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Post by Eric
Elderberry Hill Farm
2012-01-31 12:22:08

Hunting is another way to highlight the connection between us and our food

A single coyote howled. Almost immediately two or three more joined in the song of life and death. I paused and lifted my head to listen for a moment. I knew that they wouldnít move any closer while I was still there, but nevertheless I felt a surge of adrenaline and began to work faster. Finally I finished freeing the deerís organs and stood, physically and mentally exhausted.

A few days ago I cleaned and butchered a deer for the first time. I canít claim the kill, which belongs to my friend Tim, but he encouraged me to gut it and then we processed it together. The experience, from hearing the shot to looking at all of the neatly wrapped and labelled packages of steaks, roasts, and stew meat, is still on my mind.

I didnít grow up hunting. In fact, I grew up thinking that shooting a wild animal was cruel. Why would anyone want to kill a beautiful, defenseless creature? By the time Tim told me that we had gotten his hunterís safety permit and planned to start deer hunting three years ago, my views had started to change. In place of the earlier questions, I was now thinking about eating on a larger scale. Where does our food come from? How is it raised? How does industrial agriculture affect our soil and water. The more I thought about these questions and the more I read and talked with hunters, the more I began to imagine myself becoming a hunter at some point.

Now I am. I completed the training class last spring and hunted for the first time during this deer season. Throughout several days of sitting still and quiet, I had a lot of time to ruminate about hunting. I thought about all of the good reasons to hunt: itís exciting and part of a long tradition; the meat is healthier than store-bought meat because the deer eat lots of wild plants; the deer population is too high in our area, leading to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD); hunting helps teach patience and sharp observational skills, etc... I also felt some reservations: do I really need to kill? Couldnít I just be a vegetarian? Are guns tools like a shovel and hoe, or too dangerous to justify having around? I still havenít answered these questions and donít know that I ever will, but just asking them shows me that hunting has made me a more conscious eater.

On a fundamental level, hunting connects us with our food in a way that few other experiences can. It makes us think about killing and eating. It helps us think about our relationship to the land and the other creatures that live on it. Iíve believed these sentences for a few years, but I didnít feel their truth until I heard the coyotes howl.