In a few days, I will pack my new PSE compound bow, my camo, and loads of deet and head to northeast Texas for my first guided hunt in celebration of my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday. The expected conditions at the The Wildcat Creek Hunting Resort, the mid 70s and 80s, sunny. The 1200K acres contain scrub, brush, forest and an 20-acre lake. There’s a 3D archery range, TRAP and a 1000 acres of quail. I’m going armed with a hunter safety certificate, a bowhunting safety certificate, a basic course in deer hunting from Jackson Landers, and a headful of dreams. I’ve only hunted once before, and it was, uneventful, but rewarding in its own way, good practice at being quiet. I’ve spent the last year studying food, how it makes its way to my plate and the ethics of it all. I’ve been reading and studying hunters, both sportsmen and men and women who are just feeding their families. I’ve resolved to become a hunter. According to Torvar Cerulli, I am suffering from or perhaps blessed by a condition called “Adult-Onset Hunting.” I guess it was just a natural step to take from fly fishing, where hunt and stalk sight-fishing is my just about my favorite activity in the world, to hunting larger prey for food.
Like other AOHers (that’s right I’m far from alone), I’ve experienced a variety of reactions from friends and family toward my desire to hunt, but the majority have been quite positive. I think we are living in a more enlightened age, where due to the increase in voices about the sourcing of our food, the protection of our environment, and the explosion of media, most are aware that hunting can be a very ethical, sustainable way to eat. Sure there are plenty of stereotypes, but consider this, its only been a handful of generations since the majority of our food became processed. Though early hunting turned into unreasonable farming of animals which lead to the decimation and extinction of certain animals, today, Americans are relearning how to live in balance with their environment. Its not perfect, not by a longshot, but I see myself as choosing to be on the vanguard here–to believing in this enough to take action.
I’ve field dressed a deer, but will I be able to look into the eyes of my prey and take it’s life? Catch and release fishing this is not. I want to fill my larder with organic meat that I have hunted on my own, but am I just being plonky–you know–a privileged city-dweller with sustainable eating tendencies who reads to many food blogs? I want to hunt ethically, but how ethical is it to travel hundreds of miles to shoot a hog, admittedly a pest, a very delicious pest, when there are wild hogs invading NY state? (The short answer to that one is that I’ll be hunting hogs in NY this year of course).
I’ve caught and killed and consumed fish my whole life, but never a mammal. Fish are alien, they’re not cute, and we’re not related–at least not closely. Hogs aren’t cute either, but they’re smarter than my cat, and that’s strange. I’m excited, nervous, anxious, and I feel worried–am I good enough? I know a couple of things. One, I’m going to learn, to ask lots of questions, to be guided, to practice. I know I won’t take a shot unless I’m sure I can kill the animal. I know I want to experience everything, to field dress my animal if the lodge will let me. I know I want to be a hunter, yes for the sport, but also for the meat, and the connection that hunting will bring in facing the life and death of the food I love to consume. I know that I am already thankful for the opportunity despite not yet having taken a single animal.