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Confessions Of A First Time Hunter. And You Might Not Like Me After This.

I’ve seriously debated on whether or not to share this with you. Frankly, because I fear that you won’t like me after it. But in the spirit of honesty and transparency, I’ve decided to share it nonetheless. It is a part of my life. It did happen. And it has raised a ton of questions for me.

This weekend, I went pheasant hunting. For the first time.

The drive from the lodge to the field was about 30 minutes long. I sat in the front seat of the van with Mark, our host, to my left, and 5 other women in the seats behind me. Some of them seasoned hunters, some of them first timers, like me. I looked out the window as the scenery passed by. Fields for miles and miles. Nothing but shades of yellows and big blue skies above. Some mountains in the far distance. I was quiet. Contemplative.

The time had come, where I was to put my money where my mouth was, literally. I paid for this trip a long time ago. And at the time of purchase I was sick to my stomach. So curious about hunting, as I had been for a couple years at least, but spiritually conflicted.

“Who am I to end the life of any living being?” and “Why, really, do I want to do this?”

But yet, my pull towards the “pay now” button was strong. I knew I’d have a few months to really decide if I could (or wanted to) go through with it. So I bought the ticket, and a few months later, here I was, turning down a dirt road, where at the end of it, was our hunting guides, Lori and Jim and their hunting dogs.

My heart started to pound. It had been awhile since I’d shot a shotgun. I’d never hunted before. And was still conflicted.

After some instruction, we started walking out into the fields.

I wasn’t planning on going in the first round, but was handed the shotgun for a picture before we began, and so it was in my hands.

The plan was to be two girls at a time. The dogs would run out into the fields ahead of us and sniff out a pheasant. When they found one, they’d “point” which meant that they’d stop and intently stare at the bird quietly with their tail in the air. When a dog would point, we were to walk slowly past the dog, and wait for the bird to flush, and at that point, shoot.

The first two girls to go had been hunting before. And so two points in, were two birds down. Immediately after that, one of the dogs pointed again, and since I was holding the gun still from the picture, it was my turn. I was ill prepared. Still not sure about this whole thing. But I walked passed the dog and the bird flushed. Blood pumping and shaking hands, I lifted the gun up and shot twice, and missed both times. A bit relieved, I handed the gun over to the next girl, who proceeded to follow a bird for the next hour.

I felt a bit off the hook. I had a lot of time to think about if I wanted to try again, and for the most part, I decided I didn’t want to. But I realized a couple things played into this. It wasn’t JUST that I was conflicted about hunting, but also that I was afraid I wasn’t any good at it and that I was embarrassed by that. I missed the first two times.

I was asked a few times if I wanted to go again and I turned it down. And as I sat there, in my head the whole time, I realized that it was now or never. I had set out to try hunting because I was curious. Curious about where my food comes from. The culture of being connected to nature and my food in that way. To be a part of the entire cycle of my food. And to take some responsibility for the fact that I eat meat…to have an awareness of what it really means. I was here, with the unique opportunity to learn to hunt from people who had done it before, in an environment that was safe and community driven. A bunch of women supporting and routing each other on. Providing hugs when needed and encouragement and laughter when things got a bit heavy.

And so at the last minute, I accepted the invitation to try again, for the last set of birds. I walked up, decided. And as soon as the first bird flew, I shot. And got it. A complete mix of emotions filled my entire body. Pride. Sadness. “What did I just do”-ness. Adrenaline. And as the next two birds came out, I shot again. Hits, both times. And I felt the same thing. Completely mixed. As the birds were being brought in, I started to tear up. I looked in their eyes and couldn’t believe what I had done. But at the same time, felt proud of it. It was the weirdest mix of emotions I’d ever felt.

So I leaned down, and thanked the birds. And petted their feathers.

The drive back to the lodge went by fast. I knew that when we got there, the chef was going to teach us how to breast the birds. And I was up for the challenge. I knew that if I was to hunt a bird, I would be the one to prepare it and eat it. And so I did. This part of it was perhaps the least weird part, which surprised me. The breasts of meat looked just like chicken meat I had bought millions of times from the grocery store. But this time, I was involved in the whole process. I carefully and intently cut the breast off the bone. I prepared the meat. There was a consciousness about it that I had never experienced before.

And as I sat down to eat my bird, I was deep in thought.

So many questions were raised: Was hunting, itself, bad? If I am going to eat meat, is this a more responsible way to do it? I’ve killed a bee or a fly or an ant before, is that different than what I just did? And what about fishing? Is that more ok than hunting? Is it truly better to walk into a chain grocery store and buy a packaged piece of meat that I have no idea where it came from, what it’s life was like, how it was treated or what kinds of chemicals were pumped into it than to be the one on the other end of that gun? Right then, I didn’t think so.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. Mostly because what I think about is highly influenced by what I think other’s will think about it. It’s been hard to remove myself from the thoughts and opinions of the people I love. On both sides. From the avid hunters, to the die-hard vegans, to the life-long liberals.

