Hunting deer on a mountain bike

  • (c) Istock, Richard Goerg

In the tangle of gear in my daypack, the phone started ringing. It was a wholly inappropriate moment: My phone is pink, and its jaunty notes clashed with the traditional hunter's world of blaze orange and camouflage. I sat on a rock by the trail and cringed. Everything about this -- my first hunting trip -- would prove to be post-modern.

My friend Andrew had been bugging me to hunt with him, and I'd put him off.  Now, on the final afternoon of deer season, I realized that my bike trailer and I were integral to his dream of a carbon-neutral hunt.

We pedaled through town, he with our sole rifle across his back, me towing the trailer.

"I've always wanted to do this," Andrew said. "To leave from my house, go hunting and carry the deer back home. Without a car -- to get a deer without spending any fossil fuel."

With its locavore impulses and proximity to wild places, Missoula, Mont., is the perfect place to chase this dream. The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is less than five miles from downtown. Deer and elk overflow into the adjacent residential valleys, and hunting is allowed in order to control herd numbers.

Andrew and I hadn't known each other for very long. We had teamed up on a project at work, and we sometimes met to discuss it on the stationary bikes at the gym. That gave way to mountain biking as the weather improved, and that in turn led to this experiment in bike hunting.

Three miles past the trailhead, we stopped and loaded the rifle. Now, we pedaled on tiptoe. I almost rear-ended Andrew when he stopped short and stepped off his bike. A good-sized doe had just crossed the meadow ahead of us.

I sat on the rock and watched as the white plastic of his bike helmet appeared and disappeared in the tangle of trees.

I agreed to this first hunt because I've always spent a fair amount of time in the woods, usually running or biking as a restorative escape. Hunting, it seemed to me, might be a more practical way to spend that time. I also like the idea of employing the kind of skills and the self-reliant ethic that help connect me to a fading but not forgotten generation -- our great "grands" who hunted their way into the 20th century and a rapidly changing world.

I've been interested lately in my father's grandmother, who grew up in a geographic swirl that encompassed much of the Western United States. A typesetter and reporter, she and her editor husband joined the rush to the Klondike in 1897, working at newspapers, following the gold.  As he lobbied drinkers toward moderation, urging them to "put a squirt of lemon in it," she earned a reputation as an outdoorswoman. Her obit said she climbed every worthwhile peak in southeastern Alaska. According to family lore, she kept ptarmigan on the table using the old .22 that hangs above the bar at my parents' house.

From my perch on the rock, I felt her beside me, long skirts held silent, a historic reminder that a steady shot might be as handy a survival skill for journalists now as it was back then.

The single shot from Andrew's rifle was incredibly loud. In an instant, it fused the silliness of biking with a gun with the seriousness of killing an animal. I leaped to my feet. He gave me a thumbs-up from the meadow. His eyes were huge, and we gave the deer and the moment time to settle.
Twilight bled into darkness as we knelt in the grass beside the doe. I touched her warm hide. The light of my headlamp caught her eye and I saw her lingering life force slowly fade.

"Can you read the third paragraph?" Andrew asked, handing me some folded office paper. My headlamp picked up the words, instructions off the Internet for field dressing a deer.

This wasn't Andrew's first deer, although it wasn't old hat to him, either. But it was my first deer, and I had no idea what the next step was. Neither of us grew up hunting, but we share the conviction that if you eat meat you ought to at least acknowledge where it comes from. Local meat is infinitely preferable to feedlot imports.

As I read -- something about pinching the skin at the abdomen, inserting the tip of the knife, be careful not to puncture the entrails -- I was grateful that Andrew had let me in on his uncertainty. It allowed me to share the process in all my naïveté, not despite it. Together, we picked our way through the inner workings of the deer, slowly separating the motor from the muscles it had moved.

The evening grew cool. I held the slippery esophagus in my fist while Andrew worked his knife at the opposite end. With some effort -- a twist, a tug and a tip -- the entrails spilled onto the ground as one clean, complete package.

By the light of our headlamps, the texture of the undigested grass in the doe's translucent stomach struck me like a solar wind: She was the machine that ate the grass the sun and earth had grown. She had built the meat that I would eat. Standing in the moonlit meadow, I felt an intense new respect for the process that turns sunshine into meat -- a future meal to fuel more dreams and rides and friendships.

Nadia White lives in Missoula, Montana, where she teaches at the journalism school from which her grandmother graduated.

Linda D Paul
Linda D Paul Subscriber
Nov 19, 2011 04:42 PM
I love this! What could be better than harvesting your own wild game without consuming gas by the minute, purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of dodads, gadgets, and conveniences to augment the "hunting experience?" Keep it simple. It helps, that Nadia and Andrew live practically in the lap of a game reserve, but even so, most hunters wouldn't even conceive of biking to the back 300 acres of the old homestead to harvest a deer. Move over Cabela's. It can be done without you!
Raphael Montoliu
Raphael Montoliu Subscriber
Nov 22, 2011 02:22 AM
Interesting article...however, you may want to reflect upon your views. A deer, or any other animal, is not a "process that turns sunshine into meat"...Neither is a dog or a cat, or a horse...and neither is a human being.
All animals are sentient beings. They feel love, fear, pain, etc...they are not machines.

Whether you choose to eat meat or not, and to hunt animals for their meat, is your choice. But you should not rationalize the process of killing anything but pretending that it has no spirit. At least the Native Americans, who were hunter, acknowledged the spirit of the animals they killed for food, and usually cleansed themselves spiritually (ceremonies) after coming from a hunt, as they knew killing anything was a sort of transgression and a serious matter.

