Disclaimer: So I drafted this one a while ago. And because of all the gun-related drama that’s been going on, I’ve been a little shy of publishing. Is that lame? Maybe. But after careful thought and consideration, I’m okay with posting this and being who I am. So, take it or leave it. If you’d like to read about the philosophy of a self-titled “hippie hunter,” well then, read on. And if you want to hear more about me twiddling my thumbs, read this. Now, without further ado…
I Killed A Deer, And I Liked It.
Yes, I went hunting this past fall. And yes, I killed a deer. And when I killed the deer, I liked it.
I was proud of myself (still am), and I was – for lack of a better word – happy about it. And well, if you happen to know about some of my personal beliefs on animal testing, captivity, factory farming and how much I LOVE animals in general… this new hobby of mine probably seems a bit on the conflict-of-interest side. But hear me out, I can explain…
I am now a legit hunter!
I know what you’re already thinking… “Rose, aren’t you the one who posted on this very blog about refusing to buy cosmetics tested on animals? How on earth have you gotten into hunting?”
Some of my main beliefs/practice related to animals and animal-made products:
- I can’t stand cruelty to animals
- I’m a huge animal-lover, especially my doggies
- I’m opposed to animal testing on cosmetic products
- I don’t buy new leather goods – choosing thrift stores or hand-me-down; the one exception = a pair of running sneaks I bought myself this summer
- I prefer to buy meat, dairy, and free-range eggs from companies whose farming practices I find humane and of high quality
I can’t stand:
- the terrible conditions in the factory farming industry
- the way some notorious corporate slaughterhouses run
- people who neglect or abuse pets
- euthanizing un-claimed domesticated animals in shelters
- breed discrimination
- certain captive animal situations
- …and more.
So why am I okay with hunting?
Hunting is humane.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re not going to agree with my POV on this at all. Hopefully, from a logical standpoint, you may perhaps understand my distinctions – even if you don’t agree. If you’re a meat-eater who thinks that hunting is messed up, or going too far – maybe I can shed some light for you.
My main reasons for being morally okay with hunting:
- I eat the meat, as do many many members in my family
- Meat from wild animals is the original form of “organic” food
- Venison is lean, healthy, a great source of protein, as versatile as beef, and tasty
- By butchering and processing ourselves, we ensure as much of the animal as possible is used
- We respect the animals, thank them, honor them for the food they provide; there is reverence and gratitude in all that we do when it comes to taking a life and appreciating that sacrifice
- Killing a deer quickly and proficiently with a well-placed shot is a painless and instant death
- Too many deer, not enough food for them = many deer perishing with a slow, wasting death of starvation and exposure
- Too many deer = dangerous accidents, like car vs. deer
Like I’ve said – if you’re against consuming meat altogether, you won’t be down with organic meat or see it as good enough. And I get that, and while I totally respect your point of view, I personally am okay with being a meat-eater.
Getting Personal With What You Eat:
Venison is awesome. It’s tasty, it’s good for you, there’s so much you can do with it. After having killed a deer, and helped to gut, skin, butcher and process the meat for many of them (in our family, we all share the work together and split up the meat into portions for each family) – I feel more connected to my food source. I feel a HUGE sense of pride in being able to provide food in this way, to fend for myself, to become just a bit more self-reliant. There’s a big survivalist component to hunting, and I have a huge appreciation and affinity for that component of it all.
A Lifestyle; Life Skills:
Ideally, I’d love to hunt multiple seasons a year (deer, turkey, pheasant, dove, boar, etc), fish more, own some chickens (mostly for eggs and maybe occasionally meat), and have a huge garden to be able to ensure a healthy, clean diet that we are responsible for ourselves. I love having that closeness and connectivity to what I’m putting in my body. We’re come so far in our industrialized world, I eat things all the time without knowing what they really are, what’s in them, where they come from. Getting back to basics feels great on so many levels.
Besides pointing and shooting, hunting involves a lot of work. We “field dress” the deer, meaning we removed their internal organs in the woods. These products are one of the best fertilizers, and also provide food for all kinds of wild animals who will come and eat the fresh innards. We skin the deer ourselves, butcher, and prepare the meat. I now know how to do all of these things, and they’re great skills to have. And again, it brings me closer to the food I eat. I know exactly what’s in every final product from the sausage we made, to our grind, the stew meat, canned meat, and so on.
I’ve also learned a great deal about navigating in the woods, tracking, animal behavior and life cycles, different kinds of predators and how they operate. I’ve learned how to notice signs of which animals are nearby. And with my shotgun (yes, I own my own shotgun now too!), I feel more confident than I have ever before with a firearm, and safe ways to own and operate it. It’s odd, but after hunting season I feel so much more prepared for a home invasion or something adverse like that. My comfort level with my gun brings me comfort. And again, it’s a skill set to know what I’m doing in that respect. The same goes for using knives.
