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The oldest known figurative tattoos — those that depict an image, not just a dot or line — were found on a mummy in 2018. Some 5,000 years after the man died, anthropologists were able to make out the drawings on his upper arm: a bull and an aoudad. What the symbols represented is anyone’s guess, but perhaps they had to do with animals he had killed. Here are some ideas to inspire your own hunting and fishing tattoos.
1. A Reminder of a Memorable Trip
“Memorable” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “fun.” Maybe you fell out of the boat while gator fishing and your friend had to pull you back up just in time. Maybe you drove all the way to a remote ranch on a dove hunt, then got a flat tire — and realized you’d forgotten to pack lunch.
Either way, you had an adventure. The worst experiences often make the best stories, especially if you went through them with a friend. Consider getting a hunting or fishing tattoo to commemorate the occasion.
2. Traditional Tattoos With a Twist
Go for bold. Traditional designs — think thick, black outlines and bright but simple colors — include things like snakes, koi fish, roses and skulls. If you’ve ever seen a large backpiece with a tiger fighting an eagle or a dragon, that’s a traditional American tattoo.
The old-school style is a classic for a reason. The thick lines and minimal shading make for a piece that looks good for a long time. But who says you’re limited to the traditional motifs? Hunting and fishing tattoos look amazing in this style. Consider bass fish instead of koi, a dove or turkey instead of a bald eagle or a white-tail instead of a wolf.
3. Minimalist Designs
Something as simple as a black fish hook, fishing fly, silhouette of a duck or pair of antlers makes for a great tattoo while still conveying meaning. Another great idea is a blank outline of a deer in front of solid-colored pine trees.
When it comes to getting a minimalist tattoo, you don’t even have to fill it in. You can choose a fine-line tattoo with no shading if that’s your style. You can also get a small design that tucks away neatly under your clothing if you don’t want it on display all the time. Perhaps surprisingly, one survey found that 76% of people think tattoos hurt a candidate’s chances of being hired during a job interview.
And, remember — bold will hold. In other words, bigger designs with solid color, clean lines and bold black shading look the best over time. Black tattoo pigment lasts longer than any other color. Red, orange, purple and yellow fade the fastest and require the most sun protection. Assuming you spend a lot of time outdoors as a hunter or angler, consider placing your tattoos in areas covered by clothing, and always use sunblock on exposed designs.
4. Your Favorite Hunting Haunt
Do you return to West Texas year after year to hunt muleys? Or maybe you’re in love with the Oregon woods, where you’ve spent many chilly, rainy mornings waiting for a pheasant to flush.
Whether your favorite hunting spot is a craggy mountain valley or your grandparents’ pasture, there’s always something distinctive about it, especially to you. Commemorate your favorite place with a landscape tattoo that holds personal meaning. Look for a unique landmark in the scenery and incorporate it into the design.
5. A Trophy Animal
The biggest catfish you ever caught, a cactus buck with crazy tines, an elk so large it may as well have been a moose — these all make for great hunting and fishing tattoos. Taxidermied fish are notorious for losing their color over time, but you can always get a brightly colored tattoo to remember how they looked when you pulled them out of the water.
Plus, if you get a tattoo of one of your favorite animals, you won’t have to scroll through your phone to show it off. Just roll up your sleeves and let the art do the talking.
6. Wildlife From a Place Where You Hunt Regularly
Not every animal in a hunting or fishing tattoo has to be something you’ve actually harvested. Consider incorporating other types of birds, snakes or even insects from your favorite hunting place into your design. Plants also look good in hunting and fishing tattoos.
For example, if you visit the same desert every hunting season, you could create a tattoo design with prickly pear cacti and a rattlesnake to memorialize the tradition. A woodland-themed tattoo might incorporate mushrooms or dragonflies. To you, the design will hold personal meaning about your time spent outdoors.
7. Falconry Tattoos
If you hunt with a hawk or falcon, you could get a tattoo to remember them long after they’re gone. For example, if you live in the U.S. and have to complete a falconry apprenticeship, you could get a tattoo to commemorate the first raptor you trapped, hunted with and released back into the wild. Or, you could get a tattoo of your favorite quarry, such as a jackrabbit or quail design.
The great thing about a falcon tattoo is that it doubles as a symbol of strength, courage and freedom. People won’t see it and automatically think of it as a hunting tattoo. It’s also a great conversation starter to talk about your falconry lifestyle.
8. A Memorial of a Hunting or Fishing Partner
Whether your grandpa always took you bass fishing or you used to love duck hunting with your best friend, you can get a tattoo to honor their life. A favorite hunting dog also makes for a great tattoo. Consider a design that represents some of your best memories together. As the years pass, you’ll always be able to look at your tattoo and remember your loved one.
There’s Something for Everyone
With so many styles of hunting and fishing tattoos out there, you’re bound to find one you like. Whether you’re more into minimalist designs or traditional art, you can pick the art style and motifs that best suit your body and personality. There truly is a perfect tattoo for everyone.