All I know for me is that I set out to do something I wanted to know more about, and I did it. It terrified me. But I’m also proud of it. I did something that is not accepted in my family and in my close circle of vegan and veggie friends. I set out to learn something, and I did. I swung way out of my comfort zone and it is having me look at my life and my choices, my environment, and myself in a different way. Could I have learned these things without hunting? I don’t know.

And I’ve realized that the lesson here is to stand behind what you do, regardless of if people like it or not. This is my life, and at the end of the day, I’m the one that has to look at myself in the mirror. I hunted this weekend. Will I do it again? I’m not sure. Will I keep learning about my food and where it comes from and decide how I want to approach it from here on out? 100%

So…I’m a bit afraid to ask, but I want to know…what are your guys’ thoughts on all of this? Do you believe in hunting? Do you eat meat? I’m curious about this conversation, as I’m at the beginning of the learning curve. Leave a comment below and let’s discuss.

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62 Responses to Confessions Of A First Time Hunter. And You Might Not Like Me After This.

  1. Betty Burns says:

    This is the worst. And the best.
    – And a lot to absorb on a Friday, after the grueling workweek.

    But I will say that I love your thoughtfulness, and presence in what you do.
    When I was a kid growing up in the UK, we were pretty poor, and sometimes hunted down our [squirrel, rabbit, pheasant was a common entree] dinner in the vast forest behind our home. I learned to clean and quarter a small animal while I still was one, myself. A few years later our family “went” vegetarian, and I didn’t eat meat for the next 19 years.

    It’s all a dialogue of conscience, preference, politics and so much more… In the end I find myself most inspired by your inner dialogue and your unwavering commitment to learn, to question, and to share with all of us.

    I don’t care for guns. Hunting seems like an unfair pairing against a gentle creature out doing it’s thing in nature. But I’m not judging, and I thank you for so eloquently describing your process.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Rebecca…my dear. Thank you so much for commenting and I completely understand how you feel. Sorry for the heaviness on a Friday. I should have thought of that ahead of time :)

      I so appreciate your thoughts and opinions and story and even though it was not necessarily a pleasant post to digest, that you offered your take on it. I have thought about the “unfair pairing” too. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it all. I do know that I wanted to consciously be involved in something that I had no reality on. And who knows…perhaps I go vegetarian too. It all remains to be seen. Thank you so much for your continued love and support. Love you guys!

  2. Syndee says:

    i feel you. i get it. i still totally adore you.

    i get the whole don’t kill anything with a central nervous system thing. i don’t ”like killing things and i’ve gone through phases… veg, vegan, i was even 100% raw vegan for 2 years. but at the end of the day, my system functions best on vegetables, fruit, meat, whole grains, and some seeds, nuts, and raw dairy.

    i once wrote a punk rock song called “i’m a plant animal and animal plant.” that basically sums up my experience and philosophy as a human. if i get too brute i need more fruit. if i get too airy, gimme a steak, like now!

    humans have been hunting since the dawn of time. you just actively participated. ain’t no shame.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Miss Syndee…thank you so much for your comment and I totally respect where you’re coming from. I love the way you approach food, in that you eat in a way that your body feels best. I try to approach it that way too. I also love your punk song. :)

      You also bring up an interesting point about the history of hunting. On the one hand, it’s how our ancestors survived for thousands and thousands of years. On the other hand, I know that times have changed and it’s not a necessity to hunt, in that we can just drive down to the grocery store and buy meat. I’ve thought a lot about this too. Thanks for being a part of the discussion.

  3. I am sitting here at my desk, beaming with pride!
    Your bravery, inquisitiveness and desire to truly live are so inspiring Sally.

    I read this whole article, thinking that if I were in your shoes, I would’ve experienced a very similar set of emotions (leaning more on the side of fear than anything else).

    I too eat meat. And often have mixed feelings about where it comes from and that I’m eating it (even though 99% of the time I only eat grass fed, organic, etc., etc.).

    When I was driving up to SF last weekend and we passed “Cowschvitz” (the huge lot of cows along I-5), I wondered if I could ever be a part of the slaughter and still want to eat meat. Just passing those cows and knowing their fate makes me so sad.
    It’s something I think about a lot. And am conflicted about too.
    I know that I don’t want to give up meat. But I don’t think I would ever want to kill. It’s confusing for sure.
    But I think just opening the conversation around this is enough for us to become more conscious of what we put into our bodies and our actions on the earth.

    I don’t know that I could or would ever go hunting for so many reasons, but I do know that I’m proud as hell that you did! Not many of us will go that far to not only learn more about where our food comes from, but also about ourselves. It’s really, really admirable!

    And I totally agree – it’s your life girl – gotta live it the way you want!
    Lots of love!

    • Sallyhope says:

      Lady…thank you. I almost cried posting this, anticipating the hate mail. Perhaps it’s there, in people’s minds, but I’m so appreciative of you. Thank you for your support. I totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s such an interesting thing to think about. If we eat meat, but won’t hunt it, what does that mean? If we hunt, what does that make us? It’s all so interesting and I guess it just comes down to a personal code that we each decide to live by.

      I feel like regardless of my mixed feelings, I’m so curious about this conversation in general. Thank you for adding to it and being a part of it. I love you lady.

