(Caution: There is a sensitive hunting picture at the end of this post.)
I know many people don't understand hunting. I know the negative connotation that comes with it. I know there are a few hunters out there (kill for sport types) that give the rest of the hunters a bad name.
Having grown up around hunters, and marrying into a hunting family as well, I know what really lies in a hunter's heart.
True hunters are conservationists. They take care of the land, tend the land. They make sure the land is healthy and the animals in it thriving because they know how delicate an ecosystem can be.
When I am describing hunters to someone who is not familiar with the way of life I often bring up the American Indians. They were the ultimate hunters and yet they worshiped the land and the animals in it. The land and animals were sacred to them. True hunters are the same way.
My whole family is full of animal lovers. And hunters as well. I have spoken with many people who are opposed to hunting and they just can't understand how a person can be both, but it is true. I have so many memories of my father saving baby birds or squirrels or a baby deer. I know Todd and his father have always done the same. I love seeing videos of hunters saving animals in a river or caught in a trap. True hunters appreciate animals and nature and want to see them thrive. Population numbers are carefully watched (and also regulated by the DNR who only give out so many hunting tags per season according to the numbers) to ensure the species remains strong.
It is not easy to kill an animal. Todd has told me numerous times that the older he gets the more he appreciates the animal's sacrifice and it makes him teary eyed every time. The animal's life is a gift to us and we are thankful. It is not taken lightly.
Many people say we should just go to the store and buy our meat like everyone else. But I feel that now, more than ever because of all the hormones and fillers in meat, hunting is a healthier way to eat. Last year Todd did not get a deer and we definitely missed that meat.
For Todd hunting is his zen. He can get up at 4:30 in the morning when it is still dark, climb up in his tree stand, and sit there all day until it is dark once again. He listens to the wind sifting through the leaves, he watches the raccoon and turkeys pass by underneath him, he silently chuckles as the chickadees and gray jays get closer and closer to him, checking him out. He is happy seeing the mother doe with her fawn and watches the young yearling scamper by him, unaware of his presence above them. He is content to let them pass. He feels one with nature. Just sitting. Even if he doesn't see a deer all day he comes home with a lightness to him and a calm smile on his face.
Hunting is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation as well. Skills, information, stories are all transferred to the up and coming hunters. It is a father/son bonding (although in my family it isn't just sons, there are many, MANY mothers and daughters that are skilled hunters as well). Father passes on information and skills to his son (or daughter) that he received from his father who received that same information from his father as well. It is a history.
This past weekend Joey and Todd packed up the truck and went up north for the youth hunt (an opportunity for kids to hunt with an adult). This is Joey's second year participating and though he didn't see any deer last year he had such a great time that he knew he wanted to go again.
This year Joey saw a deer.
The first thing Joey did was pray over the deer and thank God for the animal. I could not be any prouder.
Hunting is not for everyone. I don't feel the need to try it. I like shooting guns but the only thing I could shoot an animal with is my camera. I wouldn't want to be a hunter, but I'm thankful for the hunters in my life. I'm thankful that they know the responsibility they have in being a hunter and that they take it seriously. I'm thankful Todd is the type of outdoorsman and hunter who can show our children the respect, responsibility, and gratitude nature deserves. And I'm thankful that my son is now yet another example to me of a grateful and respectful hunter's heart.