Why Do You Hunt?

“Why do you hunt,” he asked, or more like accused. “The deer belong to everyone and you shouldn’t be shooting them.” He was making a statement with a question mark placed at the end of his sentence. Why do you hunt? The answers are simple and complicated.

It’s a valid question even coming from a man who couldn’t answer my question. “Why do you eat animals that have been treated cruelly in factory farms?” He blinked. blink blink. blink. blink. He was flustered, then embarrassed, and then angry with me for embarrassing him. That wasn’t my intent. I wanted him to think and show the same personal responsibility he was asking me to step into.

I’m not a purist now but I used to be. We do occasionally eat factory farmed meat when we go out to eat or are invited to have supper in friends’ homes. I wasn’t poking sticks at him. I wanted him to think about why he eats the way he does. I pointed out that regardless of who pulls the trigger, he’s responsible for the deaths of animals. Whether I do it or he has someone do it for him, dead is dead. We’re given two Thanksgiving turkeys (even though we raise our own) and Christmas and Easter hams from factory farms.

I’m sure he’s given my question some thought. Mission accomplished. It’s a big question. Why do you hunt? This piece was originally written in the old blog in 2012. I’m not asked that question often in 2016 but it came up again this morning. Why do you hunt? Nothing has changed since I wrote this four years ago.

  1. I am a meat eater. That’s not going to change. I make no excuses for and have no need to justify being a meat eater.
  2. Personal responsibility. We raise chickens, ducks and turkeys. We used to raise a steer and pigs each year. We having laying hens, both chicken and duck, for eggs. I won’t touch a factory farmed egg. Having humanely raised and slaughtered meat matters to me. I love partridge, venison, moose, bear and caribou. Hunting is as normal to me as having a garden to provide our own vegetables.I accept responsibility for the deaths I cause. Vegetarians and vegans cause animal deaths, and most I know accept that as a necessary part of eating. Fawns left in fields by their mothers are killed by heavy equipment harvesting plants. Rabbits, birds, mice, deer, moose and other animals are killed for the sake of growing plants. There are so many moose in Aroostook County, an area that produces potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other commodity crops, that there’s a special hunt to control the population and protect crops.
  3. Ethics. I don’t want to support factory farming. The thought of an animal as intelligent as a pig being raised inside, on concrete, crammed in a cage too small to turn around in, without seeing sunshine or blue sky, breaks my heart.
  4. I want to know what I’m eating. I don’t want artificial hormones, unnecessary antibiotics to make a bird grow faster (the industry answer to not using hormones in poultry), or necessary antibiotics to keep animals “healthy” in poor living conditions.
  5. I love being part of nature. Yes, I can do that without hunting, and I do. I am more a part of nature, the food chain, by hunting.
  6. I am creating a new family tradition: women who hunt. I’m the first woman to hunt in my family. My sister Tammy has followed in my footsteps and sister Melissa might, too. My daughter Taylor will hunt. I don’t think Kristin, my oldest daughter, will hunt but she’s supportive of what I do.
  7. I love a challenge. Finding a track, following it through the woods or down the road, losing it, finding it again, listening for movement or blows–it’s a challenge. Becoming a good shot with rifles and shotguns is a challenge. It takes practice. Maintaining marksmanship is a challenge. I’ve conquered my fear of heights by climbing ladders into various tree stands.
  8. Exercise. Put on boots, long johns, warm pants, cotton shirt, insulated turtleneck, shirt, hunting coat, required fluorescent vest if your coat isn’t hunter orange, and required orange hat. Carry a rifle (I most often use my Browning BAR .308 with scope) that weighs 6.75 pounds, add the weight of the scope. Walk up, down and across ridges looking for signs. Climb over and crawl under downed trees (safely of course). Do that for six hours. It beats driving to a gym to run nowhere on a treadmill. I reserve the treadmill for winter when the weather doesn’t allow outdoor activities. Still wondering? Why do you hunt?
  9. Education. Have I ever gotten an education. I’ve learned sounds, appearance, habits and habitat of the animals and birds I hunt and those that are around when I’m hunting. I’m positive I know more about the moose that walks the path to the right of a field I hunt in, crosses behind me, and walks in the woods on the left side of the field most of the 118 yard length of the field before going back into the woods than most people know about the cow they’ll be eating for supper tonight. Did you know doe deer will rise up on their back legs and box each other? The sound of crashing hooves is amazing. Shrews follow the same path under the tree stand I most often use when bear hunting.
  10. Hunters and other outdoors men and women who buy licenses, permits and stamps to hunt contribute to 95% of the budget for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife that doesn’t come from taxes. IF&W is mostly funded by outdoorsmen and women, not our taxes. We financially support wildlife conservation, game wardens who work to keep the wildlife safer and uphold laws, forestry, research and more. Seventy-five percent of Maine’s research and regional management biologists’ salaries and operating costs are paid for by Pittman-Robertson dollars. Why do you hunt? There are ten reasons. Here’s another.
  11. Population control. Nature will indeed take care of itself if we don’t hunt. Over population will be controlled by an increase in starvation, predators and disease. Nature will provide a balance but it won’t be “humane.” Wildlife doesn’t usually fall into a peaceful slumber, never to wake again, at the end of its life. We take our pets to the vet to be put down so they don’t suffer yet folks don’t want that kind of humanity for wildlife. A quick death by bullet or arrow, or even one that takes a few hours, is better than days, weeks or months of suffering. Death by starvation in winter because there are more deer than there is food is a horrible way to go. I think it’s far more humane to kill some of the animals quickly and make good use of the meat than it is to have them suffer.  I wouldn’t feel right being in the grocery store, or even pulling a grass fed, small farm, and humanely raised pot roast out of the freezer, knowing the deer are suffering because some people decided hunting is wrong.

They aren’t simple answers. And now I’m asking you. If you do, why do you hunt?