An Interview with a Hunter

Hunting is something that has pretty well horrified me since childhood.  Throughout history the entire world has subsisted on wild foods and hunting, and then agriculture.  I understand this, and I know that the taking of one life to feed a family for most of a year compared to the life of a factory farmed animal is a much more humane option.  I doubt I will ever don a rifle and go hunting, but I wanted to hear first hand from a hunter.  So, while we were out fishing, Bret answered some of my questions.

He first went pheasant hunting when he was six years old with his grandpa.  His family are avid hunters.  I asked how he felt when he first saw an animal be shot.  He didn’t think anything of it.  He had been raised around it.  This made me think about my Uncle Jim who told me stories about slaughtering pigs.  I gave him a squished up face and said I could never do that.  He said if I lived at that time I could and I would!  So Bret never really thought anything of it.

His favorite is hunting doves.  He and his friends go every September.  By the time the small birds are dressed, they are but appetizers, tiny morsels with a jalapeno tucked in and wrapped in bacon.  They are apparently quite delicious.  I have read that many homesteaders dine on blackbird and pigeon.  They are very common birds.

I asked about hunting mammals.  He shot a mouflan sheep before in Texas.  They are everywhere, he said.  I asked if he felt bad.  Again, no.  He explained to me that the vast majority of hunters are not new to guns and shooting.  They practice, they aim, the animal rarely feels any suffering at all.  If they do run, it is from adrenaline and then they drop.  Most of the time, they die immediately.

Bret is not a fan of trophy hunting.  He also feels that it is a terrible waste of meat to kill a deer just for sport.  “That is eighty pounds of natural, organic meat that can feed your family,” he said.

“Far better than factory farmed and much healthier too, I imagine,” I added.

“And it tastes better,” he said.

He told me how the Department of Wildlife has done an amazing job at increasing animal populations.  Hunters and the DOW work together for conservation.  If there are not enough deer in an area, there will be no hunting.  If there are too many (they will end up on the roads or starving), a certain amount of tags go out for that area.

I asked if he has ever gotten an elk, as he goes out hunting for his birthday every year.

“No,” he replied, “It’s really about the experience.”

“You Got to Learn Them To Eat.”

stove

He adjusted his cowboy hat as he entered the shop.  Beautifully dark skin and an easy smile shone from his slight frame.  He had come in to see the medicines.  A bit reminiscent, he was.  His grandmother was half Cherokee and she knew all the remedies and how to doctor up everyone on her place in Oklahoma.

I am not sure how we got from plants to homesteading but it was a seamless jump and his stories filled me with wonder.  He is about the same age as my friend, Rod, who was there making his jewelry and he came over to join the conversation.  Soon, I was quiet, a child, listening to tales and bits of wisdom I had yet to learn.

They grew a lot of food.  They grew corn for the pigs.  Good corn.  The cowboy talked of catching ‘coons and how good of eating they were.  A bit like bear.  Rod talked of hunting rabbits.  Nothing was wasted.  “You got to learn them to eat,” the cowboy’s grandmother said.  “They might look at you and wonder how you eat that but they are sitting there not eating.”  He told this as he explained how to use a sling shot to kill pigeons.  They are little but you just take the feathers off, and cook ’em.  They are good with dumplings.  They taste like chicken.  “Everything tastes like chicken!” Rod joked and added to the recollections.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties in the city there wasn’t much chance to “learn to eat”.  Sure, I learned to cook.  I learned thrift and such but everything we had came from the store.  Who knows what folks would have thought of us if we were out getting birds.  Or raccoons.  And I am pretty sure my mother would have avoided that like the plague.  She may never have learned to eat either!

But I think of that.  I have been writing a “how to homestead” blog for over three years now.  Almost a reenactment though.  This is how to homestead, as I eat a piece of veggie chick’n (which is quite good actually).  We had a hard time putting a hit on our roosters.  But, Doug and I were not brought up to hunt or feed our families.  Not many of the kids I know were.  I suppose if we were in dire straits, we may learn real quick, but as of right now the thought of my sheep from last summer in someone’s freezer brings me great sadness.

But I listened intently.  I am fascinated with all of the wisdom that was lost in such a short time.  The things I never learned, but I pay attention.  Doug and I hope to buy a place to homestead next year and even if we never use a sling shot to kill pigeons or if we end up with a pet raccoon instead of dinner, at least I will know how things were.  And one day we may need to learn our grandchildren to eat.