random realization

"Hunters in the Snow" by Pieter Bruegel

So - the other day I had a random thought while jogging - I need to go hunting.

Never, in my life have I ever gone hunting. I mean, this isn't that surprising of a confession. Aside from the fact that I'm from deer hunting heaven rural Southern Ohio and my mom came from a long line of bow hunters back in Eastern Pennsylvania, I've never been offered and I've never turned down an opportunity to kill something. In fact, my stance on people owning and shooting guns for sport or safety is about as vague and wishy washy as my stance on killing bambi. Quite literally, I am undecided. I can see the merits and I can see the problems. So, until I first hand have an experience in either aspect... I'll forever ride the fence.

This revelation and goal doesn't just stem from not having ever hunted. Actually, it delves deeper. I do not count myself as a blood thirsty carnivore no more than I consider myself a veggie loving hippy. I've had stints in my life where I lived mainly as a vegetarian aside from the occasional burger night... but then I found that I really needed to add more protein in my diet and I can only eat so many peanut butter sandwiches. When I lived with my folks back in Ohio, I tried to introduce more veggie friendly meals to get my parents out of the meat and potato rut. New to them, was the idea of salads as a main course and not just a first course. As well, currently always stocked in my fridge is an ample supply of garden burgers, boca burgers, and quorn products. But honestly, I do love bacon, pulled pork sandwiches, sausage, blue cheese burgers and tasty steaks sprinkled with cracked pepper and sea salt thrown on the grill. Honestly, I think if I am going to be fine with eating meat, than I should be fine with killing it too. I should be able to come face to face with my food and thank it for the nutrients it provides me with. If I can grow veggies in my garden, I should be able to shoot my own deer or down a cow and have it provide for me as well. I want to have a greater appreciation for the food I eat. I want the footprint I make to be smaller. I want the relationship I have with my food be more than just picking up a styrofoam tray of ground chuck at the store and grilling it up.

I remember once in high school I went to this summer camp in West Virginia and sat and talked with a kid from a nearby county. We were having spaghetti that evening for dinner and he had mentioned that it was the first time he'd ever even spaghetti that wasn't made with venison. "Venison as in deer meat" I asked? "Yeah" he confirmed and then went on to explain all the ways that his family used deer they hunted to feed and provide for his family. Incredible were all the meals that they were able to fix using venison as the main ingredient. At that time, I thought it was silly and sad that his family only ate what they could kill and grow, but in my later years I've come to appreciate that sensibility more.

It's not about killing something for game, it's not about mounting some animals head on my wall... it's about really being self sufficient and having an appreciation for the animal, much like Native Americans and those cultures and societies where a cow can really feed a village and help people survive. About having an appreciation for the process, for the skill, the shooting, the skinning, the cleaning, the smoking, the storing, the cooking, etc. As well, hunting for food and materials you intend on using to provide for you and your family is an example of self sufficiency and sustainability in one of its greatest, truest and oldest forms. And, when you kill an animal, lets say a cow on your farm... you will take better care of that cow to make sure he is fed the best food money can buy and lives a healthy and happy life. Because, after all... he will be entering your food chain shortly. I would rather eat a cow that I knew had a happy and healthy life than one who was confined to a small cage in a factory. Same with fish, I will not eat farmed fish. I'm not a fisher... but I avoid buying or ordering a fish that had been farmed.

And, if I ever do get out there in some field with a perfect spot on some game and find that I just can't pull the trigger, then I'll know that I really just shouldn't be eating it either.


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