  4. Paula Conhain says:

    Hi old friend!

    I just had to comment on this one. From a long-time vegetarian, don’t feel bad! You are doing exactly what everyone should do – taking control of what you eat and learning about where it comes from. I cannot support those who hunt for sport and don’t make use of their kill (other than a trophy…ew). That’s just selfishly taking a life. But you made use of it and went through the entire process. Though I wouldn’t be able to do it myself – I chose to stop eating meat over a decade ago because I am squeamish – I admire that you tried it. What you ate is certainly healthier than anything you’d find in the store.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Miss Paula! Long time no talk my friend! Thank you for chiming in and I’m happy to have my “veggie friends” support. :) I agree that hunting simply for the sake of sport or trophy is not cool at all. And from all the hunters I know, they feel the same way. That hunting is a way to be connected to nature, life, and your food in a way that nothing else is. Thank you for writing and thank you for your thoughts. Also, next time I’m in the bay I want to see yoU!

  5. Agreed with Paula. I know this is weird to say, as one of your veggie friends, but I am proud of you too. I actually respect someone that will be involved in how their food came to their plate. I think I told you a while back that Tom (from Colorado) was the first person to explain the whole process of hunting to me when you, like the American Indians, really use and almost cherish the being you are killing, and it has changed my mind ever since.

    Like Paula, I think the same thing, If I can’t see myself killing it, I don’t know if I can eat it. And also the killing for sport thing. Oh and I can’t stand the whole meat industry and how they treat the animals before killing them. I can go on and on, but you get the drift.

    So Sally, my dear, I think it took some guts to both do what you did and write about it. Plus I know you, you have the tenderest heart of a lot of people I know … and just the part about you looking in to their eyes, thanking them and petting their feathers was beyond conscious. Made me tear up, in a good way.

    I love you.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Girl…your support is actually the reason I was able to go through with this in the first place. I remember back in the day when you told me about Tom. When you described what it was all about. That was the point I started to learn more, in that way. And that was what had me want to know more about the connection part of hunting. I absolutely agree…sport hunting isn’t cool. And the meat industry is gross. I honestly haven’t wanted to eat any non-hunted meat since this weekend. And as you know, I’m not a huge meat eater to begin with.

      Thank you for saying what you did. I love you too.

  6. Helen says:

    Sally, I love this blog post! Your honesty, grit, presence, and willingness to be vulnerable as you go forth and see what it is to kill what you eat is inspiring. YES to all the wonderful comments before mine!

    I want to tell you a little story. Perhaps I’ve told it before? If so, please indulge me. I grew up in a mid-western flaming liberal family of the hamburger-eating, peace-loving variety. I believed all things guns, hunting, military, gear-heads, and.. well.. missing teeth(!) were bad. I knew I’D never marry a guy who liked, did, or had any of that. (Hear my righteous ‘better than’ coming through?) Vegetarianism seemed like a really good idea, but I never went so far as to put it into practice for more than a couple of weeks here ‘n there. Laziness always won.

    After high school, I moved to a miniscule town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where pert near everyone (at least every family) owns a gun, it seemed all the guys knew how to fix their cars, opening day of firearm deer season is literally a school holiday (still), joining the military was the only way off the peninsula for many, and missing teeth were… common. Guess who I married? Yup. Swell guy! We lived on 20 acres surrounded by thousands of acres of state land and farmland. Herds of white-tailed deer filled our fields at night, including albinos and piebald. Wild turkeys, black bear, sand hill cranes, Canadian geese, and coyotes came through our yard. Grouse and rabbit filled the woods. The wildlife population far outweighed the human population. In that environment, it just made good sense for people to hunt. I never hunted anything myself, I’m not a bad shot when it comes to skeet. I’ve helped cut up the meat and cooked plenty of venison. I made the worst rabbit stew one could ever eat! A ruffed grouse flew into the glass at my mom’s house and presto!… dinner. My husband’s harvest and the generosity of others sharing their venison helped us get through our poorest years and was essential to many of the family’s survival there.

    I don’t think everyone should own a gun or should hunt, and I do think we need stronger gun laws. I don’t think everyone should eat meat or fish, and if we do we should eat a LOT LESS. Our planet simply can’t handle it. The wolves they’ve re-established in the U.P. may be keeping the deer population in check a tiny bit, but not enough to balance out the massive population. With milder and milder winters, it’s even more of an issue because they don’t die off as much in winter any more.

    And then there are the ‘sugar beeters’, ‘flatlanders’, ‘trolls’… the yahoos who come up from Detroit and other cities far away with their trucks, trailers with four-wheelers on the back, cases of beer, camouflage and an arsenal. Some are ethical hunters, and some are… just dumb asses. Some want to get out in nature and commune with it, while carrying on long held family traditions… some want to get out of the house and get trashed. It colors the hunting season for me and makes blaze orange about more than just safety. I’m back to my ‘better than’ state, yet I can’t help but wonder if everyone had a chance to get more conscious of the cycle of life and where our food comes from if our world wouldn’t be a whole lot less screwed up. Things are so out of whack!

