Monday, February 13, 2012
So I was getting the mail this afternoon, at my dad's house, and saw one of his hunting magazines, Eastman's Hunting Journal. Whenever I see these magazines, I do something that can be described as something between an eye roll and a cringe. I was just never wired to be able to glorify killing things for fun or "for sport."
Not long ago, I found my childhood journal. I hadn't written in it much, but I decided to go through it, just to reminisce. (I think I found it when my mom died, and I wanted to see if there was anything about her I could use for my funeral talk.) I found an envelope in there that contained 3 letters I got way back when I was just thirteen years old. One letter was from my mom, one from my dad, and one from myself. They were written for me to take along and open while I was on a spiritual wilderness outing with other youth from my church. The plan was to fast for the first day and then go out in the trees, by ourselves, and pray and try to commune with God. And at that time, we were to open the letters and read them. To keep this short, I'll just say that my letter to myself was to remind myself of some things I wanted to ask God. It surprised me, pleasantly I guess, that at 13, I had the consciousness to ask God if hunting was wrong. I suppose I was nervous, knowing I'd be old enough to hunt deer and elk with my dad the following year at age 14. (So YOUNG to be out there carrying and shooting a high-powered rifle, especially with so many other hunters in the same mountains.)
Well, I guess it took me about 4 more years to fully understand God's answer to my question. I hunted and killed a tiny little 2-point mule deer my first year, age 14. I remember feeling the adrenaline while aiming and pulling the trigger; then again while walking up on my kill. I was feeling happy, knowing I had made my dad proud of my shooting ability (Open sights, no scope, from 150 yds). At the same time, there was this unavoidable feeling of doubt, staring at this animal whose life I'd taken. But what was done was done. I hunted after that, but didn't kill again until I was 17. My dad had gotten me a permit to shoot a pronghorn in Southern Utah. We drove down really early in the morning. I was driving my own car so I could head home in time to work later that day. On the way down, still dark out, I hit a deer with my car. I radioed my dad to tell him the bad news. He came back to put the deer out of its misery. (I guess I couldn't?) We mashed the folded hood down so I could see and kept on south. We hadn't been down there long, (Parker Mountain, I believe) when we saw some pronghorn. I got out with my rifle, sneaked along the ground and got a shot off. I can't remember for sure but, I think I hid it in the guts on the first shot, so I shot again to kill it. When I walked up on it, I wasn't really excited, other than my curiosity of what a pronghorn looks like up close being satisfied. I began to gut it out, which I really didn't know how to do, but my dad wanted me to learn that way. I accidentally cut into its bladder (a bad mistake) and the stench was awful. Pronghorn aren't that tasty; most people don't even eat the meat; at least not much of it. Finally, standing there, looking down at this beautiful animal, something changed inside of me for good. I didn't understand it all right then but, a while later, realized I was not a sport hunter. And as far as I understand my god, I can only believe that hunting, for ANY reason other than to feed yourself and others, is wrong. I haven't completely sworn hunting off; I've considered harvesting an elk because I really like the meat and it's better for us than feed-lot cattle. But I will NEVER hunt an animal because I want to see its head on my wall, its rug on my floor, or my picture with it in a magazine.
Now, back to the magazine I found in the mail today. I didn't open it; I know what it says inside; I've heard it all and read it all before, being an advocate for wolves. A big headline on the cover read: "Hunting God's Country for Wolves." To me, this is one of the most ironic phrases I can think of. This headline assumes that the writer and the reader believe in God. And for sure, they're speaking of the Judeo-Christian God, Eloheim, Heavenly Father, Jesus the Christ, etc...And I can't wrap my mind around the concept of believing in God, believing you're toting a gun around God's country, and somehow, God is eh-OK with you killing wolves (God's creation) for sport and fun.
I know that I don't know everything, or even very much. But I know irony when I read it.