Sunday, November 13, 2005

Almost Rifle Season

It's almost rifle season for deer hunting in Upstate NY. About 3 years ago I got this intense desire to hunt whitetailed deer. I have no idea why. The thought had never occurred to me, but it became a persistent thought that wouldn't go away.

As an animal lover, a former vegetarian and member of PETA, and as a mild mannered middle-aged mom and librarian, this seemed completely out of character for me. I didn't grow up in a hunting family, and I didn't know anyone who hunted. I was afraid of guns. Yet I couldn't shake this feeling that this was something I was supposed to do. I feel the earth speaks to me sometimes, and in this case, it was something I couldn't ignore.

When you get to your mid-30's a weird thing happens. It's like these buried parts of yourself you didn't even know you had come to the surface, and you can accept them. Maybe you just realize that life is ephemeral and you might as well enjoy whatever weird thing it is you really like, no matter what anyone else thinks about it.

I started reading about it and became even more obsessed. I went to a workshop called "Becoming an Outdoors Woman", and fired a rifle for the first time. I was a good shot. They gave me a little pin as a award for being the best shooter. They called it "the Annie Oakley Award". It said: "Girls with guns have more fun". LOL.

I learned how to gut a deer. None of the other women who signed up for that part wanted to do it, so I did it. I was surprised that I wasn't shocked or upset by it, but I didn't like the smell!

I learned about the natural history of deer, their habits, ways to track them. I'm still learning that.

I bought a Ruger .243 and joined a hunting club. I practiced despite being intimidated by the old guys there who seem to think I'm a curiosity and stand behind me while I'm shooting with their arms folded, just staring. I need to practice more, though. Being able to shoot from the bench is very different from shooting in the field, offhand, kneeling, sitting or lying down.

I bought hunting clothing that I only wear once a year. I wash it with special soap and hang it out in a tree to dry.

I take time off from work for this. But not as much as I wish I could! :-)

I love it. I still haven't actually shot a deer, but I will. Maybe this will be the year. There is a lot more I want to write about this, but I'll save it for another post.

One thing I was to say is: the hours I've spent deer hunting have been some of the happiest of my life. The way I feel alone in the woods, just observing, smelling, listening... it's a kind of alive like no other.

I will try to share some of this with you guys over the next month or so.

31 Comments:

Blogger L. Sparrow said...

Beautiful Blog!

"these buried parts of yourself you didn't even know you had come to the surface, and you can accept them" ...

So glad you stated that ... just what I needed to hear ... that eveyone else goes through it as well!

Peace and Blessings
Lil Sparrow.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Nova said...

You are so right about that weird thing that happens in your 30s and the buried parts of yourself coming to surface. How interesting too that one of the things that came to surface for you was deer hunting and quite ironic that you're a PETA member. But we must be true to ourselves and just do what we feel, regardless of what others may think.

I can't wait to read more of your hunting adventures.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks guys!

Nova: I'm sorry I guess I didn't express that well, I was trying to say I was a *former* vegetarian and a *former* PETA member. That was in my 20's. My thoughts about human/animal relationships have obviously changed a lot since those days. :-)

7:13 AM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I agree with some of the other posters.

Life is all about growing, discovering, uncovering and disguarding. There will be even more to be revealed to you.

If you are the KM who has been sending me such beautiful emails, thank you so much. And I am humbled by your kind words of wisdom and comfort on my blog.
Blessings.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

K, you're such a neat gal. It reminds me: one of these days I have to show you a picture of my little sister shooting skeet with Will's grandfather. Will comes from a family that seems to split evenly between nerds and men of action. Will turned out to be half nerd, half man of action. His uncle, who I think is a forest ranger in Colorado or something, apparently goes elk hunting once a year and feeds his whole family all winter on elk—elk steaks, elk stews, elk sausages, elk jerky, you name it. I don't know why, but that just tickles me. It's so Little House on the Prairie. I remember one of my favorite sections in the Little House books was when her daddy shoots a bear who was threatening them, and then they salt and preserve this bear and live on it. Bear! Either it eats you, or you eat it!

