the land is bountiful, unlike your craggy swamp of a country. Apples and oranges my friend--wait, your country can't grow those either. Haggis and porridge.
Jun 10, 2008 11:18 AM

Thanks David Stalling !  Although I am a straight, white male with a wife and two kids, we are totally on the same wavelength.  I love hunting, last year i killed my tenth deer, I hunt with bows and guns, this fall I am hunting moose in the boundary waters wilderness of Minnesota  Our hunting party consists of me, my wife, and another woman, who is gay.

I am also highly progessive politically and detest the NRA leadership.   I am irritated by alot of ATV users in Minnesota.  I find no inconsistency in being a hunter and being politically progessive.  In fact, maintaining the future of hunting is more in line with progressive politics than the right wing.  The core of conservatism is profit at the expense of the environment and workers rights, both of which need to be protected for hunting to have a future - people need paid vacations and access to places to hunt.  Kids are also dominated by the corporate advertising culture, which promotes hyper stimulating entertainment which is at odds with activities like hunting and fishing that require patience.  This corporate ad culture needs to be curtailed for the best interest of our kids, but conservatives have no interest in doing that either.

 again, thanks to David

Erik Jensen

Minneapolis, MN 



Gay hunters
Sep 26, 2008 03:07 AM
Guys I have new for you .I am a 43 year old very masculine Gay male that hunts mule deer,Elk,bear in Colo Every year.We pack into the hight country on horses back .Live in a tent for 10 days .No every gay man wear dresses, high heels and act like a girls.If you meet me on the street you would never know I am gay. You str8t men that think you can tell when a man is gay.We live right under your noise and you don't even know.I would like to find another masculine gay guy that hunts to share the things I love about being outdoors .

Jul 07, 2010 03:52 AM
Hey Devin, send me an email and well chat some more about Hunting and maybe we could meet !
In complete agreement
Jul 30, 2010 11:51 AM
Devin, and to all others who posted here. I have only recently come to realize my true orientation (being gay), and am eager to network with others from the mid-west and beyond.
I have hunted small game and white-tail all my life near my home outside Owensboro, KY, and would very much like to meet other gay outdoorsmen (if for no other reason than friendship and networking)!
So feel free to e-mail me:
gay hunters
Nov 07, 2010 03:15 PM
Hi Devon:

I agree very much with what you said. There are plenty of rugged, tough, gay, masculine men out there. The pro sports world is rife with them.

No doubt there are also plenty of "gay hunters" doing their hunting thing side by side with so called Str8t men who haven't a clue who they really are.

Also remember many married men are in Reality Gay! The true percentage of gay men is closer to 30% not the 10 to 15% social scientists would like us to believe. Most men prefer to remain private.

Hey Devin
Nov 25, 2010 12:40 AM
Hey Devin, saw your post, send me an email . pleease
Oct 24, 2008 02:49 PM
Thanks for publishing an article in support of people who hunt who happen to be gay. I'm 31, queer, new to hunting, but I've played in the woods all my life. From the Adirondacks in northern New York, to the wilderness in the Cascades, I've traveled in may parts of the country. People who are attracted to people of the same sex don't always live in liberal enclaves. Sometimes, they live right next door. And, sometimes, they enjoy the art of hunting.
Comment from Australia
Michael Barnett
Michael Barnett
Nov 10, 2008 03:57 PM
I live in Australia, am 39 and have been out since 1995, when I was 26. I feel comfortable telling most people that I am gay.

In 2002 I sat next to a guy on a plane, travelling from Los Angeles to St Louis. He was a really nice guy, chatty and glad to meet someone from Australia. We swapped email addresses and have remained in contact since.

I am a photographer on the side, and enjoy sharing my photos with this guy, Jeff. He seems to appreciate what I have to show him.

Jeff told me he was into taxidermy and hunting and was incredibly proud to show me his photos and handiwork. I really didn't know what to make of what he sent me, as I have never been exposed to hunting, and coming from a large city and not having been exposed to guns and hunting, felt somewhat uneasy with the whole thing.

Despite this I remained in contact and felt glad that he wanted to stay in contact.

I recently received a link to Jeff's web site, which is very up front about it's intent, to promote the passion and excitement of Jeff's sport. If you're interested, check out

In keeping in touch with Jeff, I sent him a link to my photos from my visit to the USA last June/July. I wanted him to see some of the fun and adventure I had while I was travelling. His response was that he thought the pics were great, and that some of them were 'interesting'. Perhaps he was referring to the NY gay pride photos, or those from the gay rodeo in Minneapolis. I doubt he was referring to the photos taken in a forest in Vermont.