    As a hunter friend of mine said about a meat-eating PETA member who screamed at him that there is no such thing as ‘ethical hunting’ one day, “She likes other people to do her killing for her.” Ain’t that the truth about most of us?

    With people like you sharing your truth and explore this question through experience, we all open our eyes a little wider, say thank you for the food we eat a little more often, and stay mindful of what’s in our fridges as well as what goes in our bodies. THANK YOU!

    Love you,

    • Sallyhope says:

      Helen…I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Thank you for sharing your story too. I hadn’t heard it before. I also totally agree about the kind of hunters that just want to drink and shoot shit. I can’t get behind that in any way whatsoever. Most the hunters I know have more respect for nature than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s a culture that’s hard to understand until you get in it and start asking questions.

      I also love that you brought up the idea that if people had to face what it takes to eat meat, that perhaps less people would do it. AND, the comment with the PETA person. It’s so true! A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten have been from people who don’t agree with hunting, yet they eat meat all the time. It’s like…someone killed that animal, you know. How is ignoring that fact better than being involved in the process? Either way, it’s so interesting. And I’m still learning and open to everyone’s thoughts.

      Thank you for your story and comments and thank you for being with me along this journey.

      Much love

  7. bill says:

    I think it was great.i’ve been hunting sense i was 16.people need to know were there food comes from. if they dont learn this,they think it all comes from a store. happy hunting

    • Sallyhope says:

      Thanks so much Bill. I hear you. It’s a completely different way to look at and understand food and consumption. Thanks for your words.

  8. Donna says:

    Hunting is abhorrent. But, as I sit here eating my ham steak with eggs, wishing I had pheasant with polenta and sun dried tomatoes…GO SALLY. It’s between you and karma,not for me to judge.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey lady…thanks so much for writing in. What an interesting juxtaposition in what you wrote! I respect your opinion. And I love that you bring up karma. For me, there is less karmic debt in being conscious about where my food is coming from then blindly buying whatever is in front of me, not knowing how the animal was raised or treated. I now know what goes into eating meat, and I get to decide from here on out how I want to approach it. I hear you that you don’t agree, and I respect that. You’re absolutely allowed to feel how you feel. Your opinion is super valid and I appreciate the feedback.

  9. Donna says:

    Then again…you killed a living (innocent)thing.

    Is there ANY justification for that?

    I think not.

    • Have you thought about becoming a vegetarian if that is how you so strongly feel? Yes YOU didn’t kill that pig that you are eating on your plate of ham or that cow for your steak, but someone did. Actually lots of people did, a whole industry exists for that. So because you did not kill that living innocent thing, does THAT justify you eating meat? Food for thought huh? Literally.

      • Sallyhope says:

        Hey lady…you raise an interesting point. I’ve heard some feedback about this very thing. People who eat meat but are adamantly against hunting and that raises so many questions for me. A vegan or vegetarian with that argument makes a bit more sense. But for a meat eater? I don’t really get it. I’d love to hear more about the reasoning behind it. I understand that it’s a personal choice whether or not to be involved in the actual process. That’s for each person to decide on their own and I totally respect that. But it’s the judgement about it that I wonder about. I think you raise a great point. If harming a living thing is the point…why eat meat?

  10. Donna says:

    I mean, it’s living it’s life. Flying along. BLAM! You blow it up. Kill it. What if someone did that to you? Sally Hopeless, Death Coach.

    • Blaire says:

      Sally Hopeless? No.
      Sally Fearless? Yes.
      Death Coach? No.
      Honesty Coach? Yes.
      This was one of the most real and thoughtful blogs entries I’ve read. Sally, your honesty about your thoughts and feelings was so nice and refreshing. It’s sad to see such hateful comments when your own comments were so open and obviously full of care for life. All lives. You’re no Death Coach, girl!

  11. Jeff Tolley says:

    I’ll say it–Good for you! Not that I’m a disciple of Ted Nugent and that I’m an avid hunter. I’m not. I hunt deer when I visit family in Virginia, and I flyfish every chance I get. I’m not squeamish (however I was the first time i killed a deer), and I use the meat gratefully. Good for you for finding another part of yourself and embracing it. Nothing says you have to do it again, and nothing says that you’re a bad person for wanting to go back out there, if you do. Cheers!

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey Jeff…hahahha I’m not all up in the Ted Nugent business either. And I also had some experience fly-fishing this weekend. I didn’t catch anything but it was so relaxing. Thank you for your comment. I still have lots to think about but all these comments are giving me food for thought. I appreciate you!

  12. Chelle Hawn says:

    I experienced the same conflicting emotions on my pheasant hunt as well…I had to stretch myself to take responsibility for the meat I eat. As with you, it was a spiritual experience for me in connecting with the earth, the cycle of life and the beautiful animal that gave its life to feed me and others. I know I don’t want to ever hunt or be apart of a hunt for sport. But as long as I eat fowl, fish and meat, I believe it is powerful to connect on a higher level and not support the abuse of these animals that goes on with chemicals and cages. It is hard to explain…but like you it was time to challenge myself and thank the animal in person. Thank you for sharing your heart in openess and transparency…your story is mine.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Dear Chelle…that was so beautifully put. And it was such an honor to get to share that experience with such like minded women. Thank YOU for sharing your experience as well. I will never forget that weekend.