Do you eat the deer you shoot? I can't imagine you wouldn't. You seem a hardy, wild-game eating kind of woman. ;)

12:27 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hi Barbara, yes, that's me! :-) Sorry you are going through such a hard time lately. I am keeping you in my thoughts.

T- Thank you! :-) Yes! of course, the point of this for me is to get some venison for my family. Deer: the ultimate free range meat! :-)

The side benefit is that I get to spend lots of time alone in the woods, which I love. I also have learned so many interesting things by doing this and even if I never shoot a deer, I will go every year I can and enjoy it so much. I also think of it as a spiritual practice, in a way. Sorry if that sounds hokey! :-)

12:32 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

BTW, bear meat is really delicious. But I can't see myself shooting a bear, somehow.

12:38 PM  
Blogger glamkitty99 said...

Hark, I hear a deer nibbling at a bush, the sunlight streaming through the branches. Bang. Now it's dead.

You know I love you...

5:54 PM  
Blogger Meegan said...

I don't want to be a downer, but this really bothers me. I can't imagine feeling the desire to kill another creature. And you know I like YOU, so this is not a personal attack. I hope I don't offend you by posting this.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Well, I knew there would be some dissenters! LOL.

Glamkitty is my best friend, and a vegetarian and she always busts on me about this (as you can see). While she's kidding, I think it might actually bother her.

My grandmother, a nature lover, is also appalled.

So Meegan, I totally understand and I don't hold it against you at all.

It's hard to explain, but I'll try. Basically, I feel that if I'm going to eat meat (which I do) then I should feel comfortable in killing the animal myself, in the most humane manner possible. Also, if I were to be eaten by another animal, I would prefer that I at least got to live as natural a life as possible before the moment of my death.

I think what bothers people most about hunting is the implication that we humans are animals too. I think it's not the cruelty aspect so much as it is the idea that humans are superior and should behave better than animals. We are civilized and should know better. Yet most of us in the US continue to eat meat. Isn't that hypocritical? Esp since that meat comes from factory farms?

Is it wrong for a wolf pack hunt and kill a deer? Is it better to buy the dead animal already wrapped in plastic in the supermarket, knowing that animal lived a miserable life on a factory farm?

I'm not bothered by the fact that humans are animals, and have been sucessful predators for thousands of years. We are part of the food chain. If I am hunting and I'm killed by a cougar or something, that's the breaks. :-) If not, somethign will get me, eventually. A virus? A heart attack? Either way, I'll someday return to the earth. I find that comforting.

I feel that predator part of me, not as something brutal and cruel, but as part of my humanity. I don't disrespect the prey at all. In fact, I think deer are fascinating and very beautiful animals. But I must live, and in this world, it seems that to live other living things must die. Plant or animal. I also believe that plants are sentient. I like to be connected to my own food. I grow a garden, and when i can't grow my own food, I try to buy it from local farmers at the farmer's market. I don't know why this is so important to me, but it is.

It's actually much harder to kill a deer in the woods than you might think. A gun with a scope makes it look a lot easier, but the reason I use a gun is because I think I have a better chance of a clean, quick kill with it than I would with a bow and arrows. The deer really has the superior technology: far superior hearing, smell, the ability to melt into the forest silently. They aren't dumb either.

To track a deer quietly, to be able to anticipate it's habits and guess what it might do next is a skill that takes a time and patience. By practicing this I gain a perspective on the world I couldn't have otherwise.

I know I prob haven't convinced you, but I hope maybe just showed another perspective?