Either way, I don't entirely know how to approach the subject with him. I can be straightforward and mention it, or just ignore the topic. I don't like to hide my sexuality, but at the same time, I don't like being 'in your face' with people who are not comfortable with the issue.

Any thoughts?

On a tangent, for some inspiration about coming out, read the story "Say it out loud" by Adam Sutton and Neil McMahon. Adam is an Australian cowboy who has told his coming out story. He's a real survivor and has faced many challenges along the way. It's a very moving story. Interestingly, Adam was on the set of Brokeback Mountain, but wasn't actually in the film.


PS. If you're on Facebook you can find Adam's profile at and mine at
Gay Hunters
Barry F
Barry F
Nov 19, 2008 08:49 PM
I enjoyed your essay David and even though I don't want to accept many of the truths you point out, the fact is that even today it is hard to be gay period...much less a gay outdoorsman.

I am fortunate I suppose in that the group of guys I have hunted with all my adult life all know or suspect that I am gay but it doesn't seem to matter much to them. I cook better, hunt harder, pack meat further, and tell better stories than most of them so I am always welcome in deer or elk camp. As one of my buddies interjected a few years back when I was standing around a campfire stumbling for words to try to explain that I was gay... "it doesn't matter what you want to tell me, we all love and respect you anyway... now get me a beer and stop whining bitch". With friends like that... what more could a queer ask for?

I think the thing that bothers me is that I would like to know that there are lots of us out there - gay outdoorsmen and women and that we have a forum to connect somehow. I stumbled on to David's essay by Googling "Gay Outdoorsmen". The sad thing is that I had to get by several porn sites and several sites that talk about outdoorsmen in Gay, Georgia to find anybody talking about being gay and liking to hunt and be outdoors...

In my heart I believe it would be really cool to hang out with a bunch of guys who like hunting and outdoor sports as much as I do and who just happen to be gay. I've looked for gay friendly hunting trips, guides, and outfitters...not much out there. Maybe it's foolish to think that closeted and openly gay guys who like the outdoors could or would want to get together and enjoy the outdoors. Nah, that's BS! I think there are a lot of gay guys who would enjoy the opportunity to be with other gay guys who like hunting. All we have to do is find a way to connect.

Feels like a business opportunity in the making to me... maybe I should be the first gay outfitter! Seriously (actually I was serious), the common thread in David's essay and most of the responses is that gay guys aren't welcome in the straight assed redneck world hunters stereotypically come from and as a result we are faced with enjoying the outdoor world in stoic solitude.

Screw that people!! Let's use David's eloquence and open door forum to figure out ways that we can get together and enjoy what we love with people we can be openly comfortable with. If we do that, Brokeback Mountain's lingering sadness doesn't have to continue to grip us all in so much fear and self loathing. Hell we're good people right??? So let's go hunting together! Well???
Gay Hunters
Nov 13, 2010 09:27 AM
I totally agree. I am 35 and was married the past 10 years and really wanted to be straight but finally excepted I am not. Love to hunt and fish and all that stuff here in NW GA but am still in the closet to most. I think the word GAY just scares people and so many just do not know how to act. I sit and think, Straight folks do not label themselves as straight, they just label themselves as people. How can we get a gay outdoors group together without using the word gay in it but let people know gays are welcome. LOL So many masc gay guys would be scared to join a hunt labeled as gay because most are not out. Could call it "The Secret Hunting Society"! LOL Being in Marketing the past 10 years, that sounds pretty good.

