Why do you hunt? It’s a question I’m often asked. I sometimes give a well rehearsed, detailed explanation of why I hunt. Other times, when I know there’s nothing “right” I can say to the person asking, I give a brief answer. I’d rather not get into a heated discussion about hunting but will if I think the person is going to listen and be fair.
The questions seldom come from vegetarians and vegans. It’s usually meat eaters who are asking, and usually women. They understand that cows die for their hamburger and steak but eating a wild animal seems cruel. “Can you help me wrap my head around this,” one woman asked.
A man accused me of being cruel and horrible for hunting beautiful deer. He was having pot roast for supper. I happen to think cows are pretty. I asked how he could eat that roast knowing how it was raised. He didn’t understand.
I’m not a purist now but I used to be. We do occasionally eat factory farmed meat. We’re given two Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas and Easter hams from factory farms. If we depended upon meat I put on the table we’d be limited to chicken, duck and turkey that I can raise here at home. I hunt, not tag. I haven’t killed anything other than partridge. I’m a new hunter but I can do it given the opportunity.
I wasn’t poking sticks at him. I wanted him to think about why he eats the way he does if I was supposed to do the same. I pointed out that regardless of who pulls the trigger, he’s responsible for the deaths of animals. Whether I do it or he has someone do it for him, dead is dead.
I’m sure he’s given my question some thought. That’s good enough for me.
So why do I hunt?
- I am a meat eater.
- Personal responsibility for food. We raise chickens, ducks and turkeys. We used to raise a steer and pigs each year. We having laying hens, both chicken and duck, for eggs. Having humanely raised and slaughtered meat matters to me. I love partridge, venison, moose, bear and caribou. Hunting is as normal to me as having a garden to provide our own vegetables.
- I don’t want to support factory farming. The thought of an animal as intelligent as a pig being raised inside, on concrete, crammed in a cage too small to turn around in, without seeing sunshine or blue sky, breaks my heart.
- I want to know what I’m eating. I don’t want artificial hormones, unnecessary antibiotics to make a bird grow faster (the industry answer to not using hormones in poultry), or necessary antibiotics to keep animals “healthy” in poor living conditions.
- I love being part of nature. Yes, I can do that without hunting, and I do. I am more a part of nature by hunting.
- I am creating a new family tradition: women who hunt. I’m the first woman to hunt in my family. My daughter Taylor will hunt. I don’t think Kristin, my oldest daughter, will hunt but she’s supportive of what I do. My step-mom Donna hunts.
- I love a challenge. Finding a track, following it through the woods or down the road, losing it, finding it again, listening for movement or blows–it’s a challenge. Becoming a good shot with rifles and shotguns is a challenge. It takes practice. I’ve conquered my fear of heights by climbing ladders into various tree stands.
- Exercise. Put on boots, long johns, warm pants, cotton shirt, insulated turtleneck, shirt, hunting coat, required fluorescent vest if your coat isn’t hunter orange, and required orange hat. Carry a rifle (I most often use my Browning BAR .308 with scope) that weighs 6.75 pounds, add the weight of the scope. Walk up, down and across ridges looking for signs. Climb over and crawl under downed trees (safely of course). Do that for six or eight hours.
- Education. Have I ever gotten an education. I’ve learned sounds, appearance, habits and habitat of the animals and birds I hunt and those that are around when I’m hunting. I’m positive I know more about the moose that walks the path to the right of a field I hunt in, crosses behind me, and walks in the woods on the left side of the field most of the 118 yard length of the field before going back into the woods than most people know about the cow they’ll be eating for supper tonight. Did you know doe deer will rise up on their back legs and box each other? The sound of crashing hooves is pretty cool. Shrews follow the same path under the tree stand I most often use when bear hunting. Snowshoe hares like cupcakes from bait barrels. I’ve learned a lot about wildlife.
I love to hunt. Bear season is open and I’ll be in a stand on Thursday. I hunt partridge and deer. We don’t have a fall turkey season in my district but I’ve been invited to hunt on a friend’s land in another district. I think I’ll take him up on it.