7:58 PM  
Blogger Blog writer said...

at first i thought hunting was heartless... tehn i gave it some thought... we eat meat anyway....so we are killing animals anyway.... just coz we aint killin 'em on our own doesnt mean we aint eating the killed animal... *s|gH* i s'pose being omnivores, we do our share of killing...but its killing for sport that worries me... some ppl in my country just kill for sport and not bother abt the dead animal/bird... ir they dont really eat it... that's what i dislike... taking a life just out of a whim... i wonder if i'm getting my point across... hmmm... nevermind :-/

enjoyed your blog :)

11:41 PM  
Blogger Meegan said...

Hi Kate,

Thanks for such a thoughtful and nice response (although I didn't expect anything less than that from you!).

I agree 100% with you that it's better to live in the wild than to be raised as food in terrible conditions in a factory. In fact, in a way I wish everyone had to hunt for their own meat because then we would have a lot more vegetarians around (can you tell that I am one?).

I don't know. I know that there are hunters near my parents' house who put salt licks (I think?) on trees, which attracts the deer and provides them with an easy target. This seems so unfair and cruel to me, and I simply don't see the fun in killing another being.

I know you have given a lot of thought to this, which I really respect. Thanks again for your response; although I have never understood (and probably never will) the desire for hunting, you have given me a lot to think about, and I thank you for that!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thank you for being willing to see another point of view Meegan! :-)

As for the salt licks, that's illegal in NY state and I imagine in other states too. I agree, it is unfair, I would never do that.

8:19 AM  
Blogger cjblue said...

Well. See what happens when I don't read your blog for a while? :D

I don't eat meat, but I eat eggs and dairy and fish and I wear leather. I am a study in contradictions. I don't eat meat because I don't like the industry, not because it's another living thing. I now have a dog (as you know) and she eats meaty dog food - same industry.

Yet still the idea of shooting a deer just feels wrong to me. They're sure not in danger of becoming extinct, I could probably walk into my backyard and shoot a couple. Just, I guess the way you feel a need to do it, I'd feel a need not to.

DH grew up on a cattle ranch and went hunting with his dad a couple of times. They shot a deer once and that was the last time he ever wanted to go. It didn't sit right with him either and yet he raised beef cattle.

Can't exactly explain these feelings, but like you, we have to go with them. You're brave to post, knowing and expecting negative feedback and explaining yourself very well. All your reasons are good ones, but it's not something I personally have any desire to do.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

What a a great post Kate.
You described your passion for this in such an interesting way.
I'm not a hunter but was raised in a hunting family and got to learn to shoot guns when I was young. My husband hunts but doesn't really care if he gets anything. He likes that 'communing' thing you describe!
Best wishes for this season.
Laura

1:22 PM  
Blogger pack of 2 said...

Hi Kate!

I just dropped by to say hello!

Shelly

3:41 PM  
Blogger glamkitty99 said...

It's me again. I loved the down low you gave on why you hunt. I think wanting to be in charge of what you put into your body and how it gets to be there admirable. And...since I know what a kind-heaterd person you are, I see your desire to go out into the woods on a freezing November day more of a communing with nature thing rather than a "Let's get me some deer meat." kind of thing. Perhaps you could persuade me to come along with you. Of course I'd have to bring my cymbils...

4:42 PM  
Blogger ticharu said...

I get a simular feeling hunting wild turnips! They're wiley and fast (for a root crop) ya gotta creep up on 'em real slow so as not to spook 'em... then blast away! :) :) :)

5:47 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

You go Kate, I have years of vegetarianism then like three months ago I started to eat meat once in awhile, I feel better knowing my venison lived a natural life also, but know I am soon to return to my vegetarian ways,,, I just feel better, physically and mentally about it all, but respect persons who will do as you and experience a 'kill' so they know first hand what it means. Growing up in the country you can't help but have had the facts of life layed bare to you early, as I had. Now, going back to full vegetarian again I find that part of it for me is that it is my choice, if others do differently whom am i to judge. Our relationship to our 'food' is strange here in America, we try to sanitize everything, and to this day I wish everyone would do as you have done, then decide where they stand, it does make a difference. Great post, if I ever get my Cabin in the woods, I might need to brush up on certain things long left behind,,, such as picking up the rifle,,, think I could hit you up for pointers!!!

