The doe’s green eyes reflected in our flashlights, as she stared at us approaching. It had already been a long night. It would be longer. My hunting companion had shot the doe three hours before, and it was not a good shot. No vital organs hit – a gut shot.
We had tracked the doe, many times close to giving up, but there was a need to find her. For a hunter, losing an animal is a hard pill to swallow. Also, my thoughts were with the doe. She was injured and suffering. It was our responsibility to end the suffering. Many would question the need to hunt at all. “Can’t you simply go to the supermarket?” they might ask. Well, yes, I suppose I could. I could be as disconnected and unknowledgeable about my food’s sources as most Americans. I choose not to be.
I believe everyone who eats meat should hunt at least once. It’s not that I believe that hunting once would turn everyone into lifetime outdoorsmen (I want that – and don’t want that. I like my woods uncrowded). It is my belief, however, that hunters have the greatest opportunity to appreciate the realities of life, sustenance, and death. Unfortunately, even many hunters don’t see hunting this way, and may go their whole lives blind to such insights.
As the doe stared at us, and us at her, I could see her suffering. It was unfortunate that the shot had been off target. It is the hunter’s responsibility to go into the woods prepared. Hours of practice with your bow. Gun’s scope dialed-in. All the preparation you can possibly perform in order to make the quickest and most ethical of kills. And yet, it does not always happen as it should. And here we were, faced with only one choice. Another shot.
Death, even for a hunter, is often far more than an arm’s length away. The shot is made, the animal runs off, and after tracking you come upon the lifeless form. But the doe defied these norms, and we were forced to look into her eyes and make the decision to end her life more quickly. It was up to me. I had my bow nearby. Thankfully, I was able to end her suffering. And gratefully we began the process of removing her from the woods.
Many people eat meat. And many people are far removed from the process of its procurement. It is profound. Or it should be profound. Taking the life of another being for our sustenance should not be done lightly or callously. It is, however, part of who we are. We are part of this world – a world that is “red in tooth and claw”, and we owe our existence today to ancestors that were part of nature in a much more intimate way than we are today. To divorce ourselves from nature, to in some way set ourselves apart from it, is to do a disservice to ourselves. It is an act of willful forgetfulness – unhealthy and unnatural.