Dec 12, 2012

Hunting, Killing, and You

Let me say this right now: I have no problem with hunters. I just don't like the idea of killing an innocent animal, so I personally will not do this. I realize this makes me a gigantic wuss and that I am neglecting important survival skills, but that's my problem and not yours. 
 --Erin Palette, "Hangin' with Oleg, part 3"

Erin posted that last night, as the second paragraph of a long post on her hunting trip with Oleg. I've been struggling with how best to answer it, as someone who's pretty passionate about hunting.

My first reaction is that this is a statement not many are willing to make. It's a very honest self-appraisal. It's not a criticism of hunters, or hunting as a sport or means of providing. I don't see someone who says, "No, I can't kill an animal," as a wuss, weakling, or vegetarian.

Most of us are brought up in a culture that insulates us from death. Death is something that happens in hospitals. Clean, sterile, quiet. Here; gone. Meat and death aren't related. Intellectually, we all know that the bacon cheeseburger (with extra bacon) that we're eating used to be a cow and a pig... but the process from barn to plate is often a pretty large grey area.

Hunting falls in that grey area. Looking through your sights at a living animal and pulling the trigger isn't easy. Some people don't want to do it - and that's fine. (Until they tell me that I shouldn't either; that's an entirely separate argument.) My parents aren't hunters - but they seem to enjoy hearing about my hunts. I don't Disney-fy my time in the woods for them, but I also don't give the same detail I might to a fellow hunter.

Parents version: It was a nice afternoon, occasional snow, etc, chipmunks, squirrels, deer came by, took a shot, hit her, she ran a ways, tracked her, nice size doe. (Fill in with adjectives and further descriptors of your choosing.)
Hunter version: It was a nice afternoon. Few flakes, not much breeze. Fucking chipmunks and squirrels were all OVER the place and I was tempted to just blast a few of them, but a spike and a couple doe came out of the brush right at sunset. I picked the biggest doe and waited for her to turn, took the shot... she hunched up right around it and started running, so I watched... she ran down that little swale to the east, and I lost sight of her in the thick shit at the end. Waited 15 or 20, then climbed down and started tracking. Good blood trail right away, nice pink frothy blood, followed it into that thick stuff and there she was. She was still breathing a little so I put one more in to finish her, then dressed her out and dragged her in...

Non-hunters don't care about the kind of blood trail I found, or how she reacted to the shot, or the fact that I made a finishing shot. Not sharing that information is done out of respect - but if someone asks, I'll happily explain it in detail.

So no, you aren't a wuss... and choose not to be a hunter. That's OK.

(My opinions of this semi-canned hunt are fodder for another post; stay tuned.)


Andi said...

IMO, this is what "should" happen with ANY type of activity (e.g. pistol shooting, gourmet cooking, etc.) that you describe to someone who does the same activity versus others who do not participate.

When someone makes their belief / feeling known, I don't have all the information they are working with, and so I try not to judge. I may ask questions so I gain some understanding and perspective; I only ask that they do the same for me and my activity.

I have never hunted; I don't know if / when that will change, but I have always been a proponent of trying something at least once so I "get" how it works / feels. Sure, there are exceptions to that (I can NOT get myself to work up the courage to try skydiving), and I think that is why I can appreciate and not judge others when they make a choice to not do something.

mhaithaca said...

Your parents may not be interested in the pink frothy blood trail, but I find it a valuable piece of the story. While I've neither hunted nor fished in many years, I'm glad other people do, and I'm very comfortable with my understanding that some of our food comes from someone's willingness to kill an animal.

agirlandhergun said...

I have had similar feelings as Erin in the past. I am pretty eager, as you know, to hunt. I have no idea how I will handle it, I am determined to try.

Old NFO said...

Good post and good points. Except 'my' mother would have been "What do you mean, RAN, are you 'that' bad a shot?"

Jennifer said...

Well I'm still hoping for a good hunting story that ends with meat. Please do continue to share your stories.
It was not so long ago that I felt a lot like Erin. Now I want every detail in the hopes that I will learn something.

ZerCool said...

Andie: if you ever want to, you're welcome to join. And jumping out of a perfectly good airplane doesn't make sense, period.

MHA: I'll share as many details as you care to hear.

AGirl: I have a sneaking suspicion you're going to be hooked.

NFO: Yes, I am that bad a shot, and deer are too damn DUMB to die when they're hit.

Jennifer: Keep your fingers crossed, then. Our late season, which is muzzleloader only, closes this coming Tuesday. I'm off that day and will try to get out, but ... who knows.

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

I was where Erin is about 3 1/2 years ago.

I enjoyed target shooting but said I would never pull the trigger on an animal.

Then one day I sort-of realised that this attitude could result in me depriving myself of a skill I might one day need.

Hence my decision to start to hunt.

I enjoy hunting now both for food and for vermin control. Having spent time on farms and seeing the damage that feral animals can do has really opened my eyes to the need to eradicate them.

I do enjoy the challenge of hunting and the fresh meat that results.

cybrus said...

I'm still working on a way to get up there for a hunting season. End of November just has a way of getting eaten alive by work.

Is there another time of year that has a worthwhile season?

I, too, have never hunted and only in the last five years or so have gotten interested. Much like Julie, I want to know what is involved with transferring an animal from hoof/wing to plate. Not only so I have the skill in case I need it, but so that I truly understand what is involved.

Good luck on that last day!

ZerCool said...

Cybrus: deer season actually runs from early October to the middle of December, depending upon the implement(s) you choose to use. Bow season starts in October (and one can use a bow through all three seasons), gun season starts the third Saturday of November and runs for three weeks, and muzzleloader/late bow starts the day after gun season and is about ten days.

As far as OTHER seasons, spring turkey can be a hell of a lot of fun but is often more frustrating than deer. (I've been hunting gobblers for seven years and yet to bag one.)

Furbearers aren't much for eating but can be hunted pretty much all winter.

Rabbits and squirrels are in-season all winter... waterfowl are on/off through the winter and it can be a lot of fun. I'd be happy to take a day or two to wander the farm and thump bunnies most anytime.