9:53 PM  
Anonymous ChristinaH. said...

I think deer are beautiful but when they become so over populated and ridden with lyme disease, I start to see them more like a rodent that is out of control. I don't know how many mangled deer I have seen dead on I95 going towards D.C. My husband saw a deer jump out in the middle of traffic at about 5:30A.M. A car hit and the person died. They are generally very beautiful but I believe that their overpopulation is due to the fact that their natural population control group also known as the wolf,has been demonized and over hunted. So, ultimately, I hope you get a few just for population control.

2:03 PM  
Blogger ODD said...

I think it's interesting, your post and the way you wrote it was/is brilliant.
And quite brave too, especialy putting the thoughts you had, into practice.
Thanks for sharing it.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Jonniker said...

More proof and evidence of why you are one of the coolest people I know. I love how in touch you are with yourself, what you like, and what you need. May we all get it together to that degree! xxoo

2:07 PM  
Blogger katiedid said...

The idea of hunting just chills me. But I come from a family of hunters, and I can honestly say I sure do respect those who involve themselves with the death process of the animal a whole lot more than those who only ever eat meat in a sanitized grocery store fashion. I can't pretend to understand the motivation, but then, others don't understand mine for not eating animals. To each their own, and to each their own pursuits of happiness :)

4:28 PM  
Blogger Sticky Keys said...

Hey lady! It's so funny that you wrote this because I work at Cabelas now and all I talk to are hunters and the such.

It is a calming experience I've heard.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Meegan said...

Hey Kate,
I thought you'd get a kick out of this. I just received a gift from a friend, which is a t-shirt that says "Too Cute To Shoot" with a picture of a deer on it. I immediately thought of you -- how random!

4:19 PM  
Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Coming of age in your middle age, yes I can feel you on this one. There's nothing wrong with following your natural instincts.

The old folks use to tell us that no one can kill anything without permission from the thing that one desire to kill. I didn’t understand it back then, but I do now. I used to hunt rabbits, but never a deer. And I was never allowed to use a gun like my brothers --- But I use to be pretty good with a bow and arrow. It’s been so long since I used one I probably won’t remember how.

You enjoy yourself and I am looking forward to reading about it. I am feeling so much better and taking it sort of slow .. but I so miss reading blogs.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kate, I moved yer link to 'Gets Legs' just cuz it's my blog and I can do that, yadda yadda, hope ya don't get frost-bite sittin' out in the woods!

7:00 AM  
Blogger ticharu said...

That was me just there...

7:01 AM  
Blogger Nova said...

Belated Happy Thanksgiving!

5:15 AM  
Blogger Trina said...

I'm one of the hypocrites who eats meat and loves it, but wants to pretend like it magically manifests itself out of thin air. I stopped eating pork for a 6 month period a few years ago - I was on my way to work and driving behind an 18 wheeler carrying pigs you-know-where. They looked so cheerful, happy to be out for a ride and enjoying the breeze, and I just started bawling. I fully intended to abstain from pork for the rest of my life, but I only lasted 6 months, before bacon pulled me back in. I eat meat, and beat myself up over it every single time.

So I *totally* understand your perspective, and applaud it. I buy (or beg for) meat from hunters, and buy free range whenever possible. But I just can't bring myself to kill. Hell, the only mercy killings I've ever been able to perform (and I've been in the situation far more times than I care to recall) have been on insects. It's why I decided not to become a vet - I just couldn't put an animal down. But I admire people who can, because they (you) do what's necessary and right.

I'll stop yammering at you now.

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I would like to see is more info on mule deer hunting and mule deer hunting. Any post you make on mule deer hunting in the future will be well received.

8:21 AM  

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