MemberSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
Hi all, I want to keep this as respectful as I can because I truly do want to understand. I am not a hunter. I’m a vegan hippy animal lover natureloving treehugging conservationist birdwatcher. I need some things explained that I do not understand.
It is clear to me that (most) hunters possess a deep love for nature. It also seems to me that when a person like me goes into the woods, we are there to experience the same kind of serenity and connection to nature that a hunter is there for. I am guessing that hunters enjoy sitting in silence and observing wildlife just as much as a nonhunter does. Hunting culture is depicted by serene images of calm streams, glorifying the majesty of the animal kingdom.
I do understand that hunters claim to be part of the natural balance of population control for certain animals by culling them. I understand that certain species are protected and illegal to be hunted specifically because there aren’t enough of them, they are threatened, or in decline. There are certain things that hunters don’t seem to have much control over – for instance, the annual snow goose massacre doesn’t seem to be making the slightest dent, and it’s hilarious to me that we have two completely separate masses of people trekking to remote locations to either 1) watch the migration in awe, or 2) spray bullets into the sky making it rain goose blood.
What I don’t understand is what happens right before a hunter pulls the trigger. I might understand it better if I hadn’t stopped eating meat of course – that seems to be the primary reason for hunting. I made a pact with myself to never kill – this was my choice entirely, and I do not seek to impose my choice on anyone else. But I do want to understand.
I have never killed anything. In my early 20s I thought it might be fun to head out with my dudebros and go stab a pig on my friend’s farm, then clean and eat it. We never did it. It was just this crazy idea that we started rambling about while drinking. Sort of wide-eyed and wondering about what it’s like to kill. I fished with my grandfather as a kid. He nailed a catfish to a tree and skinned it while it screamed bloody murder. Not my bag, apparently.
I suspect FOOD is the biggest reason for harvesting an animal, though I also understand leathercraft and fur useage to be of benefit. However, as someone who made a no-kill pact, I’ve spent many years finding plentiful alternative methods of feeding and clothing myself, so that’s off the table for me.
Secondly, I suspect that TRADITION is probably the second biggest reason for hunting. All our forefathers did it, and that’s what we’ll do too. There’s a connection to history, there, like drinking aged whiskey around a campfire. It’s just what we’ve always done, it’s rich with culture, so why do anything different.
The common ground I am seeking is the obvious love and respect for nature. That seems to be universal among hunters and non-hunters. We are out there to defend Earth and the natural order of things. We both love being outside all day, hearing storm clouds roll in, weathering a storm, etc. And we both seem to love animals. We share a reverence for their existence. I know there are outliers and hunters who are just disrespectful asshats, but I’ve seen my fair share of flea market nature-art, hats, shirts, wood sculptures, etc, and it’s obvious we’re all mostly in it for the same thing.
I just need to know what happens the moment before you pull the trigger. Did you work it all out beforehand? Have you identified as a hunter and there’s no more thought by that point? And then, how do you decide what to kill? I spend days and nights in nature and I see wildlife constantly.
Anyway, just rambling. We gotta work together so we might as well understand eachother – seeking to strengthen the common ground.
Patient_One7590GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
I respect you for asking the question and as a hunter I respect you’re love for the outdoors as well. We’re all public land owners as long as there are public lands available for all types of sport and recreation. In regards to your question there are a lot of different answers across the board. For me, really the only thing I’m thinking about before pulling the trigger is that I hope I do not wound and lose the animal. Bad shots can happen and injured animals can go on and never be retrieved. I would imagine some hunters are just excited to shoot something with nice antlers to bring home, some maybe it’s just food, others it could be for the love of the sport (if you choose to call it a sport). I would be willing to bet money however that after the fact, and once the animal is retrieved whether it be a duck or goose or a giant 6 point bull elk, there is almost always appreciation and respect for the animal and it’s life. Hunters are not all bad, and we know what we’re doing. A lot get emotional when taking an animal. I think if you know hunters that are a little older or have been hunting since a young age you should ask them to see what they say.
n_bumpoGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
You should watch “ stars in the sky” On Netflix it’s a documentary by Steve Rinella a world famous Hunter that has a TV show and a YouTube channel called “meat eater” that explains very well the ethics of hunting with interviews with hunters and non-hunters. This might help you understand a little better someone can be a conservationist, Love nature and be able to take the life of an animal.
