Note: I originally posted this in February 2009, but it's something I've been thinking about again. Before I post something new and additional I thought I'd repost this to get myself and my readers back on track to what this blog can and should be.
I’ve recently been in contact with someone from the anti-hunting community who expressed a curiosity in the mindset of hunters regarding the emotional aspects of hunting. I think most of my fellow outdoor sportsmen and women would agree that the emotional aspects of hunting is multi-faceted, but I want to try and touch on a few strong points today about the intimacy a hunter feels with the natural world.
As I stated a few days ago in my Affirmation post, I hunt because I love. I love the natural world with a level of respect and admiration that all the words in the dictionary could never adequately express. Effective conservation is based on hunting, it is a form of population management that helps keep deer/bird/fish populations at the desired level for compatible existence with our human race. All things in the natural world will eventually achieve its own natural balance, and hunting plays a role in controlling starvation and diseases among animal populations. It gives biologists a heads up and a head start on research to help protect the human race from the wildlife, whose land we are encroaching upon, by keeping tight control on diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease and keeping animals like deer off major highways and interstates, and keeping animals like mountain lions and bears from becoming frustrated and making themselves a threat to those who build houses where they once thrived.
Intimacy between the hunter and the hunted is, in my opinion, one of life’s most precious gifts. Though many people experience the outdoors and wildlife through hiking, gardening, photography, etc, it is often times the hunters who experience once in a lifetime events. Just this past season I saw a sunrise that will be engrained in my memory forever: a beautiful red, orange and pink light with the sun placed just perfectly between the clouds to create shadows across the expansive sky that no artist could ever recreate. I had a yearling doe, and a spike buck walk within 10 yards of me, while I was sitting on the ground, small and unthreatening to them. I could see the frost on their noses, the clouds of their warm breath against the crisp, cold air and their muscles twitching with extreme attentiveness to their surroundings. The 8 point buck that I took home to the freezer scared me half to death. I only knew he was there when he snorted only 15 yards behind me. Then he walked out into the golden rays of the setting sun and stood as the majestic king of the Kansas plains. Very few non-hunters that I know have ever experienced wildlife this up close and personal, with this extreme amount of intimacy.
One thing that came up during my conversation with this non-hunter was the example of a bird that had been wounded by teenage boys using it for target practice. It was later euthanized. Myself, and most of the hunters that I know, condemn the unnecessary torture or wounding of animals for sport or entertainment. Most of us take the act of hunting seriously, with deep respect for the animals that we take. Last month I wrote a post about why it is essential to our sport to make well placed shots and stay focused on accuracy and good performance. Not too long ago I shot a deer late in the evening and had to wait until the next morning to track it. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and it tore me upside down and inside out with the possibility that I may never find it. Part of those emotions came from being a young woman driven for success, and the other part of simply being a conscientious member of the natural world. Another similar view can be found in Othmar Vohringer’s recent post denouncing the creation of hunting as a spectator sport. Because hunting is anything but a spectator sport, it’s a sport based on necessity, intimacy and love of the environment.
Another point that was expressed during my recent conversation was this person’s background of growing up in an agricultural society, surrounded by slaughter. This point is a very personal point for me. I grew up in an agricultural society, with ranching and farming, and I grew up surrounded by a family that hunted. One thing that I will not tolerate is self-indulged ignorance. Agricultural production is the means by which the inhabitants of our society lives and thrives. A few years ago I nursed a calf, whose mother died, and bottle fed her every morning and night. Yes, it was cute. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I treated her like a pet. And, I can guarantee that someone has probably had her for dinner. One thing that few non-agricultural people realize is how humanely the cows that are slaughtered for food are treated. The farmers and ranchers who spend their lives working with those cows have missed family get-togethers and their children’s sporting events to feed the cows that feed us. They spend Christmas Eve evening and Christmas morning in a tractor, making sure those cows have food and water, while other families are asleep in bed or tearing into the presents around the tree. Most of those farmers and ranchers have taken a newborn calf inside their own home to warm them by the fireplace until it could walk and survive. Life is cyclical. All living things are born, and all of those living things eventually die. There are no other options. For a similar viewpoint, check out Arthur’s post about the naivity of food. I think you will find his sentiments echo mine. Most hunters eat what they kill and those that don’t often give it away. One of my very first posts was about the necessity of hunting to provide food for my family and of organizations like Hunters for the Hungry helping to provide meat to needy families. Hunting is survival.
Another point that I found extremely interesting was the focus of this person’s life to educate students about being humane. Many hunters around the outdoor blogging community play a large part in the education of today’s young. Many bloggers started hunting because it was a family tradition, and many hunters are working hard to carry on those traditions. The men at SimplyOutdoors talk often of their children, of sharing their experiences with them, and doing everything in their power to make sure they appreciate and respect the outdoors. Jody, from The Hunters Wife, is making preparations for Wish to Fish Clinics – clinics that are specifically focused on educating the younger generations about fish, their environment, and how to be respectful advocates of the natural world. My blogging friends are numerous, and I could walk down the blogroll at the right of this page and find an example from each one of those bloggers about how they are working to educate others, and how the outdoors is an integral, intimate part of their life.
So, is there intimacy between the hunter and the hunted? Yes, and it is usually that driving force that keeps hunters attached and immersed in the natural world that they love. Hunters (and farmers and ranchers) have a respect for life and death that few people today have, and that respect comes almost solely from their first-hand, up close, intimate experiences.