Monday, February 13, 2012

God gave us stuff to kill?

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.


Kari said...

I grew up in a hunting family. They only killed animals that they would eat. Growing up I don't really remember having a strong opinion either way about hunting. It was part of my life, I didn't think much about it. As a teenager I was asked to help my dad clean a deer. It was hanging up and I needed to wrap my arms around the chest to steady it. Hanging like that, I couldn't get out of my head the thought that it was so close to having my arms around a person's chest. I will never forget that moment, and have never thought of hunting the same way.

I don't think I even realized growing up that people did kill animals for sport. That was something I had never experienced. As much as I still struggle with hunting of any kind, I have never been able to wrap my head around hunting for sport or trophy. Another thing that I think the Native Americans got right, the respect and thankfulness they show towards an animal in ending it's life.

I don't believe that we were meant to be vegetarians (although I have nothing against that), but I do think we have a right to show respect to our fellow earthly inhabitants. I'm pretty sure you introduced me to this quote, or the book where I read it:

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
― Aldo Leopold

Wade The Rascal said...

Thanks, Kari, for sharing your experience as well as that very powerful quote from one of the fathers of wildlife management, Aldo Leopold.
I should say that my father, from whom I learned to hunt, is a great man and a hero. I'm glad to have learned my hunting experience from him because he never taught me that it's OK to disrespect nature or wildlife. He's a very responsible hunter who follows the rules and abhors those who don't.
I'm thankful to those experiences with my dad because, while it's where I lost my appetite for killing, it's where I gained a deep appreciation for nature, for the wild things and for all the earth. I am not an island unto myself.
I think, at least in part, this is also where I developed a sort of connection with Native American culture. They don't see themselves as above the animals; as top of the food chain. Rather, they see themselves as a small part of the bigger picture; interconnected with the rest of nature and God's creations. I would love to see hunters develop more of a sense of respect for the animals they kill, rather than just an opportunity to one up the the last guy to kill a big trophy.