Rest_PreviousGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
I’d be lying if I told you I had to have a deep self evaluation before each time I pull the trigger. Tbh it’s more about what I feel after the trigger than before. A sense of anxiety about my shot placement then relief when I know it’s a good one. Followed by “did that just happen?” Then excitement as I walk up to whatever I’ve just shot. After I recover whatever it is I’ve killed I’m grateful. To the animal for giving me food, for letting me match wits with him, and for being successful on the hunt. This year I filled both my turkey tags and each time I was shaking uncontrollably afterwards not in a bad way but from that mix of adrenaline and joy. Hunting is hard and takes a lot of effort and there’s a pride in knowing I’m able to go out in the woods and kill something who’s whole goal in life is to just make it to the next day. I’ve not gotten to the point where I’m sad but I do have a deep reverence for the animals I kill because they just amaze me at how well they can elude me and whatever else it is trying to make a meal out of them. As for what to kill I don’t rely on hunting for all my meat. I hunt turkey and waterfowl because I can call to them and fool them into coming to me. In a way they hunt for the source of sounds they hear and that’s just cool as all get out to me. I like how they taste but I won’t turn down a ribeye for either. It’s another reason to be outside and the money I spend to chase them goes back to preserving habitat through Pittman-Robertson and license fees. Hope that helps but it’s a hard thing for people to grasp. It’s something you have to experience first hand to really understand.
Icarus9414GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
For myself, I experience fairly intense anxiety prior to pulling the trigger. To respect the animal, its life should be taken as quickly as possible and a lot of factors can influence shot placement. Many times you have a surprisingly small window of opportunity to harvest an animal. There are a lot of factors under my control that will influence the success of hunting prior to the start of that season such as sighting in equipment and lots and lots of practice. Consistently working on the mechanics of shooting makes it second nature eventually which really helps calm the nerves. After pulling the trigger, I often have a feeling of relief that it is all over but almost a feeling like dread that I did something that I can never take back. The one thing I can’t describe about hunting is the connectedness you have to the animal you harvest after the hunt is over and is processed into food that sustains me throughout the year.
seanb7878GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m totally cool with your life choices regarding meat. It’s not for me as I enjoy eating meat, and won’t be changing any time soon. If I’m going to eat it, it doesn’t bother me to kill it. It’s part of the natural cycle of things. When I was 12 and shot my first deer, I struggled with pulling the trigger, but that’s mostly gone now. I shoot one or two deer per year, and pass up shots on dozens.
I also consider myself a nature loving, birdwatching tree hugger, conservationist. I however, put my time and money where my mouth is. A ton of money from licenses and taxes paid on sporting equipment go to directly fund wildlife. I also plant acresof fields and trees to directly benefit wildlife. What does the average person who doesn’t hunt, tangibly do to help wildlife?
Food is a big reason that I hunt, as well as comradery. My main drive is that I love the challenge of it. Mature deer are very smart, and matching wits with one, drives me to work year round to improve habitat and hone my archery skills, and scout the mountains in pursuit of all things wild.
Just seeing all manner of animals is when I’m happiest. But seeing a mature buck is what my dreams are made of. I see tons of deer, but in a great year I get a glimpse of one or two mature target animals. Those moments are beyond precious, whether I come close to getting a shot or not. So when I do get a shot at a mature animal, my only thought is “ don’t blow this opportunity “. The hundreds of hours of prep work that went into that chance could be wasted. It does happen, where I miss, for whatever reason, and it absolutely haunts me. It’s just part of the deal.
Everyone has different motivations, some I may agree with, some not. But that’s kind of what makes this country great. We don’t have to agree 100% of the time.
Mango-BobGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
First, I’d like to say thanks for writing out in such detail and thoughtful ways your thoughts, questions, and experiences.
Secondly, I’ll answer your last question first.
The reverence for life in all its forms is something that I hold closely guarded. I’m one to take ants outside, spare spiders, and relocate most everything that’s not a detriment to: (a) a crop that I grow, or (b) a vector for disease like ticks and such.