      Much love.

  13. Lily Malcolm says:

    Sally huge congratulations to you!! I think it’s absolutely incredible and courageous to do what you did!! Anyone who can’t handle what you did just needs to get over themselves. In this day in age the vast majority of people in this country could not survive one week if they didn’t have someone else to raise and prepare/slaughter the food for them. So, any naysayers need to check themselves. Cuz, it’s not like you went out their sport hunting, shot an animal to hang on your wall as some type of trophy. In my eyes you’re a badass, and its not for taking the life of another living creature but, for learning something new, and doing something 110%!

  14. Mom says:

    I have so many conflicting feelings about your going hunting I wrote my own blog post about it. Of course I still love you, and clearly so do your friends. I think they support your process and sincere questions about the huge bigger issues. Your conflict and how you wrote about it is so sincere and heartfelt.

    My reaction is personal. I could never do it myself. It makes me much too sad. I can’t even watch those nature specials where some of the babies inevitably die. The realities of the balance of nature or the cycle of life don’t change my feelings about it. Were I the person in charge, the system would not be set up so that some creatures have to die to support the lives of others, as it is in the animal kingdom.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Thanks for writing, mom. I’ve been nervous about a comment from you and I expected you to feel this way (among other ways that I’m sure you haven’t shared with me…yet). I completely understand your point of view. I absolutely see how you feel, and I get it. If I were in charge of the system, I’m not sure I’d set it up this way either. I am curious to read your blog post. Love you.

  15. Paulette says:

    Don’t be nervous. All is well.
    I love you very very much. :)

  16. Lily Malcolm says:

    Someone on here wrote some really distasteful things about Sally on here, that I read yesterday, and it’s still bothering me. So, I feel the need to to put it out there, which is pretty much known to all of those who have ever come into contact with Sally, that she is extremely caring and thoughtful, loves life, respects everyone, and is passionate about doing good things for others (including animals). She is hands down one of the kindest, gentlest, amazing people I know. And, I think we all have some thing to learn from the experiences that she shares, even if we might not agree with it.

  17. Lisa C. says:

    Hi, Sally!

    This piece touched me so closely! So much has already been said that I agree with so I won’t rehash how I feel much the same way (part-time vegetarian, meat when my body demands, don’t like the idea of hunting, inner conflict when I do eat meat, etc).

    However, I’m seeing hunting from a whole different prospective right now…being close (intimate, if you will) with the hunter. I’ve been dating the love of my life from 11th grade for the last 5 months (after 35 years of not seeing each other). We could not be more black and white. Him: blue collar worker all his life, builds/fixes practically everything with his own two hands, has a cabin on 40 acres on top of a 5,000-foot mountain, avid hunter all his life. Me: none of the above.

    After talking long & hard to me about coming to the cabin, I finally relented and found it to be heaven (except for the outhouse thing!). It’s here that we’ve had some of the best, deepest talks about hunting. He knows I’ll never go with him on a hunt and I certainly don’t have the stomach to watch an animal be skinned and “dressed” (too nice of a word IMHO). He is, though, a firm believer in “if you’re gonna kill it, use every bit of it. You’re gonna eat it…or wear it…or lay on it”. He’s taught this to not only his two (now grown) daughters, but any and all young hunters he’s coached on the subject.

    I find shooting guns at targets exhilarating. I find shooting guns at animals and birds violent and appalling. Our conversation one day led to animal processing plants and his views were interesting. An animal in the wild is living it’s life freely, the way it was intended. A hunter shoots it to eat it…it has served its purpose on earth. The meat industry on the other hand, breeds and raises animals in pens only to (usually) inhumanely slaughter them for our consumption. Which animal do you want to eat? Well, some will eat no animals…some will prefer the wild approach…others think meat comes in a plastic container and don’t care.

    B/f’s reference to animals living freely before being hunted brought to mind something your Mom brought up about “those nature specials”. These animals are part of nature’s food chain as well. I realize we could argue all day about deer being killed by mountain lion vs deer being killed by a human’s bullet, but both animal’s lived in their true natural setting and ended up feeding another animal.

    There are good hunters and bad hunters. I’m lucky to have a good hunter. He’ll shoot a deer, but he’ll also bring you vegetarian soup when you’re sick and if you asked him, he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I respect his views, he respects mine.

    Sally, I respect that you did something challenging, wrote about it and even asked for others’ opinions. Conflict? Aw, c’mon. It’s hell being human! Will pheasant hunting keep you out of Heaven? NO. Take it easy, smile inside, go have a salad.


    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey Miss Lisa…thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your story. And I find the points you bring up very interesting. As this conversation grows on here, I am more and more curious about the meat industry and what it actually means to eat meat from restaurants and stores. I, like you, used to have the view that hunters were just a bunch of guys drinking beer and shooting shit, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize that the hunter community (for the most part) is anything but those things. They have respect for animals and nature. They live by a certain code. And I have a hard time arguing with any of their points. As far as the actual hunting, itself, I totally get it that it’s a personal choice that not everyone wants to be a part of.