So many people, including me know how unwelcome it seems gay people are. Most are getting married and having kids and trying to be straight because here in the south and everywhere else that is what people do. I had a broke back experience and that turned my world upside down but was already in the process of divorce at the time. He moved away but still the love I felt was something I want again and most people that get married trying to be straight may never get to experience. Gay is not all about sex and being with another guy to me. It is about that connection with heart and soul and with that, everything else will be perfect.
Jun 14, 2009 07:24 AM
I am amazed that I can not find any Gay hunting sites !! I just started up a very cool site for the gay/bi outdoors community and would like to get more hunters & fishermen up on there. So please come and join !! It is 100% free.
looking for a hunting partner
Feb 18, 2010 09:49 PM
I live in Oregon and would love to find another gay or bi guy to go hunting with! Can't seem to find anyone!
Elk hunting
Jason Maggard
Jason Maggard
Jun 26, 2010 10:54 AM
I have to say that I completely agree with you on all counts. Elk hunting is not something that straight men feel that a gay man can do; or for that fact, that they could hunt better than a straight man. I do agree that it is probably too manly of a scene for straight men to realize that we can hunt, if not better than they can. I love to hunt, not for the sport, but for the food. I will not complain if it is a big big that walks in front of me.
Gay outdoorsmen
Aug 15, 2010 12:52 AM
I have to agree with Barry and most of the other posts to this point. Gay men/ lesbian women/ questioning/ intersexed individuals are true and real outdoors people. It would be my one and only wish at this point in my life to be able to go hunting or fishing with FRIENDS no matter their sexuality; though meeting and being able to enjoy these past times and rituals with like minded people would re-ensure my hope/exhuberance of the outdoor life style. I have been out for a few years now and have noticed that the hunting camps that I have grwon up in are not tolerant, and not many of these family/friends talk to me much anymore. I will always attend this familial tradition every year due to my passion for hunting and fishing, but I wish that others like myself could get together to do the same. I am sickened that to find this one of few posts about TRUE OUTDOORSMEN/WOMEN I had to waid through to many sites that were of sexual persuasions. I just want to find some people/places/outfitters that I could go and be myself while still enjoying the things that I love and also help define who I am. Hunting an fishing will never leave my frame of refernce, and I hope to expand it as much as possible for myself and others. I too, hope, plan, and am working toward starting my own guide service that will gladly cater to LGBT members of the Outdoor community. I hope that day comes sooner than later, but only time will tell. I think that all of us that have this like minded, outdoor orientated life need to band together and assert that we are normal and acceptable in the places that we come from and where we want to be. I for one have dreams of being with friends and or my partener sitting around a fire enjoying a fresh Elk/Deer/Sheep/Moose/Bear/Salmon steak and much more. I for one love the outdoors and will never let that part of my life die. Finally after some time of seraching it seems that I have seen some of the LGBT community and our allies come forward to speak the truth that we are included in an outdooe/hunting/fishing lifestyle that most are not used to attributing to use. I may pass you on the street without you knowing that I am gay, but I am proud of that fact as well as, if not more so that I am an Outdoorsmen, and always will be. Thank you all who have replied to Mr. Stalling, as well as MR.Stalling, for helping me see that there are more than myself in the LGBTQ community that love OUR way of life and are willing to continue our legacy. May you all have a succesful hunt and proserous fishing endevours.
Nov 08, 2010 08:10 AM
The deep connection with wild places achieved through hunting transcends gender. Call it atavistic or primal or whatever. Homo sapiens evolved as a predator. It can be a beautiful and powerful experience, done right.

I hunt. I'm hetero. And a portuguese descendant of a communist who votes mostly left. I have a background vastly different than most of the guys who post on the forums I visit. I can relate to the gay hunter in that respect. Y'all would be welcome at my fire any time. Long live the square peg.
Nov 11, 2010 08:29 PM
dang guys, wish i could meet up with some like minded hunting buds. after suddenly losing my hunting bud/partner, i now hunt alone for upland game in the northern plains. The blue sky, beauty and the quietness really remain awesome; but the solitude, well that can get to you after awhile. but even so, the annual trip still feeds my soul, and reminds my heart of years past.
My sentiments exactly.
Dec 06, 2010 11:50 PM
I live in the DC area. Like you, I came late to this conversation, but hey, we both are posting in Nov 2010. I'm lucky! I hope you get a notification of my reply.

Check out my facebook page for gay outdoorsmen!
Dec 08, 2010 11:31 AM
thanks timo for your reply to my post. what kind of hunting are you into?
Dave Miller
Dave Miller
Sep 21, 2011 11:32 AM
 THank you very for your essay.Not a hunter,but like to get into fishing, had to agree with you about the scene.I find the younger generation much more amenable. There is not much of a gay anything here in Tallahassee, Looking to split.From Dave M. in Tallahassee.
Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson
Oct 10, 2011 09:25 AM
I grew up in the North Carolina mountains, fly fishing and all. Wish I could find another gay outdoorsman to connect with. I really want to take up Turkey hunting but need someone to be my teacher. Would like any kind of hunting matter of fact. I just moved to San Francisco and feel like I don't fit in. I'm gay, but like the simple things in life. Not a bar person at all. Some days I wonder if I will ever find my Mr. Right. You can contact me at
bill b
bill b
Jan 01, 2014 09:59 AM
I grew up in rural deep south and now live in Texas. I to enjoyed the article I am very much into finding a few hunting buddies for small game upland birds and elk or bear. Have been to Montana, Colorado, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Interested in finding like minded masculine hunters or a club of hunters if there is any. Email me at