New Hunter Musing

I don’t know if I can really call myself a new hunter yet.  I have my license now. I’m tanning a squirrel hide in the master bathroom (that sentence was nearly the title of this post just to make you look).

But I haven’t shot a critter yet.  I assisted in the gutting and skinning of said squirrel.  Honestly, she was very nearly my kill.  I had her sighted in perfectly and was applying pressure to the trigger when she moved. Ah well.  Next time.  I have learned that grabbing a handful of still warm squirrel and ripping her flesh from her body does not make me squeamish.  I figure that counts towards my 2012 goal of becoming more intimately acquainted with my food. Also, good to know. I don’t really know what I’ll do with the squirrel pelt once it is tanned, but my husband knows a thing or two about stuff to do with leather, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something.  Really, I wanted to know more about the process.  That’s all a musing of its own.

Sitting in silence on a cold Saturday morning prior to sunrise is a good time to think.  Here I was wearing some Doc Marten work-boots with reinforced toes leaving plenty of room for the much needed toe warmers stuck to my Hello Kitty knee socks.  My boots just happen to be red patent leather.  Yeah, I even have fabulous shoes for tromping through the woods.   But I digress.

I wondered what me 10 years ago would of thought of me on that cold Saturday morning waiting for sunrise and the temp to break the freezing point.  You know, the me that had never shot a gun.  Didn’t own one or really know anything about them.  The animal lover.  Note: I am writing this while flanked by a rescued cat and a rescued dog.  When I was still young enough to go camping* with my parents, I often tried to pet the raccoons that would come up to eat the food we had set out for them.  I would dream about finding a baby as raising it as a pet.

I had the opportunity to feed a deer out of my hand.  It looked at me with its pretty brown eyes while licking the salt from my sweaty hands.  The idea of shooting an animal seemed barbaric.

And yet, there I was Saturday morning watching bait previously placed in an area where we scouted wild pig** activity. Freezing my ass off with a rifle in my lap. With every intention of ending the life of one of God’s creatures.

Funny how maturity and education changes you.  I’ve always been a meat eater.  I knew that animals died for my food.  Even cute, furry ones***. At some point, I realized it was awful hypocritical of me to eat meat and yet take issue with those that hunted. But it was harder for me to get to a point where I thought I could do it.

And then there was the rabbit.  You remember? The one eating my garden. Hey, we worked hard for those nutrients, we had to get them somehow.

Um.  Full stop? Is this coming from the same girl that only a few years prior was trying desperately to save 3 baby rabbits? Feeding them KMR and snuggling them on her belly to keep them warm? The same girl that cried the day we had to bury them because they didn’t survive?

Yep. And you know what? In some ways it feels like an act of worship.

It’s easy to take for granted the bounty God has provided for us when we fight the crowds for meat in cellophane and Styrofoam. For me anyway.  I am not feeling particularly thankful when I have to push past the lady dressed in size manatee spandex leggings (NOT PANTS). And really, must you people walk through the middle of the rows in the parking lot? I’d really rather not run you over, but it’s been a long day, you shouldn’t push it.

But in the bitter cold, out in the elements of raw creation, it’s hard to deny it.  Long before sunrise, a predator better equipped for the night and the woods was curious about us, and yet moved on to other things. That’s a good story, but I’ll leave it to EvylRobot. All I will say is that I’m glad I didn’t have to face it in the dark.

From our little spot in the trees, we watched the world awaken.  The stars faded and finally, the sun filtered in.  Unfortunately, it seems our piggies are not morning piggies, but that’s okay.  We’ve learned something for next time.  Sometimes God deems to bless us by saying no to what we ask for.  Also, we failed to take the time to ask before we started our hunt.

I still love all of God’s creatures.  I’ve realized that hunting them is anything but callous towards them.  Callous is ordering a basket of chicken wings without noting the lives lost for your meal.  In taking the time to study the habits of an animal before setting up in their habitat, you must respect them.  Their lives become very real. You are forced to recognize exactly where the bounty that God provides comes from.  In taking this step, I’ve learned to truly love and respect these creatures.

Even though this hunt did not net us any meat, it was not unsuccessful. The consolation pork shoulder I purchased later at the grocery store had a greater value.  Sure, it came from some pig on a farm living a life of luxury prior to harvest.  But I had just spent the day hoping to meet its wild brethren.  Brethren worthy of researching for weeks on end.  Potentially deadly brethren at that.  That can certainly change your perspective on things.

I don’t have a problem with people that only ever see meat as something from the store or restaurant.  I just think they are missing out.  My goal is about not missing out on the whole picture of our blessings.

*Camping as a kid meant my parents rented a cabin a state park.  We were roughing it because we didn’t have cable. 

**In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a friend that had one of those trendy pot-bellied pigs as a pet when we were kids.  It would stick its nasty snotty nose on everything. I hated that thing and wanted to kick it most of the time.  I think this may be the true origin of football.  

***When I mentioned to my mother that the garden rabbit was the first rabbit I’d ever eaten, she told me it was the first time I’d known I was eating rabbit.  Apparently, I’d had it often as a kid, but no one told me.  Explains why the flavor was so familiar and yet I couldn’t place it.  

 

11 thoughts on “New Hunter Musing”

  1. Hunting is a spiritual experience. I’ve yet to let a kill pass that wasn’t thanked for giving it’s life for my continued existence. And it truly will bring you closer to your food, which is always a good thing.

  2. You’ve discovered what many people today totally miss – that hunting/killing animals for meat and being an animal lover are not mutually exclusive. Anti-hunters often carry the superficial thought that if you kill something, you must “hate it”.

  3. I’m addicted to squirrel hunting now but it’s not my fault! If my best friend hadn’t come up with his wonderful .22 rifle and gotten me started, and if he hadn’t left the .22 at my house for the week (just in case you want to go out hunting some other day) it might be a different story.

    I also have to say that I think a squirrel pelt is just about the prettiest fur going and I’m itching to tan the skins I have in the freezer. Can you write and give me some pointers? (my husband and said best friend think I’m nuts…but I digress…)

    Our squirrels are disgustingly fat, how did you flesh the hides? How long does tanning take? Where do you get your supplies?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  4. Welcome to the world of hunting! The “kill” is not the joy of my hunts. The hunt itself is the most pleasurable part. It is nice to be out observing nature whether you take a shot or not. We have always claimed that the fun stops when the animal drops. This is especially true for large game.

  5. i LOL at your pig comment. i don’t understand why people keep pigs in their homes. they might be “clean” but dang are they nasty, frequently ill-tempered, and shouldn’t be pets.

  6. According to, I forget which volume exactly, of the Foxfire series about Southern Appalachian living before TV and electricity, Squirrel leather is particularly tough, which you wouldn’t think would be the case, so if you are unable to tan the hide so that the fur stays on, you can use it for some project that needs particularly durable leather. Also, it is referred to as “Whang” leather, and is an ingredient in Brunswick Stew, and Jambalaya when you’re too far from the coast for shrimp and oysters.

  7. Next time you’re down home in Dixie during deer season give us a shout. Always a place at the hunting camp for you. 🙂

  8. Hunting can be a very spiritual experience. I enjoy getting out and seeing animals as much if not more than bringing home the meat. Preparing a fantastic meal is another wonderful experience. Hmmm, squirrel leather holsters? 🙂 A little small, but would be perfect for some of the pocket rockets out there, lol

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