      Thank you SO much for joining the conversation and just so you know…I’ve ONLY eaten salads since. :)


  18. I agree with your mom and Natalie and just about everyone else. None of us are in a place to judge. Even the vegans of today were meat eaters of one time. Or leather wearers. I am constantly conflicted by the fact that I love animals so much. I mean ridiculously so much. I can’t watch the ASPCA infommercials or even a movie like ‘Born Free’ without crying my eyes out.

    I’m with your mom,(my dear cuz) I couldn’t “do the deed” it would destroy me. But, I eat meat which makes me they biggest hypocrite. My sis (your cuz) is a veg. and is raising Meredith to be one. I have tried but it has lead to the worst migraine headaches. So, I try to limit the meat intake and substitute it whenever possible. I admire people who can do it without being all preachy such as Natalie, who I didn’t know was a non meat eater. But, what you are doing is worthy of admiration too.

    You are finding out where you are in the whole big picture of this. I know people that say “If you are going to eat an animal you should at least have the guts to kill it yourself” So there, another point of view.

    Half the problem is the meat industry itself and the way they load these animals up with steroids and…..okay, getting of topic. I tend to do that.

    You have nothing to be ashamed of and the few who are not happy with you…Chances are they wouldn’t be no matter what you do.

    Love ya Cuz

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey cousin…thank you so much for chiming in and I agree with all your points. One that I find interesting is the “If you are going to eat an animal you should at least have the guts to kill it yourself” point of view. I never saw it as that black or white, but with this growing conversation, it actually raises a good point. I’m still not exactly sure how I feel, although it’s becoming more and more clear, but I do know that I think the meat industry is pretty gross. Thanks for your thoughts and opinions. At the very least, this experienced has led to such rich conversation.

      Love you too cuz

  19. Love Sally!
    I read this the day it came out and just now have come back to respond.

    It was so fascinating to me coming from Canada to see how guns are such a part of the fabric of American’s lives. I realized it was a deep cultural root, one that I could only observe but not fully embody.

    Then I met my bestfriend and through her, my lover now of 12 years. Both gun owners. My bestfriend was a vegetarian and very much against hunting. My lover a hunter since adolescence when his father took him out and taught him the sacred Tao of the Hunt, much like the way of the Native Americans. The paradox was how deeply he and his family honor the wilderness and wildlife. Go out of his way to save a wounded wild bird or animal, honor the dead on the road by stopping to bury them.

    In my 12 years of being with him he has hunted often, and only the last year did he succeed in coming back with a deer. He has over his lifetime shot perhaps 4 total, as well as some bird hunts. He treated this event with such honor and deep regard. Involved himself in the whole process as you did. And has fed his whole tribe with the deer jerky he made from it.

    I have witness him and his stories and KNOW that the reason he is the man I love and adore and who manages hundreds of men in powerful ways is because of his deep relationship to nature and the sacred tao of hunting. He has been abhorred and berated by many because of being a hunter. And his way in life is truly profound.

    For those who eat meat, it is very wise to have this relationship to what in fact you are eating… and that it is an animal who has died for you. Nothing puts you closer to that reality and that gift, than hunting.

    Not all hunters hold it in this way, which is what I have taught him to see and understand why some do have their attitudes about it. I don’t know if I will ever hunt with him, but if I do, I will choose to enter in as fully as you did.

    thank you for showing up fully in life with the KNOWING that not all will agree with you. And that’s okay.

    As you know… I love you dearly, Sally.

    • Sallyhope says:

      Miss Kathleen…thank you SO much for writing in and sharing your story. What an interesting one it is! And thank you for your continued love and support. I always feel it. :)

  20. Cheryl says:

    I think it’s great how you share ALL of your experiences with us – good & bad. I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about hunting. I eat meat, of course, but don’t enjoy seeing the dead animals after hunting. (My Ex is an avid deer hunter & my daughter also goes with him – so I’ve seen many). That said, I really feel soooo lucky to read your blogs and “walk” along side your experiences. Honestly, I think some of the comments on here were in poor taste & just mean. I think we should all remember the good ‘ol Kindergarten lessons we learned – “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
    “Death-coach” was seriously a bit harsh & childish!

    Anyway – keep living your life! I LOVE reading your blogs. Now I feel like I’d like to try hunting – maybe ? :)

    • Sallyhope says:

      Miss Cheryl…thank you so much for saying that. I almost puked after posting this one, because I was so afraid of the reaction I might get. But instead of what I expected, I got thoughtful posts that sparked interesting conversation. Lucky me! Thank you for walking along with me on this journey. I’m so grateful to have you here. And if you ever want to talk more about hunting, let me know.

