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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Word Is “Harvest”

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, December 12, 2009.)

I just walked out into the woods, put a leash on them,
and they let me take them home. Right.
Before long, game management agencies across the United States will start releasing 2009 harvest numbers for game animals. Yes, the word is “harvest.”

Anti-hunters object to the word “harvest” for the taking of game. They argue that the word is a euphemism, a substitute word intended to be less offensive. They say “harvest” should be reserved for agricultural crops.

“Farmers harvest corn, and wheat, and soybeans,” they’ll say. “Hunters kill. Hunters murder. Deer are not crops, and hunters aren’t innocently gathering crops.”

In contrast, I’ve heard some hunters say, “Let’s be honest. Let’s be clear. We kill deer, bears, turkeys. No reason to kowtow to the antis with sanitary, politically correct words like harvest.”

Some people advocate the word “take.” I took some deer this year -- I just walked out into the woods, put a leash on them, and they let me take them home. Right.

“Take” is so bland that it fails to recognize the role of the hunter. It might suggest to some the idea of theft, and it overlooks the fact that hunters provide a needed service.

What are other words we could use?

“Kill” doesn’t recognize whether it’s legal or not. Poachers kill, but they’re not hunters; they’re thieves who steal from ethical sportsmen. Conservation officers kill injured animals; they use the word “dispatch.” Poached animals, dispatched animals, and road-killed animals aren’t included in harvest totals. Nor do they have anything to do with bag limits.

Speaking of bag limits, “bag” is somewhat archaic, and might create the mental image of putting an animal into a bag to carry home. “I bagged a deer.” Huh? “Bag” most often refers to a hunter’s daily or seasonal limits.

“Put down” implies euthanasia. Veterinarians do that to old or sick animals under their care. Hunters want healthy animals, and aren’t authorized to euthanize game animals.

Other terms are negative, unnecessarily implying violence to the exclusion of positive benefits of the hunt. Some show disrespect for the animal. Some terms are creative. For example, “I disconnected his pump station,” or, “I let the air out.” Those are euphemisms.

I doubt any words would satisfy everyone, but the word “harvest” is more than a euphemism. It actually means something.

Yes, the word “harvest” is sanitary. It doesn’t remind us that blood is involved, or gut piles, or butchering – same as commercial husbandry. But it does make a distinction between legally killed game and all other kills. It reflects the fact that the harvest is planned to keep game populations at manageable and renewable levels.

The word “harvest” isn’t just a politically correct word, and it shouldn’t confuse anyone. Its usage isn’t limited to agricultural crops. Medical people speak of harvesting healthy organs or tissues for the purpose of transplanting.

In arid regions, people speak of harvesting water -- collecting rainwater for irrigation.
We hear people speak of harvesting renewable energy -- capturing and storing solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Foresters talk about harvesting timber and the need to provide a sustainable yield. We harvest renewable resources. It’s safe to say that every state game management agency uses the term harvest, because game populations are a renewable resource.

Jesus used the word harvest in John 4:35 when he said “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” If Jesus can use the word “harvest” to talk about people’s souls, if doctors can harvest organs, if foresters can harvest trees, then hunters can talk about the annual harvest of game.

I’m for using the word “harvest.” Harvest implies something else that’s positive. Harvest implies thankfulness. I’m thankful for the opportunity to hunt, and to bring in the harvest.


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