First light. No alarms. Adam Greentree is already up, mere moments before dawn. Just as the soft light cracks the sky and birds begin to stir then sing in the branches of the trees above him, Greentree hoists his lightweight backpack over his shoulders. It’s packed with necessities - food, first-aid kit, tent, sleeping bag, portable stove system, a knife, a water filter, a phone and GPS, solar battery charger, headlamp, binoculars and rangefinder, wet weather apparel, and a sawn-off toothbrush with a tiny tube of toothpaste.
"Every bit of weight counts," he says.
Prior to taking the first few steps of this new adventure, Greentree kneels down to tighten his laces before picking up the most fundamental piece of equipment he'll need on this trip ... his compound bow and arrows.
"When you're on a hunt, it's just you and the wilderness," Greentree says. "Everything just slows down when you're operating on your own timeline. You don't have to be anywhere or do anything other than the task at hand, which is to locate an animal and hunt it down."
Adam Greentree, of Newcastle, is an internationally recognised and extremely respected bowhunter. He lives in Merewether with his wife, Kim, and their three children.
Greentree has more than 233,000 followers on instagram and documents an intimate account of his life as a bowhunter, including the epic, solo back-country hunts he undertakes in many different parts of the world, including Australia.
He also hosts a podcast, Bowhunters Life, with his wife Kim, where they discuss the adventures of the modern bowhunter.
Hunting is an activity as old as the human race itself. Ever since that first group of early hominids - Australopithecus africanus (the African southern ape) - left the relative abundance, safety and comfort of the trees to eke out a living on the vast savannas of the southern plains of Africa, humans have hunted for their food in order to survive.
Indeed, primatologists Sherwood Washburn and C.S. Lancaster wrote: “Our intellect, interests, emotions and basic social life are all evolutionary products of the success of the hunting adaptation.”
Moreover, anthropologists argue that because hunting demanded weapons, this in turn, encouraged bipedalism, which freed up the hands and made it possible for early humans to carry things; not only bigger and better weapons for hunting, but also rocks and sticks to construct shelters, as well as foods like nuts, fruits, and, of course, any meat harvested from a successful hunt.
Eating meat supplied early humans with essential proteins that enabled them to develop larger brains, which supported them to become more active, more sociable, and more intelligent.
Subsequent activity and learning allowed for the development of more effective tools, techniques and better organisation.
Nowadays, modern humans can happily survive a lifetime without having to hunt for their food, or to even eat meat. The modern vegetarian diet is more than adequate for most people to survive. Of course, the ability to exist on such a diet depends either on modern scientific knowledge, or on traditional food habits that have been developed over many generations by people who worked out how to supplement essential nutrients by combining certain plant-based foods together.
Nonetheless, in order to do this, our early hominid ancestors needed to, first and foremost, become meat eaters ... And the only way to eat meat on the vast savannas of Africa was to hunt.
"A lot of people have a closed mind towards a lot of things, especially hunting," Greentree explains. "And yet, most are more than happy to head to the supermarket each week to buy meat already wrapped up in a nice, neat package and not really think about the fact that the meat behind the wrapping is, or, was, once an animal."
A lot of people have a closed mind towards a lot of things, especially hunting. And yet, most are more than happy to head to the supermarket each week to buy meat already wrapped up in a nice, neat package and not really think about the fact that the meat behind the wrapping is, or, was, once an animal.Adam Greentree
RAISED IN THE HUNTER
Growing up in the Upper Hunter, Greentree learnt to shoot from his parents who provided vermin control - shooting out non-native, feral and invasive species - and protection for farming livestock on a few properties in the area.
"It had to be done, because there are so many feral animals taking over the farms and properties up there,” Greentree says. “They compete for space with livestock and the native animals in the area... But, that wasn't really hunting," he continues. "For me, that was just killing a feral animal because it had to be done."
Greentree got exposed to bowhunting after trading in his rifle for an old compound bow and a couple arrows at a local pawnshop.
"When I got the bow home, I had to figure out how to shoot it," Greentree says. "After I shot the first arrow, the flight of it and the feeling of seeing it move through the air and hit the target was awesome. For me, it was so much more rewarding than firing a rifle," he says.
Somewhere deep within Adam Greentree's being, an ancient and primal instinct had been ignited.
"The thing about bowhunting, and archery in general, is that there's so much more involved with it, compared to shooting a rifle," Greentree explains. "You have to train and practice and be disciplined to learn to do those things. You can't just pick up a bow, go out and be successful ... It takes time and a lot of practice and patience.
"Bowhunting is a very humbling and challenging thing to do ... and on top of that," he continues, "the hunting side of things teaches you respect for the animals you hunt and to be so much more grateful for your food."
Greentree has hunted invasive animal species all around Australia, including wild pigs, boars and deer in the Hunter Valley and giant water buffalo up in the Northern Territory. He's hunted non-native tahr and chamois in New Zealand, which live high up in the mountains, amongst the snow and shale of Central Otago, and in North America, Greentree has bow-hunted elk on solo backcountry hunts in the wilds of Colorado and Montana.
"I definitely feel remorse every time I take an animal’s life, and I always make sure I pay my respects, be humble and be grateful for its life," Greentree says, "which is why, I think, hunters appreciate animals so much more than any non-hunter or even anti-hunter, simply because we're so close to them … so close to that line between life and death."
Greentree has hunted invasive animal species all around Australia, including wild pigs, boars and deer in the Hunter Valley and giant water buffalo up in the Northern Territory.
Once a kill has been made, Greentree will field dress the animal, butcher it and process it into all sorts of cuts of meat to eat.
"It's not enough to only know how to shoot a bow and kill an animal," Greentree says. "You also need to know how to prepare an animal once you've killed it; how to skin it, how to quarter it, butcher it, process it and eventually cook it. That's an extremely important part of the hunting process. Otherwise, you're just wasting a highly valuable food resource."
Greentree sees these wild animals, invasive, non-native, or otherwise as an important source of food that can provide high quality free range meat for his friends and family to cook, eat and enjoy.
"When you harvest your own beast you can eat whatever cut you like," Greentree explains. "You can have a full rack of ribs, or, instead of cutlets you can leave the back straps in ... I'll use as much of the beast as I can," he continues. "I've even got into making my own sausages and mince, which is really lean and healthy and delicious."
On solo hunting trips where, often, he will go days without eating anything substantial, Greentree says there's one bit of kit that comes with him, no matter what.
"One thing I always take with me is a small container of spice to sprinkle over some fresh pieces of meat ... I'll rub a bit of organ fat or rump fat on a rock and cook the meat on the rock over the fire with a sprinkle of spice," Greentree says. "It tastes so good, especially when you've been hunting for days on end and haven't eaten properly for ages."
Hunting can be misrepresented as cruel and vicious by people opposed to the activity, and also, often by hunter's themselves for not being able to clearly articulate their intentions, ethics or reasons why they hunt.
Adam Greentree provides a whole new perspective on hunting by demonstrating his appreciation and respect for the animals he kills. For him, these animals are not trophies to brag or boast or gloat about. Instead, they are beasts to admire and value, and eat and share with his family and friends, just like our ancestors did a long time ago.
"Hunting challenges me and makes me grateful for my family and so many other things in my life," says Greentree. "It gives me a unique sense of perspective that helps me to not get so upset or worried about the small things in life, because I know that there's way more important and more meaningful things out there."