  21. Sara S says:

    Hi Sally,

    It took me forever to read your latest blog. Things have been a little crazy around here. I wanted to add another perspective. I grew up in a very small town in northern Canada. Hunting is how most people in my community get meat. Buying meat at the local grocery store is very expensive and many people will go out and get a moose or buffalo which will feed their family for the entire winter. I am fairly anti gun. (Well actually anti hand gun) but am surprisingly not anti hunting as long as it’s for food. I think there is much more honor in killing and preparing your own food. I get a little disgusted when I see people waste food and especially meat. Where I’m from animals are respected even in death. That means using all parts of the animal and not wasting anything. The elders in our community even use the animal organs to make twine to sew moccasins. Anyways, keep on trucking! It sounds like it was a great trip and I support you. (As long as you don’t decide to start trophy hunting ;)

    • Sallyhope says:

      Thank you so much for your perspective and I totally agree. There is a certain amount of respect attached to hunting that I think gets lost when people only view it as a bunch of jerks drinking and bringing home antlers. That’s pretty much no one I’ve talked to about it. There is definitely a certain amount of connection to food and nature as well. And twine, eh??? That’s so interesting! I’ll have to look that up.


  22. Björn says:

    Hello Sally! This post has reached all the way to Sweden! I think it´s great that you write about your mixed feelings. To hunt and be a hunter isn´t something you should take lightly. I started to hunt at the age of 14 and have never stopped because it felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. No, I didn´t have anyone hunting in my family and wasn´t grown up to hunt, when I first tried it it just “was me”! As a hunter I feel like a part of nature in a way I never feel when I´m just watching it “from the side”. But we need to accept that all people are different and so are all hunters. If we really think about what we do and why and are well prepared to talk about it I think hunting has a natural place in the modern society. Unfortunally it tends to be more fightig than respect between different groups, as you point out that you had issues with writing this because of what others would think. I thank you for sharing this, and I will pass it on!
    Like someone once said: “The problem is that the stupid people are so sure of themselves and the wise are so full of doubts” I´m glad to see you have doubts and I hope you spread that thought to many more! :-)

    • Sallyhope says:

      WOW! Sweden?! How’d you find me? And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I hear you about finding hunting on your own. None of my family hunts, and I grew up in a very anti-hunting/anti-gun household. So I’ve had to find it and explore it on my own too. I love the point you raised about thinking about what we do and why we do it. This conversation has sparked that thought over and over again. I hope you keep in touch and I would love to swap hunting stories with you.

      • Björn says:

        Sweden isn’t that far away in cyberspace! :-) Somehow I found you on Twitter, and I’m glad I did. It’s cool you are moving to Montana, that is one place I would like to go for horsebacktrip in the Mountains, be it huntung or not! :-) Keep it up, it will be fun to follow you and I will keep in touch. My website/blog is in swedish, not that much use for an american I guess!? :-D

        • Sallyhope says:

          Yeah! Horses and Montana are like peas and carrots. :) They just go together. Definitely keep in touch. Don’t be a stranger.

  23. Sandy says:

    as long as you killed it for food and not just for sport or to decorate you den, then kudos to you…it is called the food chain! i doubt no one cried over the bugs that the bird ate =o) i do give you props for dressing your bird though…i have trouble with store bought chicken =o/

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hahhah! I would never shoot purely for sport. ANd thank you for your support. And yeah, I figured if I hunted it, then I would be the one to dress it. And coming from a girl who used to not even be able to touch grocery store chicken either, this was a big deal. Thank you so much for your comment. Come by again soon!

  24. Norma Jane! says:

    Hey Sally, I eat meat. I cannot though, if I see it on a spit, or in it’s true form, in any kind of way. I have wrestled with the whole, “But you know someone had to kill it, right?” arguement. I get it. I just can’t look at it, and it look at me, and then eat it. Won’t happen. If I were to kill an animal, I would have to guess that it would be for survial purposes only.. Whether for its meat, or its fur, or well, I just don’t know. American Indians revered the animals they took, thanked them for providing for their families, respected them, wasted nothing, used every part of them that they were able. I save any insects that fly into the pool for a drink and then flail about, whether it’s bees, wasps, potato bugs, (ick). But I will kill a trail of ants if they invade my kitchen. What does that say about me? I have a bug vac to “humanely” remove spiders from my house. I don’t want them to touch me. Sure, my views are skewed, but I think that’s what makes us US. We make the best choices that we can for ourselves, everyone else be damned. My father went hunting once, shot and killed a beautiful deer, had the head mounted and displayed in our home. He never went hunting again. The constant reminder was too much.

  25. Sally, as always, I admire your consciousness and the intentions you held throughout this experience. I love that you eat meat and wanted to get closer to the experience and be involved in the process. I also love that you did it despite having conflicted feelings, even during the hunt, and that you were willing to write about it even while you’re still sorting your own experiences out.

    I will admit that I was surprised when I saw your hunting trip on Facebook but I was not at all surprised to see the kind of awareness you brought to your writing about it. Even down to the observation of your desire “to be good at hunting” when you’re in a group that is hunting. For me that happens in yoga … the temptation to focus on how well I am faring in comparison with others or with the environment rather than remembering to just stay with my own experience.

