My 5 year old is a huge fan of the “Wild Kratts”, the modern day equivalent of, Marty Stouffers “Wild America”, when I was growing up. It is children’s television programming with everything a kid could want to know about nature and wild animals. My son is encyclopedic regarding their 11 seasons worth of animal information. Unfortunately the Wild Kratts show rarely show an animal being caught and eaten by a predator, giving a skewed perception of nature and they are cartons but I still prefer it to most of the children’s programming available.
Surely as a response from this show my son asked me the other day “if you love animals why do you hunt them?” It is a common question non-hunters have asked me in casual conversation over the years. I never really gave it much thought nor an answer, mostly leaving it at “you wouldn’t understand”. But I am obligated to answer my son as honestly and fully as possible and I think my initial response still captured much of the drive for me.
There are many ways to experience nature but for the most part they can be divided into two teams passive and active. Passive observation sees, hears, smells and perhaps even touches nature and but it doesn’t alter you nor you it. It creates fun memories and soothes the soul and I do more than my fair share of observing. But, at least for me active, conscious interaction, being a part of nature, is what drives me.
Getting nourishment from the land, literally sustaining myself, the lands produce becoming part of me even if only in a miniscule amount compared to my total caloric intake, connects me to the environment at a deeper level, a spiritual level. Hunting plants and mushrooms, known to most as foraging, can be an adventurous and challenging hunt ending with some of the best food available anywhere. Wild plants and fungi are often many times more nutritious and medicinal that the domesticated counter parts in the store. However they are stationary and when available seasonally, with a little knowledge and some leg work they are easy to obtain.
Hunting an animal is a greater prize because it has the same senses, often much better senses than humans, and to come out on top of that match, once in a long while, with local organic meat is the grandest of these pursuits and has been for two hundred thousand plus years.
This interaction not only connects me to the physical environment but to a not so long ago time in that environment when life depended exclusively on a mastery of those wild landscapes to survive.
And finally, I would be a liar if I were to say antlers etc. don’t impress me. I have my fair share of “trophies”. I will offer my thoughts on trophy hunting soon in a dedicated post but for now I will say only that antlers aren’t what make me do the things I do, they are a once every couple of years acquisition for me. They are a consolation prize. They are the reminder of a gift not of a conquest and I do treasure them.