I am wracked by the philosophical problem of evil, be it natural, or human-caused. I’ve read philosophy for years and take a strong issue with suffering in all its forms. Truly, it sets me back each time I witness wonton suffering for lack of a rational causal circumstance. Even then, hell, I can’t rationalize it within my philosophical framework. It sucks no matter how you cut it.
I am a meat eater. I haven’t come to terms with the above mentioned suffering clause, but I suppose it’s part of who I am, biologically.
I do everything I can to avoid “factory-style” meats. I try to source from ethical farmers locally, and I try to abstain from the mass produced poultry and such.
I can rationalize taking an animals life by the following. Meat is part of my biological nature>I choose to eat meat>if I choose to eat meat, that meat should remove as much suffering as possible from the system>ethical hunting is as suffering-less as it can be given the choice to eat meat.
I am deeply solemn when and if I take an animal’s life. I will do everything I can to ensure the quality of habitat, ensure the management of open wild spaces, and ensure that I am acting and behaving as a conservator, steward, and ambassador for animals and land.
With the rapid decline in habitat, human-driven climate perturbations, massive consumptions of fossil fuels by industry, transportation, and energy, and massive power structures that promulgate bad conservation for all life, I find that my $4.50 permit for outdoor use, $30.00 fee for overhead and management, and whatever else price I pay, helps fight against the decline.
I only harvest animals that I eat. And even then, do so out of the deepest respect for what their death provides as a choice to avoid all the other problems of food sovereignty.
I’d hang out with people like you all day. We’d probably find a mutual path to defend our natural resources together, is my bet.
[deleted]GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
it_is_impossibleGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
I’m a first year hunter. Participating in this pastime has brought me closer to the natural world and built my love and respect for it more than a lifetime of fishing, wilderness camping, hiking, and kayaking. It’s made me (effort to) relearn trees, plants, biology, all the local game, and many non-game animals and their habits and try to examine how and why nature interacts with itself the ways it does.
I think it’s a mistake to presume food is the primary goal for the majority of hunters. I can only truly speak for myself, but the impression I get is that for most people it’s a strong mix of spending quality time with people you love, which either starts from or turns into tradition, enjoyment of and escape into the natural world, and food is a welcome and wonderful, even perhaps necessary, byproduct.
For myself, I wanted exercise. I wanted to get out of my apartment after starting a home business and being swallowed alive by it for years on end. I desperately wanted meat for myself, but perhaps as much I wanted quality, healthy, wild meat for my dog who’s allergic to most commercial foods.
I’m also highly disturbed by meat processes through our human AND dog food-chains. And yes, though as yet I’ve had little opportunity I do look forward to making homemade rawhides for my dog, and since I was young I’ve always wanted to process and tan animal hides.
By the time I see the animal (so far for me just rabbits, but I’m targeting deer, possibly furbearers, and probably some upland or migratory birds as opportunities present themselves either this year or next) I’ve already worked so hard for it… my first rabbit took me 6 or 7 trips driving an hour each way out and back and hiking a cumulative 15-20 miles… so the vision has already been had, if the animal is legal and something I’m after, if the shot is safe, if the creature is of size, the only thing prior to trigger pull is focus on mechanics – breathing, aiming, footing, distance approximation etc.
The moment after is making sure the animal doesn’t suffer unnecessarily. The moments after that is making sure I harvest and preserve it well (while also making sure it’s not diseased).
I wasn’t sure after my first rabbit kill. It felt amazing immediately after, I’d worked so hard for it. Studied. Prepared. Sweated and literally paid. But when it was so warm to the touch, I’d never felt that. And, it was beautiful to me (see my only Reddit post).
I wasn’t sure about butchering it, if I’d done things right if it would be good to eat, so many questions persisted. But, ultimately, I followed through with my plans and when it got about 2/3rds done cooking and the scent filled my apartment, it smelled better than anything I’d cooked in a long time (and I like to fancy myself a decent cook). It tasted incredible. I shared it with my dog and she went bananas over it.
