It all started with looking at the food I was eating and giving my son and wondering what happened to it before it gets in our plates. What impact did it have on nature, what will it do to my body, but more importantly how will it support or compromise my son’s development and future health. What I learned motivated me to make some changes. After all, you are what you eat.
The first steps of the journey were easy; gradually switching to organic, stalking farmers markets to get to know who does what and how. Buying bulk from ethical farmers and learning techniques for preserving and canning. Then I started growing more and more food on my patio with varying degrees of success.
I felt pretty darn good about myself. Until I realized I couldn’t afford enough organic, grass fed meat to feed a very active fast growing teenage boy who had zero interest in becoming a vegetarian. It was time to put my shooting skills to work and learn how to hunt.
Now you have to understand that hunting is a huge step for me. Those who know me well know that violence or cruelty repulse me; I can’t even handle TV news footage. No, really, it actually gives me nightmares to see what humans can do to each other. If I find an insect in my house, I gently bring it outside, being careful not to hurt it in the process. Yes, I have been known to talk to it and explain that we are going to find it a more suitable home. It’s ok to poke fun, I do it all the time.
I learned about Eat Wild at work, when one of my coworkers told me about this event his wife went to where they served wild meat on a long shared table and talked about hunting. I went to check it out and was hooked. Dylan’s philosophy is exactly in line with mine and I enjoyed every course, workshop and event I attended. . Eat Wild played a huge part in providing education, and resources that otherwise were not accessible to me.
While preparing for this goal – about 2 years – I felt like an impostor with my non hunting friends and definitely in yoga classes, but to my delight, I received tons of support and encouragement when I finally came public with my goal of becoming a hunter.
The fall of 2015 found me driving to meet a group of people for a planned hunt, I had that feeling one gets on the climb up to a particularly terrifying roller coaster. That was it, I was doing it.
I was terrified at what I was about to do and was an exhausted raw bundles of nerves by the time we arrived at our destination. Hadn’t properly slept in days. What drove me to pursue was the certainty that it was the right thing to do and the confidence in the skills honed for this goal.
The hunt itself was perfect. If I had 100 years to think of the perfect sequence of events for an introduction to hunting, I could not come up with a better plan and certainly no better group of people.
I first got to see a couple elks being put down by experienced hunters. One of the animals died when I was but a few feet from it. It was a powerful experience, to watch this animal gently close its eyes and lowering its head, was peaceful and beautiful. Not the traumatic event I was bracing myself for.
At this point, I was not a whole lot of help, but I observed firsthand experienced hunter at work. It was surprising to me that as soon as the knife was put to the animal it turned into meat as if a switch got flipped.
On my second outing, I had a deer in my scope twice, but chose not to take the shots because I wasn’t confident I could do it with minimum pain to the animal while preserving as much meat as possible. I was so proud of the fact that I didn’t get buck fever and just shoot regardless. My brain was still working despite the adrenaline cursing; I was shaking so hard.
Then my hunting partner had a perfect shot on another deer. Nice clean shot at about 30 m it doesn’t get better than that. They let me do the field dressing and the skinning – yes, I actually asked to gut it, I might even have said please. It was great learning to have two mentors coaching me on how to do it in ways to cause minimal damage on meat and skin.
On the third trip, my deer came. She was waiting for me broadside at about 100 m up a gentle slope. There was not a single branch between me and her. She was waiting patiently, looking at me. This was it. The moment of truth. I remember moving my sight over different parts of her bodies, I could hear Dylan’s voice as I went up her front leg where there is a tuft of white hair conveniently placed to indicate the heart and lungs areas – the safest area to quickly kill an animal. My scope was steady, it was time. And then I started to talk myself out of it, I had this entire monologue in my head about how I didn’t need to do it, store bought meat can’t that bad… . but then I remembered all the steps I have taken for just this moment. I was well surrounded for this animal to be treated as respectfully as possible. It felt like a very long conversation, it must have been a very patient deer. I don’t remember hearing or feeling the shot. I remember making the decision to do it, and then the panic of not seeing the deer in my scope after the shot. I was so afraid I had somehow miss and injured an animal who would suffer for hours if not days.
Although my hunting partner told me it was a clean shot, I was not convinced until I saw her. When we got to her, she was dead; I really had been a clean shot. Thank everything that is good in this world!!
I took a moment to put my hands on her and gave my thanks, my blessings and really allow myself to realize the significance of what had just happened.
Then the work started.
Gutting, dragging, it took a while but I did it. Back at camp, it was skinning and butchering. Tip of the day – wash your clothes in cold water with this type of activities because hot water cooks the blood into the fiber of your clothes. It’s a lot of work, but the eating and celebrating makes it all worthwhile.
Now in the fall of 2016, I have been on my second successful hunt. Grateful to have so many people to learn from and eager to learn more. Until I have enough knowledge to share so I can pay it forward by supporting others on their journey to understand the deeper meaning of the food chain. After all, you are what you eat, and I choose to Eat Wild and Free. Namaste.