Re: Hunting and Druidry
Posted: 07 Oct 2013, 08:57
I've just got back from a couple of days learning to skin and butcher deer. It was organised by a group of pagans, and a large part of the focus was on respect for the animsls, and the importance of using all their offerings. We stripped the carcasses clean, split the bones between the dogs and the stock pot, and shared out the meat. I have one of the hides curing until I can tan it, and someone else claimed the other hide. There was a very "connected" sensation to the work, and the meat that we ate each night.
Re: Hunting and Druidry
Posted: 20 Dec 2015, 15:53
I'm gratified that there are so many folks here who feel positively about ethical hunting. Especially in the UK, which I understand is world of difference both in terms of attitudes, culture and availability.
I grew up in Georgia (US) knowing only what I consider ethical hunters. I never met anyone fitting the stereotype of the boozy folks that shoot at sounds or who leave the meat in the woods until I was in college. My parents, both in the 70s, deer hunt with bows more than with guns.
I think there is some room to maneuver, however, in the meat-vs.-trophy view of hunting. I think a lot of that comes from our own experience -- which I think for most of us is largely hearsay. For instance, let's talk about white-tailed deer hunting. You have folks who pay lots of money for a guided hunt on a Texas ranch with sure access to a buck with a huge rack; that is what we call trophy shooting, it not being worthy of the term hunting. But then you have smaller landowners who read the signs, calculate, plan, and spend months or years hunting an individual buck -- to proudly mount the head and cook the meat. Such folks can be (in my experience) fairly learned in deer behavior and biology, and manage their properties accordingly. I've knows several of the latter, who will tell tales around the fire of how the buck outwitted him time and again, until luck or skill went against the noble animal on that last crisp morning. I tell you, some of these tales are truly worthy of a bard. Is this attitude unworthy of druidry? I don't think so.
As it happens, most hunters probably fall someone in between on this spectrum -- townfolk who pay to lease the hunting rights on farms or woodlots, and hunt foodplots a few days a year to shoot any deer (or any buck) that shows up. Even so, the lease payments cover property taxes and keeps the land from becoming housing developments.
For myself, I hunt deer, and bring home far more does than bucks. Most bucks, I pass up -- if I don't think it's big enough to hang on the wall, I leave it to grow older. I also pass up some does, for various reasons. I always take the meat, both for my family and as gifts to friends.
Since I joined OBOD, I've tried to be even more contemplative than usual; as I sat in a deer stand a year ago I contemplated why I personally hunt deer. There are reasons why hunting is necessary – deer increase their numbers without regard to their welfare or ours. There are reasons why hunting is to be preserved – culture and tradition have their value. Appreciation for nature, confidence, etc... these are merits as well. The meat is both tasty and (depending on who looks at it) healthier than beef. Concerns for ethics are assuaged by comparing a factory-farmed life and stress-filled final minutes of a cow vs. the quiet, free life and sudden and unexpected death of a hunted deer.
When asked by non-hunters, I cite all of these, plus the personal responsibility of picking out the animal to be taken – something the burger-eaters in town can't say, I would add with a touch of self-righteousness. But in the woods, in that time of private reflection, I turned the notion around and looked at it in the context of a religious obligation. I eat quite a lot of meat throughout the year, and the vast majority of those animals lived in barns and feedlots, which if pressed many people would say they dislike but few ever think about. These animals are raised and killed by faceless strangers, their lives sacrificed so that I may buy some food from store or restaurant. But in the Autumn, I enter my sanctuary woods as a Catholic enters the confessional. I proclaim that I have not forgotten that my plastic-wrapped food was once a living animal, fed on plants which were in turn nourished by the sun, and in token of this acknowledgement I will perform the sacrifice myself, at least this one time. I do not flinch from this symbolic duty, and endeavor to kill swiftly. And kneeling over the animal, whose life I took and whose flesh will provide nourishment for my wife and child, my friends, and myself in the coming year, I pause to silently express the compounded gratitude and apology.
For what it's worth, I'm a second-generation wildlife biologist. There are many types of hunting, many attitudes and flavors within each type. I just wanted to give a view a little closer to the hunting culture than many folks might otherwise see.