Since then I’ve gotten around 35 more now and she gets the majority. We live alone, so she lets me go hunting and she gets the rabbits. It’s a good deal I think. I have 22ish quart bags of shredded rabbit meat in my freezer, she gets a little most every day and every day gets excited at the mention of rabbit.
I could not have imagined how badly I needed to get out, walk land I’d have never seen (that would be illegal for me to walk on if not hunting in many cases), discover so many things I never knew about the “boring” part of Kansas I live in – the microclimates, the abundance of tiny (and many large) wildflowers, the pleasure of learning animal tracks and sign and getting lost in fields of 5ft tall grass. It’s restored me as a person.
And, while the fall brings many opportunities and more seasons (hunting seasons), I’ll be sad in many ways to have to share the land again. Summer hunting isn’t popular so all spring and summer I’ve had every place I’ve been functionally to myself, only hearing a couple shots all year but never seeing anyone else hunting.
And, while I have been target shooting off and on since childhood, I never cared to learn too much I just liked mindlessly shooting and if the target went “ding” I was just happy. Now though, it matters what type of projectile I fire when, and why, and precisely where, and my OCD brain goes ping ping ping like an old time cash register with all the numbers, data tables, and variable management involved with shooting at and around living beings.
One last thing, it’s worth remembering (or learning), that in the US every gun purchased (even handguns), every bullet sold, even target loads (which generally are not used for ethical hunting) provides money for conservation at the state and federal level. Basic overview here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittman–Robertson_Federal_Aid_in_Wildlife_Restoration_Act I paste that, because even unethical hunters contribute to conservation efforts as prioritized by state and federal biologists.
Without the annual revenue created by hunting and firearms, there would be little to no game wildlife remaining today in much of the United States because there would be no little to no funding for wildlife departments or projects. People say they care, they feel like they care, but hunters pay with every trip we take whether it’s to a gun range, or whether we miss and go home empty handed.
That’s probably more than my $0.02 but that’s my steaming hot take anyway.
(Edited couple typos)
One last note, I remember on my first wildlife area hunts looking into these trees and telling my dad later “they need to burn that place down once in awhile – it’d be IMPOSSIBLE to get through that mess” … a few weeks later I’d gotten into the habit of saying “I’m doing it – I’ll go where I want” and not letting any tree limbs, vines, plants, or obstruction stop me and one day after miles hiking through dense woods I happened to pop out into the field I was walking in where I first thought it was impossible to pass. Just that type of experience has taught me new ways to mentally take what I want. To not give up. Sounds corny, but it’s been a life lesson at age 42.
TaurusPTPewGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
Love your perspective and your respect. I hunt, and at times, I have had deer in my sights and couldn’t pull the trigger. Other times, it’s just a thing.
I always say thank you to the animal. I know it wants to stay alive as much as I do and I understand/feel that. That’s what’s stopped me from shooting, mostly because I was close enough to be looking in their eyes. So, yeah, I’m conflicted. I’m always grateful and in some manner, I feel like I have provided for my family. I don’t hunt for antlers. I hunt for meat. If the meat had nice antlers great, but I prefer does.
How that helps at least a little.
Cstripling87GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
The thrill of the hunt is all those great things you’ve mentioned and so much more. It’s learning your prey. Advocating for the protection and conservation of game and wildlife. Being outsmarted. Becoming proficient in your skills; shooting, tracking etc. The moment of the trigger pull is intense, hoping everything you’ve worked for comes together to harvest your game clean and ethnically as possible. As someone who hunts for clean, lean, organic meat I thank them for their sacrifice everytime.
RandoCalrissian11GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
The others have answered well, so I won’t attempt, but I wanted to say I appreciate the respect.
There are assholes on both ends of the spectrum, but like you said, most of us have more common ground than you think.
Look into the (unbiased) info regarding African Big Game hunting and how hunting actually protects and grows animal populations in Africa. Even the “Trophy” hunting. Hunting is the number one anti poaching tool.
PsychowitzGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
The best explanation I can give you is that you see life in front of you. These guys in here are talking about respecting an animal and I feel it should be further explained.
