Eat Everything You Kill? Not Me!
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., Sept. 30, 2006.)
"You shouldn't shoot anything you don't eat!" Those words are often uttered to criticize hunters in a sanctimonious tone.
Eat everything you kill?
Not me, and not anyone!
I'll make a few people angry at my thoughts on this, but people who express that opinion ought to stop and think for a minute. Arguments against killing and not eating don't stretch very far. No one eats everything he kills -- whether he's a hunter or not. Some hunters do not especially favor the flavor of game animals. So what? We have more reasons to kill animals than to use them for food. And anyone who says we should eat everything we kill is a little hypocritical.
I shoot woodchucks and coyotes, and although the former are palatable I rarely eat them. And almost no one -- in this country at least -- wants to eat the big, stinky canine. Yet almost any hunter who has a chance to take a coyote will pull the trigger. He should do it without guilt.
Shooting woodchucks offers several benefits. It gives the hunter a live target to practice on in a low-pressure situation. Plus it's an opportunity for new hunters to learn and practice safety rules. It benefits farmers, too. Woodchucks are 8-pound eating machines, and will devour plenty of hay before the farmer gets to harvest it. They're also digging machines; the mounded dirt around their burrows dulls many a cutting bar, and their holes can break the legs of livestock. Farmers appreciate hunters for every woodchuck they turn into food for scavengers.
As for the other "varmint" I mentioned, let's not make the coyote into a sacred cow. We'll never exterminate this major predator that, if not kept in check, can decimate the fawns in an area. You say, "That's the way it's supposed to be." I say, "Who says man is not supposed to be in the picture, too?" Man is the predator that cares. Any time we can shoot or trap a 'yote, we are saving several fawns not just for hunters, but we're saving them from a death with far more suffering than a bullet or an arrow will bring.
Yes, very few of us MUST hunt to provide food for our families. If the economics of the sport are considered, it's not cost-effective to hunt in this modern age. By the time a hunter pays for guns, clothing, licenses, and the never-ending gear hawked by sporting goods manufacturers (to say nothing of the cost of processing a deer), the dollars would stretch much farther in a grocery store -- even a gourmet grocery store. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't hunt.
Hunting connects us to the earth that nourishes us. It gives us an appreciation for where our food comes from. It doesn't allow us to forget that food costs life. Hunters are not blinded to the fact that all of us -- including anti-hunters -- hire someone to butcher the chicken and beef that comes bloodlessly wrapped in plastic.
When I was a kid living in Scandia I raised animals for family table fare. To avoid causing someone horror, I'm reluctant to say what kind of animals. Suffice it to say they were cute. Butchering wasn't pretty, but it taught me to appreciate the fact that animals die so we can live.
Why do the critics poison the slugs that eat their flowers, and zap mosquitoes along with non-threatening bug life -- for mere beauty and comfort -- yet not realize that for one species to live others must die? Why do they not understand that all of us kill far more than we eat, whether we hunt or not. The "kill only what you eat" crowd advocates an impossibility.
The real fact is that sport hunting is the reason we have abundant wildlife today. Wherever we allow hunting, game and non-game populations flourish. Without a doubt, hunters make a far greater contribution to conserving wildlife around the world through financial means and volunteer efforts than anyone else. I'm not sure of all the reasons we call hunting a sport, but if it didn't take effort, planning and commitment, it wouldn't be a sport. Hunting is not just killing.
I won't deny the adrenaline rush that hunting can give, but I cringe when I see arm-pumping celebrations on the Outdoor Channel. It's about more than the rush. It includes understanding and preserving the ancient, sacred realities that made us top dog in the food chain.
Eat everything you kill? Not me, and not anyone! So, if you're a hunter, enjoy the season this fall, take your game and don't worry -- you're not the one who is a hypocrite.