September 28th, 2012
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.