We North Americans have never been as separated from the food we need to survive as we are now. Our meat is raised by others in factory farms, killed by others in industrial factories, packaged and marketed and delivered by corporations until it arrives at a grocery store for us to buy. Our food has been sanitized, commodified and industrialized in the interests of the corporations who profit from it. And the previously universal human experience of self-reliance for our own survival has been taken from us to benefit the agri-business industry.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can reclaim our human heritage. Hunting is a universal fact of our human inheritance. At every step of our human evolution, we relied on hunting to obtain our food. Every human, I believe, is in their heart a hunter, a forager, a natural being exposed to nature and within nature and trying to survive through integration with the natural world. These instincts, this calling, is there within each one of us. And all it takes for this instinct to come out is exposure to nature, to the wild, to the pursuit of wild food, and you’ll be a hunter, a forager, a naturalist, a gatherer for life.
But is it morally right to kill a wild animal? Isn’t it better to leave the wild animals wild, to eat the docile domesticated ones, to eat only plants? How can we justify hunting and killing wild animals that share our desire to live? I believe we can hunt, and kill – ethically – provided that we follow these basic principals: that we strive to minimize suffering, that we practice sustainable hunting, that our behaviour as hunters leaves the ecosystem and environment better than we found it, and that we hunt in such a way as to improve ourselves and society around us.
One: we should always minimize suffering. Death is cruel. Death in nature even more so. The deer we hunt have no happy ending – none of us do, but if it is a deer’s path to suffer a natural death, that death will be ugly. Hit by cars or eaten by wolves or the slow suffering of starvation, a deer’s wild death will most likely result in more suffering than the quick death at the hands of a hunter. But to provide this, we must always strive to be better shots, better hunters, to get closer to our target, to shoot straighter. It is our ethical duty, and we must always remember it. Through our off-season training and marksmanship programs, we can help you minimize the suffering of our quarry.
Two: Our hunting must be sustainable. We do not hunt species at risk or species that are threatened. Our primary quarry here in Alberta, the deer, moose, elk, and birds we pursue have stable populations. Hunting helps to keep their populations stable; if not hunted, wild game populations tend to expand until the carrying capacity of their habitat is reached, at which point animals starve, are more prone to disease and their populations can crash. By selective hunting, wild game populations are kept at healthy levels.
Three: Give some back. It is not enough that our hunting doesn’t threaten species survival – we need to leave the environment as a whole better than we found it. The true threat to wild animals here in North America is not hunters, but the loss of habitat. 150 years ago,where I sit in South-West Calgary was the home of mule deer and antelope, grizzlies and grey wolves. Today there are shopping malls and suburbs. In another 150 years, what will be left?
120 years ago in North America, many wild species were on the verge of extinction. There are actually far more whitetail deer in North America today than there were 100 years ago – and this is due to hunters and conservationists like President Theodore Roosevelt, John James Audubon, John Muir. These early environmentalists were hunters, and through their experience of hunting recognized the value of wild places and wild animals, and protected habitat and species.
Today, too many hunters are reluctant to call themselves environmentalists, and are unwilling to prioritize wild spaces over economic growth. Hunters, if we want to have anything left to hunt, must stay on the side of wild places over corporate interests, and support organizations and politicians who are willing to do the same. Organizations like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and The Wild Sheep Foundation – which we here at Get Hunting support as members – are doing vital work with habitat preservation. But we must demand more of the politicians we support. Too many hunters support politicians who see more value in golf courses than wild mountains, in oil wells than wetlands. This can change. And it starts to change when we get a more diverse (both politically and culturally) population of hunters.
Four: Hunting must make us better humans. If we do all the things I laid out above, I believe we can ethically justify hunting to others – but we still have to justify hunting to ourselves. I was asked once, by a vegetarian non-hunter, what I felt when I killed a deer. “I feel happy,” I said. “And so, so sad.” Anytime you cause the death of another being, I think, you should reflect on it. And if you don’t have that sadness, that sense of loss that the animal’s death was necessary, I think you probably shouldn’t hunt. Every death, of everything, is a tragedy, but a necessary one. And one of the ways I feel is helpful to work through that sadness is to ensure that you hunt in a way that makes you a better, kinder, more centered, more reflective person.
So we hunt in ways that surround us in nature – no driving roads looking for deer, no riding around on quads, no sitting over baitpiles. We hunt the hard way, the natural way – boots and the bush and the animals have plenty of opportunity to escape. It’s more fun – but more importantly, the process of hunting as an all-encompassing endeavour, and the physical work of hunting this way, I believe, makes you a better person. It is a long process of gaining knowledge and comfort in nature, and in that process is some kind of enlightenment. And, this makes your eventual success at obtaining your own wild, natural food all the more thrilling.
If you agree with this philosophy, come find us. Book your hunt. You’ll start a journey shared by a long line of your ancestors stretching back to the paleolithic era, in a sustainable, natural, and fulfilling way.