Leopold believes there are four types of outdoorsmen: “deer hunters, duck hunters, bird hunters, and non-hunters.” Each group interprets and observes nature through their own individual lens. Deer hunters watch deer trails, duck hunters watch the sky, bird hunters watch their hunting dogs, and non-hunters (according to Leopold) do not watch at all.
Leopold’s theory of hunters is that everyone is inherently selfish, and interacts with the natural world in a way that betrays their own inherent biases. He presents this without judgment, as he knows everyone (including himself) has a lens through which they view the world.
Leopold has also observed a fifth category of hunter, a person who reads signs left behind by animals, like excrement, tracks, feathers, and nests. Leopold suggests this skill is “inverse to book learning.” He also explains that ecologists attempt to observe the world both like the tracker and the other types of hunters, but do not succeed.
Leopold finds the tracker to be the most admirable of all types of hunters, because they are forced to engage most thoroughly with the land itself.