July 28, 2021

Why I hunt: A reluctant hunter describes a family tradition


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

I recently returned from a weekend hunting trip with my brother and father, it’s a tradition that I’ve participated in all my life which predates me by many decades. More often than I care to admit, I find myself at odds with many whom I surround myself with over the practice and very nature of hunting. I take no issue with them, I feel they posit very real and understandable objections and to an extent I happen to agree with them if not in practice then in principle.

There is nothing wrong with abstaining from the practice of hunting or even in eating of meat all-together, however, I find myself in stark contrast behaviorally and psychologically with those who do. I’d like to present my experience and perhaps a mutual understanding could be reached by those who happen to disagree with me.

I eat meat, I am by all means an omnivore, I see my inherited biology and can’t help but notice the sharp fangs my primitive ape ancestors utilized so much more effectively than I could ever. I notice the enzyme’s and digestive methods my physiology makes use of so effectively in the mastication and digestion of food products both leafy as well as animal based.

I look forward to the drive out, packed uncomfortably into the cab of a truck, my knees in my chest as I squeeze my 30 year-old frame into the same middle seat my 9 year-old one once found so welcoming. The drive into the mountains as I look out the windshield into the stands of quakin’ aspen and chuckle to myself as I read the hand-carved signatures on the scarred trunks I’ve committed to memory. Setting up camp goes on the same way year after year, tents are erected, a fire is started and the truck begins to empty, methodically as ritualistic as any religious rite.

This year I crawled out of the tent well before dawn, gathering my gear and walking the quarter mile or so to the top of the hallow to await the sun, something I’ve down many many times. I stood at the top of this mountain valley and gazed out on a sight I know only a few thousand people had ever seen and felt like I was taking the rarest of opportunities that nature can provide. I was a guest in their world now and felt overcome with gratitude as I watched the sun rise over the Rockies while nature went about it’s morning, just as it had long before my species emerged from Africa tens of thousands of years ago.

Walking through stands of trees, alone, the only person on the entire planet seeing what I was seeing at that moment. I lock eyes with dozens of different deer or elk as we size each other up. Sometimes these experiences end with a kill, sometimes they don’t, but I am always amazed at the experience. I hate killing things, plain and simple. I experience remorse and regret every singly time I pull a trigger. There are no high-fives, no whoops or raucous exclamations, just remorse and above all gratitude. I have my own personal habits after a kill, I often find myself petting the animal, even talking to it. I always apologize and thank it, as strange and hypocritical as that seems.

But my justification for hunting lies, not in one or two arguments, but in the reality of the experience as a whole. Like I said, I eat meat, I’m an omnivore and when it comes down to it, I would rather eat the meat of an animal which lived a real life, was killed as humanely as possible and was treated with the respect and skill I was taught by my father and grandfather.

This year’s hunt ended in my brother-in-law’s father’s shed as I processed his first-ever deer and passed on the skills and techniques taught to me by my father. Being able to share this experience in any way is as enriching an experience as one could have anywhere. Perhaps that’s just what the world needs right now.

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