Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Hunter's Heart

(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.


Hilary said...

Kat, I'm 59, and it took until I was about 55 when I first began to understand what you express so eloquently here. Almost thought for thought.. I understand the mindset of a hunter far more than I ever chose to consider about before. I love animals. I love nature and I had a difficult time reconciling that with the act of hunting. But I've kept a more open mind in the past few years, and can accept what you say here as truth.

Like you, it's not in me to even consider hunting. But unlike you, the thought of eating deer doesn't sit well with me. They come to my back door. I just can't go there. But I do know that the hunter is not the evil killer that I once believed. And that their love for nature is powerful.

This is an important post for many to read. Either for validation or for a new understanding. Thank you.

Kat said...

Thank you, Hilary. That really means a lot to me.
It is difficult for me to think about eating any animal. It is almost harder for me to think about eating cows or lambs than deer or rabbits. I think because I know the nuisance and damage they can cause to farmers (and we have so many farmers around here that ask my husband to hunt on their land). But deer are such beautiful creatures. I wouldn't want to be the one to pull the trigger.
Anyway, I really appreciate your comment. Thank you.

Riahli said...

Well said! I could never be a hunter, but I respect people who hunt as you described. I think it's way better to hunt or raise your own meat for sure! Or buy locally from farmers who raise their animals humanly and clean, hopefully even grass feed/organic/hormone free. Hunting it yourself assures you of these things! I think everyone should be more aware of where their meat comes from and appreciate the life that was given up in order for them to eat it. Instead of just going to the store and pretending it was never an animal in the first place. My husband fishes and feels the same way about nature and conservation. It's his zen as well, he will be out there from morning until night if he can. :) Not my thing, I've tried but I get so anxious to be doing something, I'm not good at just waiting… not very zen I guess. ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to him! As you probably guess, this family hunts. well, I don't, but I appreciate the meat and the tradition and yes, hunters love the woods and the land, they are among the best conservationists.

Bijoux said...

It's not for me (I can't even eat fresh eggs...not kidding, too gamey for me), but to each his own!

That's weird that folks would question it and ask why you don't just buy your meat at the store! Ask them why they grow their own tomatoes, zucchini, etc.

Mom24 said...

Congrats Joey! Great job. Very eloquent Kat.

betty said...

Of course the first thing I do is go and look at the picture. Good for you Joey!

I think you expressed this very well, Kat. I didn't grow up among hunters or really in an area where hunting was prevalent (Southern California; I don't even know if people hunt here). I remember when we moved to Montana it was very much prevalent there. The first few times I saw deer in the back of someone's pick up truck kind of took me by surprise.

I had a friend up there in Montana whose husband was into hunting, she was not, but he taught his son. He told him you do not kill anything just for fun, you kill it because you are going to eat it. The son killed a squirrel one time. The father had him eat it. The son never shot another squirrel.


Tabor said...

My Dad was a hunter and an independent voter, so politics in reality has little to do with hunting. Hubby was an avid hunter until in his 40s when he didn't like the killing as much. I totally agree with you that people try to pigeon hole groups---protestors, hunters, environmentalists, veterans. They are all honest people with good ideas and valid reasons for their actions and beliefs. So glad your son is being raised with such balance.

Anita said...

There are so many situations in life where people are at opposite ends regarding their opinions; and this is definitely one of them. I have learned to respect people's differences if not harmful - though, what is harmful is a matter of opinion, too. People change in the course of a lifetime. There are issues that I was strongly against at one time, and a decade or two later, not so much. The dialogue, however, must continue, for that is how we attempt to get an understanding of things/people of which we are not familiar. Kudos to you for writing this post!

joeh said...

I like to fish, but could never bring myself to hunt.

I do think that when prepared right and especially the good cuts, venison is delicious.

Well deserved POTW

Kat said...

Riahli- We do a lot of fishing too. We are mostly catch and release (occasionally we will keep some perch for dinner). The kids like it that way. So do I. ;) Fishing is a very peaceful activity. The kids love it.

Unknown said...

This is SO well articulated, Kat! And I can relate a lot since I was raised by a hunter and my parents' families had to hunt to survive. They both grew up on farms so they ate the meat from some of the animals they raised but also meat from those they killed while hunting.

I'm so proud that Todd is so respectful and that he is teaching your children the same. :)

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson