There are many reasons why people choose to hunt for their own meat versus buying it at the store.
Common themes are that wild game is as organic as you can get, the cost of wild game is free (we’ll get into that perspective at another time) and one of the most quoted is that “I like to take responsibility for what I take from the earth.”
These are all great reasons.
Mine is one less quoted but considerably older in theory.
Many of us have stated that we see hunting as “religion” and received queer looks from those who do not see the sanctity of killing. I have heard some claim, with a twisted grin on their face, that they belong to the “church of the straight powder” as they head off to the club to shoot sporting clays on Sunday.
But for me it goes much deeper.
I was raised in an organized religion that did not serve my evolving values. I looked for a faith that would incorporate my relationship to the outdoors, specifically animals and wild edibles. I sought a connection to what I put in my body and how I nourished it.
After investigating several religions I was dismayed and lost faith in the churches. Which left me with nothing but the reality of nature’s raw power. I recognized that no man, no matter how rich or powerful he might be in society, was any greater than any other man facing the same need to survive in the wild.
One evening I sat on the shore of our lake, Lake Champlain, in Vermont, as 6 foot waves from a powerful Northwest wind swept over the rocks and smashed into a rock tower that had been built eons ago by Native Americans. No one would survive the crushing waves no matter who they were – not Donald Trump, not the President of the United States, nor any leader of any faith, if they did not respect the awesome power of nature. But behind that rock tower, I sat, my heart aching for connection to this entity that deserved such deep respect. It was the rocks that kept me from getting crushed by the waves. It was one component of nature protecting me from another.
As I sat in the darkness, feeling the waves hit all around me, I reached an epiphany.
It was nature that would become my Higher Power, my God, my Savior…my Great Spirit.
I began to study Native American belief systems, the Hopi, the Abnaki, the Cree, and the Inuit. All of them had two things in common. No leader that “interpreted God’s word” and a deep connection to their animals, land and habitat.
Sacred rituals were handed down through elders to those ready to receive them. Animals were seen as brothers and sisters of the same spirit.
Time warp forward; one of the prime rules of physics (that being the highest expression of mankind’s intellectual rationalizations of how the universe actually works) is the “Law of Conservation of Energy” which states that “energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another.”
Posit: if energy can be expressed or “seen” as beauty, grace, balance or innocence, and a whitetail deer possesses that energy, what happens to it when I “kill” the animal? Is the energy that is stored in the muscle and tissue still alive?
If I eat the muscle, where does the energy go?
If I consume the spirit of my brother deer, goose or turkey, where does their power of observation go?
After reading “Seven Arrows” by Hyemeyohosts Storm, I chose to believe that it entered me. As the mouse that is consumed by the eagle gains the visual attributes of the eagle, I have chosen to believe that when I consume the flesh of my brother, the goose, I gain the power of communication with my peers and learn cooperation with others to form groups that rely on each other to assist in our flight.
In summary, I hunt to provide myself and my loved ones with a spiritual connection to our food, be it wild asparagus, fiddleheads or venison. I have chosen to make hunting, fishing and foraging my spiritual practice.
I still find myself buying meat and vegetables in the grocery store or at a farmer’s market, and I choose to give thanks to the animals and flora that give their lives that I might continue mine. But, just as the Jewish religion pursues their faith in food by seeking kosher meats, I pursue my own faith by seeking the energy of my brothers and sisters in the wild.
To each his own.