Thursday, September 1, 2011
When I was a child, I spent many hours alone in the woods stalking deer, pheasants, squirrels, quail, and other animals with a camera, sometimes with only my memory to enjoy the sights. On these journeys I would find wild fruits, nuts, berries, roots, mushrooms and other edible plants. Occasionally I would stalk frogs with a 22, a friend of ours made great frog leg fritters. Sometimes my older brothers and I would go fishing and bring back bass, pike, salmon and perch for our consumption. These experiences were the most cherished of my childhood, being one with nature, in the outdoors. As I grew older, the passion for the outdoors did not wane, but blossomed into the wonder of life, the appreciation for habitats and wildlife. I took endless hikes with cameras, or guns, hunting, stalking for the perfect picture, or the fresh meat from an animal that has lived wild and free. It was a spiritual and wholesome experience to hunt animals without taint of chemical hormones or abuse of body or spirit. Always the hunt was with respect and a quick nearly instant kill, unlike the slow deaths most animals experience in nature.
It is a kindness for an animal in the wild to have a quick death, for those who don't believe this, they know nothing of death in nature. Wheather by disease, accidents, age or predators, death in the wild is never quick or easy. It was an honor and a priviledge to be a part of the natural cycle, to be a kinder link in the natural order. An honor I still revere to this day. This has always been what it means to hunt for me.
Not everyone who hunts is out for trophies! It so angers me to have all hunters classified as wanton killers without care for the animals they hunt or the land that they hunt on! If it was that simple, it wouldn't be called "hunting" it would be called "killing". Hunting is as much about learning everything about the animal you hunt as it is about finding the appropriate animal for your hunting purpose. In order to find the right animal, each hunter examines the reason they hunt. Especially trophy hunters need to pay attention to tracks, scat, scrapes, trails, and spend endless hours watching each animal to determine the one they want moreso than those who hunt for food. They must learn the habitat of their intended prey, where they feed, where they drink, their migration patterns, what their flight patterns are when startled. Each hunter learns these things, spends hours a day studying them, tracking them, enjoying being outdoors and one with nature. It is the natural order of things, and a spiritual awakening to the love of nature and the laws of survival. It is a confirmation of humanity's place in the world, and I encourage everyone to at least make the attempt whether you prefer to hunt with a gun or a camera. The experience and knowledge gained is invaluable. Those who criticize are least likely to have been face to face with a noble stag, admiring its beauty and grace, almost brought to tears by its magnificence. They have never felt the spirit of the animal, the wildness within, the respect and love of nature, the gratitude that such a magnificient animal lived at all. I pity them as they sit in their artificial world, eating food gathered at their grocery store without ever having soiled their hands, unknowing what life really means.
Some do not know that hunters are the number one source of money used for wildlife and habitat conservation! The monies spent on license fees, tags and registries even after the cut the government takes far outweigh any contributions from any organization, and are put to direct use by the US Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources! You know where your money is being spent when you buy a hunting or fishing license. When you donate to a wildlife charity, you would be surprised how little of your money actually goes towards conservation of wildlife or habitat! Not only do the monies spent on license fees help preserve natural habitats and species, many hunters and fishermen buy and preserve lands, donate money and time to conservation efforts, and donate to help feed the hungry with the fruit of their labor.
No one I know of that hunts legally hunts simply for trophies. The meat is always used whether it goes to feed the hungry (hunters for the hungry programs), or is put on their own dinner table. Most hunters revere their prey as much as they revere nature and the outdoors.