    I most love the way you wrote about a very controversial subject, one that is riddled with incongruities, with such spaciousness and curiosity and nonjudgment. I deeply respect the way you entered into this and the way you’re holding it. I am so proud of you and so honored to know you. xoxo

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey Laurie…wow thank you so much for that comment. The whole thing. And I hear you about yoga. I’m the same way! I think it’s just what happens when we get in groups. It’s (an unfortunate) but natural place to go to…comparison. And (self) judgement. And wanting to be good at something, and measuring that against how good other’s are. That was one of the more interesting things I noticed while I was out there. How I shrunk when the girl’s were better at it than me.

      Thanks for bringing this up and thanks for sharing and thanks for being an amazing friend.


  26. Paulette says:

    I was walking this morning, thinking about the whole hunting issue as I have so much this month, and I had this thought I wanted to share. When you strip away the reasons, rationales, references to the cycle of life, and judgments (hunters bad, non-hunting meat eaters- hypocrites), you are left with one thing: a personal choice in a moment of time, an active decision whether to pull the trigger…or not.

  27. Alex says:


    This was the very first post I read of yours, and I was (and remain) truly struck by the amount of reflection and thought that you put into it. It’s incredibly rewarding to see someone step back and examine both sides of an issue, be it hunting or politics or feminism or any other inflammatory issue people argue about nowadays. You’ve refreshed my day a little bit, and I thank you for it. :)

    • Sallyhope says:

      Hey Alex…well shucks. Thank you so much. How’d you find me? And yeah, this post made me realize that there is so much to talk about in this topic! I was so inspired by all the different points of view, even the ones that were different from mine. I hope you come back again and keep in touch.

  28. Annette says:

    Reading this brought back lots of memories of growing up in North Dakota. Hunting…Jeep rides with my cousins going pheasant and gopher hunting on their farm. I’d trail along thinking how awful it was yet exciting at the same time. Maybe it was just the wind in my hair driving in a jeep at 13 with the boys.
    Hell yes! Who needed a driver’s license on a farm…Besides, the Sheriff was probably your cousin!

    The farmers really disliked those gophers because they’d destroy their crops. To my cousins who were farmers, crops were money; food. Yet all I could see as a 13 year old girl were the cute little eyes peeking out of a hole and the guns scaring the crap out of me! I used to live on the farm but we moved to “the city.” Heck yeah, I was from Fargo…50,000 people!
    My brother and cousins would go pheasant hunting all the time. They still do. What I remember most was the family memories of everyone coming home with their birds and my mother and aunt cleaning them and getting them ready for dinner.
    Today the farm is sold. All of us kids live in California and Arizona now. My mother, father, aunts and uncles (even some cousins) all have passed on. Yet some days I yearn for ND. I still remember my mother in the kitchen telling my dad and brother for the hundredth time to the tune of laughter “This is the last time!”

  29. Maggie says:

    Re-reading this was awesome because I’ve now gotten closer to my food since the first reading and I totally get that big mix of emotions. I haven’t gone hunting but I did do a chicken processing workshop where I went into a pasture, picked up a chicken that was minding its own chicken business and was quite happy in its chicken-ness… and I learned how to humanely kill, scald, pluck and dress it so I could take it home. We ate it for dinner that night. I wasn’t a total sobbing mess like I thought I would be, but the reality of taking that sweet bird from pasture to my plate was intense. I felt the magnitude of it and I was sad, and grateful.

    A domestic chicken doesn’t really have any hope of escaping a person who wants to eat it so it totally felt unfair. But I felt better about having control over the bird’s death and making sure it felt as little pain as possible, instead of buying meat at the store which I KNOW has met a pretty terrible end after a pretty awful life (even the “organic” birds).

    And my body needs meat. I don’t do well on a vegetarian diet, so if I’m going to eat meat, the least I can do is feel bad/tune into the very real consequence of eating meat and appreciate the life the animal gave up so I can continue living.

    One thing someone said to me recently that really stuck is that it’s called “hunting”, not “killing”. If you’re lucky, you have a kill at the end so you can eat and if it’s big game, fill your freezer to have meat for a year. Hunting also provides the opportunity to use every part of the animal – which eating meat from the store does not. The more I learn, the more I see how hunters are often conservationists and have a real and deep understanding and appreciation for nature. They do not take what they do lightly.

    Thanks for re-posting this, Sally. It’s a really valuable thing to think about and I so appreciate your willingness to go way out of your comfort zone to experience this. You’re brave. And I agree, I don’t understand people who eat meat, but hate hunting. Especially when factory farmed meat is so terribly cruel, and its cruelty is now well-known.

  30. Rhonda says:

    I have never hunted before. I have never had any real desire to, but am not against it either. And, I am a meat eater.

    I can see how it would be easy to have conflicting thoughts on something like this. But, like you, I like to try new things out of curiosity so I can relate to where you are coming from.

    One thing you said that really resonated with me is, what we think is highly influenced by what we will think other’s will think about it. That is spot on, but you also said that you are the one that has to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day; and that is what really matters.

    So, out of the spirit of curiosity, I think you trying this was not a bad thing!

    • Sally Hope says:

      Thank you so much for reading Rhonda! And I’m so glad it resonated with you. I feel good about my decision with it and am glad it was a conversation starter too. :)

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