I have had mixed feelings about hunting for quite some time. I have found that most people are either 1. morally against the concept of hunting and oppose it, 2. Didn't grow up hunting and don't understand the appeal but don't care that some people do, or 3. have grown up in a hunting family and they love hunting. Those who do love hunting almost always want a bigger buck. They are looking for a trophy. This year was my second time hunting but the first time that I've ever shot an animal. There seem to be very few people that want to learn how to hunt an animal and preserve its hide/meat and are truly concerned with the life of an animal. In my perception, most hunters are looking for the thrill of the kill and a trophy.
This year I decided to go hunting and I thought that it might possibly be the last time I would go. I felt like I don't exactly fit in with the hunting crowd and I don't really thrive off of killing. Now that I have actually experienced killing and dressing a deer I feel like I have learned quite a bit about the experience and also about myself. I probably will hunt again but I don't feel the drive to hunt as much as I possibly can.
I have decided that hunting can be a very wholesome activity if done in a respectful attitude. Many people say that there is no need to hunt since we get all the food we need from the store. I think that humans have an innate drive to hunt. It is an instinct that is engrained into our systems. There is probably a good reason that we have this instinct. It is a survival instinct. Just because times have changed and our methods of retrieving food for our families has changed doesn't mean that we should ignore our instincts. They are there for a reason and I believe it is good to understand them. In doing so we can come to understand ourselves as a species. I also believe that when we just buy meat from the supermarket it really is more difficult to think of the meat as a life given and thus more difficult to be truly thankful for it.
I wanted to share a few things about my experience that made an impression on me.
1. I did not experience what people call "buck fever". People often get so excited when they see a buck that their heart rate rises, they shake and have a rush of adrenaline. When I found the deer that I wanted to shoot I became more calm than ever. I focused on the deer and blocked out all other stimuli. I don't even remember if I was sitting or standing when I shot the deer. My hands were very steady and my heart rate seemed to slow down to allow me a better shot. I believe that this is because I am not concerned with the trophy and I have not obsessed with hunting. It may also be linked to my Native American roots. Or... maybe I'm just weird. :)
2. I felt bad for the deer when I saw it dead but I was relieved that it died on the spot with minimal suffering. Seeing the deer that I had killed allowed me to make a personal connection with the animal that gave it's life for me and will allow me to feed my family. Because of these personal feelings I will be more cautious about not wasting the meat. I will have a greater appreciation for the food that it provides and I will think of this deer and its sacrifice every time I eat the venison.
3. There is A TON of work involved after the deer has been shot. We had to carry the deer down a rugged trail for a couple of miles. It was heavy and difficult to maneuver since the sun went down as we were leaving the kill site. There was a lot of work involved with skinning and butchering the deer as well. Again, all of this allowed me to have a personal connection with the animal and the meat that it provides. It becomes more than just a slab of meat that I bought at the supermarket. The more you are personally involved, the more you will appreciate the food value.
4. I will try to make use of everything I can. I know that it is impossible for me to make use of every part but I've made a substantial effort to reduce waste. I don't plan to throw away the hide, and I am working on tanning itto make something useful out of it. (hopefully some warm winter moccasins!) The same goes with the antlers. I don't plan on using them as a trophy but rather using them for either knife handles or jewelry, etc. Something useful can be done with them.
5. As I did research on tanning the hide I found some interesting things. On a site created by the Montana Native American Council they urged hunters to show respect by not shooting the first buck that is seen. They say that if you only see one buck then chances are there are very few in the area and it should live. They suggested leaving something for the deer's cousins (ie. corn, or salt lick) but to be careful that you don't get in trouble for bating. Lastly they suggested using as much of the animal as possible. As I continued to research the tanning process I found that the best way to tan a hide is to use the animal's brain. It sounds gross, but it's possibly the oldest method of tanning a hide and also the best. The leather becomes much softer, it has a longer life, and it is waterproof (big plus for winter boots). Almost every animal has just enough brains to tan it's own hide. To me that was a sign that animals are for the use of man but that we should not waste them. That is why I decided to use the brian tanning method. Gross? Heck yes, but I feel better about using it! Getting the brain out was the worst part.
I have come to believe that animals were place on earth for the prudent use of man. Unfortunately many hunters abuse that privilege and hunt for the thrill and trophy. I believe that killing an animal for those reasons is evil and not according to the will of God. Each creature is unique and has more value in its life than for the entertainment of men. Those who do hunt for the proper reasons know exactly where their meat comes from and what the real value is. Most people buy meat from the store without a second thought about the life that was sacrificed for that food. After my hunting experience I will never eat meat again without thinking about the life that it once had. I will continue to eat meat sparingly but I will always have a greater appreciation for meat.