Deer Overpopulation and Death in the Wild:
In the part of the world I live in, there are too many deer. This is actually a pretty common problem across North America. Human development has turned grazing fields and bountiful forests into cul-de-sacs and strip malls. As things stand now, there is not enough food to sustain the deer population.
By “thinning the herd” hunters are able to help control the population and ensure that the deer-to- sustenance ratio is much better for the animals that are currently living.
The notion that animals are like people and die quiet, happy deaths at old age, surrounded by their loved ones, just isn’t reality. Wild nature is a hard life, and the natural circumstances of death in the wild are not pleasant. Every year, many deer will die that hard, painful, slow way… from starvation, from exposure to the cold while malnourished. I’d rather put a bullet into a deer’s neck and drop him in an instant than know a deer died by being eaten alive buy a pack of wolves or a bear.
And while I openly acknowledge that no hunter is perfect – the vast majority of kills that I’ve experienced/witnessed have been well-placed shots that took the deer’s life instantly. Of course sometimes people miss, and an animal can be hurt. This is really the worst-case scenario. There is NO pleasure in hurting an animal and leaving them in pain. So we will track and track as far as we can to make sure that we’re able to “dispatch” the deer (end it’s life quickly so it doesn’t go on suffering). Sometimes you can track for hours and never find the deer you’re quite sure you’ve injured, but not killed. And while sad and frustrating – that’s a rare experience with our hunting group.
The Social Aspects, The Family Traditions:
The entire experience of hunting with my family this year was pretty awesome. Yes, I shot and killed one deer all on my own – but that’s only one small part of the whole “hunting camp” scene. The first two weeks of regular deer season in our region opened up on November 17th. (Regular season meaning shotguns and rifles; bowhunters and those using muzzle-loaders have differing dates, and there’s also a special junior season too). For one branch of my family tree, these two weeks are a lock solid annual tradition. Some folks who’ve relocated all come back “home,” to WNY, and for a couple weeks we hunt together in a big group.
Laughing, carrying on, telling stories, catching up – just being together – these are all parts of hunting too.
For me, it was awesome to be a part of this. To get to know some of my extended relatives a lot better, and to meet others for the first time. We have a great time together and really enjoy ourselves. It’s awesome to have a family like mine, and during hunting season I was really reminded of that. I was the only girl, other than the “grandmas” (two of the oldest matriarchs on that side of the family, 85 and 80 years old each and still come out to hunt and help with the meat). Being the solo female was really interesting and fun too. As my uncle said, “we don’t treat you any different – you’re not a girl, you’re a hunter, just like the rest of us.” As a woman, it’s empowering. Really it is! I love meeting other lady hunters, and I like showing the younger generations in our family that gals can get out there and do it too!
Sending everyone home with a freezer full of meat is also a wonderful feeling. We’re taking care of each other. We’re working together to provide for our families. And those are good feelings to know.
The Thrill of the Hunt:
And finally, I won’t deny that’s it’s thrilling. It is. It’s exciting, it’s fun… getting that shot and seeing the deer go down does bring with it (for me) a real sense of satisfaction. Beyond all the reasons I’ve explained – but just on the most primitive, simple level of – I tried to do something, I wanted to do something, and I did it!
While waiting in deer stands or tracking through the woods, it’s exciting to try and figure out where the deer are and how you’ll get access to take a shot. When you see a group of them come out of a tree line and bound across a field, it is rather exciting. I was actually worried that I’d be a terrible shot because of my adrenaline – and while I did get a rush after the kill, I was pleasantly surprised with how cool and calm I felt once I took the safety off and lined my crosshairs up with the moving deer.
Oh, and I know that there are all kinds of hunters. Some hunt with bows and think that using guns is “cheating” or “unfair” to the animals. This is a personal preference thing, and I say to each their own. Personally, I don’t use scent lures, calls, I don’t bait either. We do use platforms / tree stands, and I know some folks think that’s unfair too. Like I said, it comes down to personal preference there. Based on my experiences this year, and seeing how many deer still got away – I’m perfectly comfortable being in a stand and wearing camo. Trust me, there’s still plenty of challenge to it all!
For all of these reasons, and many many more… I am happy to be a hunter. In fact, I LOVE IT!
And while I don’t owe an explanation to anyone about my lifestyle choices and my own beliefs, I am happy to share. Maybe I can offer a point of view someone hasn’t before considered. Or maybe by explaining it all out, it just helps others to understand me better. I now love hunting, and if I can inspire anyone else to check it out and give it a try – well that’s cool too!
Deer season for this year is over… but I already have my eye on spring turkey season, and I can’t wait!
Thanks for reading – I hope on some level you were able to take away something positive from all of this.