That animal has a life of finding it’s next meal to live another day. And these animals don’t have the same healthcare and privilege as we do to have food safely just a short drive to Walmart. A bug can kill them and a twisted ankle can get them killed. So when these guys talk about respecting an animal, they want to kill it as quickly and painlessly, yet safely for themselves, as possible. Not many of us can harm an animal without feeling badly and the ones that can are usually older and more experienced in hunting but it’s not out of malice; it’s out of a deep understanding that this is the cycle of life.
So when the animal is in the scope and your finger’s on the trigger, you see this animal’s life in front of you. It’s very anxiety-inducing, because a shot too far from your spot can totally put that animal up for a slow an agonizing death. This animal’s fought day after day to survive for as long as it has; they were never meant to grow old and die of old age. Something some day, they’ll be killed and be eaten by another animal.
It fills our freezers and our bellies for a few months, we can remember the strength and courage we had to muster by mounting it’s antlers on our wall. It could have been a very hard task, mentally and emotionally, for the hunter. It’s always a hard thing for me to do, because I’m a huge animal lover too.
Respectfully, I challenge you. Go with a buddy who hunts and ask to borrow a rifle. You don’t need to load it; I actually don’t want you to. Just see what he sees and imagine actually hunting. Because I genuinely wish for you to experience this, but I honor your views. My words don’t really do it justice.
Hunting is a very profound and bold feeling. You walk away with a hard, but very good feeling. I’ve only ever cried tears of joy once, but I’ll never forget it. The experience is very similar, at least for me.
SecretlyBiPolarGuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
Hey OP, long time Hunter married to a vegetarian who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
I have read a few comments and have to agree with some points, but first two stories to (hopefully) help you get in the mind of a hunter.
When I was a teenager I was anxious to shoot my first deer. What if I made a bad shot? What if the animal ran off and I never recovered it and it died a slow painful death? What if everything goes right but then I realize I somehow messed up? I grew up farming, I loved the animals and we treated them very well. Eventually, though, the animals died in one way or another and it was always a mixed bag of emotions, I assumed hunting would be the same.
Just before dark I start making the long walk back to the farm. I hadn’t seen anything and didn’t expect to. As I walked I saw a doe pop out (at this time we had to shoot a doe before we could shoot a buck). I pulled up and let muscle memory take over. The shot cracked off and the doe dropped instantly.
I was on disbelief. As I got to her she seemed smaller than when I first saw her at a distance. I felt this sense of guilt for shooting her, but I also felt proud of taking a clean, ethical shot. I haven’t thought about this in almost time.
Last November I took my sister hunting. She shot at her first ever deer and it ran off. Immediately I saw the dread on her face. She starts to almost tear up as she thought she had messed up the shot.
Long story short the shot was off and she had to finish the job. I offered to do it for her, but she took my revolver, hesitated, then placed a perfect shot and the buck was dead. She kind of looked defeated. As her older brother and someone who loves her to pieces, it broke my heart.
She said she was appreciative of getting the deer and the meat, but she felt bad the deer had to suffer. We talked about how many deer die in much worse ways, but I ended by telling her the honest truth.
As hunters we don’t relish the kill. We love the time in nature, we love the adrenaline rush and anticipation of a shot, but the actual killing isn’t great. I’ve almost lost count of the critters I’ve taken over the years, but I always feel a deep appreciation for the critter. I took its life. It will also feed my family, help control population, and my license will fund conservation.
I guess what I am getting at is I always have this moment after the kill, when I get to the animal, where I thank it for what it’s given to me. I appreciate it for giving me a good hunt, great memories, and food to get through the year. Everything before and down the road is great. It’s just that immediate moment after. That act, and the moments that follow it are the only differences from us hunters and OP. Otherwise, we all share a love for nature, animals, and the connective experience of being out in the greatest places this earth has to offer.
Sorry for rambling OP, this probably didn’t help. I hope you find your answers.
Riflemaiden1992GuestSeptember 16, 2021 at 12:27 am
Hunting to me feels very natural. As in “this is what I’m supposed to do and how I fit in the order of things.” It goes very deep inside of me, like a hardwired instinct. You may observe a that a cat is drawn to a certain toy and the cat hunts that toy, but if he could speak, then he couldn’t really explain why: It’s simply what he does.
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