JW Westman
JW Westman Subscriber
Nov 22, 2011 02:20 PM
You bet this can be done without all the hi-tech gadgets. All the high-tech gadgets are taking over where woodsmanship should still be. We also hunt elk from our mtn. bikes and packpacks during archery season. JW Westman Montana
Tim Lydon
Tim Lydon Subscriber
Nov 24, 2011 10:48 AM
thanks for a really great, thoughtful article and for putting out there the notion of taking responsibility for your food,and doing it w/o fossil fuel, to boot!
Oscar P
Oscar P
Nov 26, 2011 11:35 PM
I agree with Raphael. It's all the rage to now equate hunting with one's DNA imperative and with ultimate spiritual attainment. It's disingenuous at best, repulsive at worst, speaking to the most self-centered rationalizations for one's desire to hunt. The writer says they gave the deer "time to settle" -- which in hunting parlance means, wait out the death, sometimes for hours as the animal suffers and dies slowly from its injury. The fact that dusk was upon them when the writer "saw her lingering life force slowly fade" suggests a time frame that involved a much slower death than most non-hunters understand. Get out in the field to see what this means if you doubt me. I find it particularly grating that so many new hunters seem to have no experience with the natural history of the animal before they start hunting. Spend a few years watching these wild animals, learning about them, understanding their behaviors, emotions and social structures. Then tell me how you understand what it entails to take this life -- what it really entails. I'm getting quite tired of reading these treatises from new hunters who come at the subject with very little experience with nature and wildlife, but who then equate their power to kill with exaggerated mystical notions. One doesn't need to assault wildlife to feel intense and profound connection to the wild world of which we are a part.
Jarrod Pace
Jarrod Pace
Nov 29, 2011 09:00 PM
   This is a really nice little story, but these stupid comments about a deer's spirit, and sunshine to meat really don't belong. The author wasn't trying to prove a point about what it means to hunt or how the deer should be treated.
   By the way, when you give a deer "time to settle," you are ensuring that the animal doesn't get up and run off when you approach it never to be found, wasted. The sunshine to meat comment clicked with me. I get it, I guess some people don't.
Anti-hunter people question: Would you rather have cougars and wolves in the woods or an orange clad hunter?
   Ms. White,
  Great job,I like the content as well as the delivery. I've always wanted to hunt from my bicycle. I'm glad you were able to engage in such an activity. Hunting is a wonderful way to get out and enjoy nature.

P.S. Don't worry about the people who are against hunting, their car obviously hasn't hit a deer yet.
Raphael Subscriber
Nov 29, 2011 10:07 PM
Jarrod, since you asked, I would rather see an orange clad hunter eaten by a couple of bears...

Now don't forget, next time you go on a bicycle ride, don't forget to take your salt and pepper shakers and put them in your little basket, so that when you see a road kill, to make your life easier, just pull right on over, and eat it right off the need to waste ammunitions.

Or is it the killing that you enjoy more than deer meat?...I mean, if you don't get to pull the trigger, killing a helpless animal, do you feel less powerful?

And what would happen if you did not have a gun or a powerful crossbow?...Would you hunt a bear with a knife, like the Indians did?

Hunting might be a way for your kind to enjoy nature, BUT LET ME ASSURE YOU NATURE DOES NOT ENJOY YOU!! I would like to see how tough any of you would be without your guns, your crossbows, without your weapons, facing a wild animal such as a grizzly bear. You are not tough, you are cowardly killers, and not worth the blood you spill.

Furthermore, you ignorant hunters always go after the biggest animals for your trophies and your egos, and by doing so you WEAKEN the species you hunt.

I hope I don't hit you while you are riding your little bicycle with the deer antlers on the handles, and people driving by think you are just another worthless animal killed on the road.
Katie Cather
Katie Cather
Nov 29, 2011 11:50 PM
The only justifiable aspect of this fluff piece is having it categorized as “Recreation”—recreational killing, that is.
The futile attempt to justify killing innocent wildlife with phony claims of herds being too large is laughable, but it snookers plenty of people. Wildlife is managed NOT for the good of the species but for the good of recreational killers, who then can be viewed as public benefit saviors by the gullible. For more hype, Great Granny, gets tossed into the mix for the heritage angle. She probably knew how to forage—which, more than likely, these people do not have to do. The carbon-neutral smokescreen is a further attempt to boost approval for the killing, but how carbon neutral are the bikes, helmet, trailer, rifle (scopes lasers)?—hardly reminiscent of Granny’s days. Finally, the absurdity of this piece comes full circle with the author’s using a health claim to silence critics. Neither diseased wildlife infused with lead fragments nor antibiotic- and hormone-filled CAFO meat should be consumed by anyone who cares about their health. Too bad HCN is so gullible (or desperate).
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
Nov 30, 2011 08:26 AM
Pardon me for a sec while I clean the raw still live sinews from between my teeth.

I loved the bike with trailer angle and have thought long and hard about it. Many trails are bike or hike only and a bike would allow much more remote access.

Good luck next year.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 12:37 PM
Katie,thank you for adding those corrections to Jarrod's commentary. There are a lot of hunting memes floated around to persuade non-hunters of the nobility of the sport, and one of the most often-used is population control. But as you've mentioned, game herds are often managed for precisely the opposite outcome: making sure there enough animals for sportsmen to hunt, sometimes altering habitat to ensure population increases.

There are a couple of studies showing that deer drives during hunting season may increase deer-driver collisions as the animals are driven into roadway areas. There aren't, sadly, enough studies confirming this. But if you've ever been in a high-pressure hunting area with multiple drives occurring on deer, it's not difficult to fathom how that stress would alter an animal's behavior in critical ways.

Furthermore, if population control were truly a motivation, then hunters as a group wouldn't have the antagonistic attitude they do toward apex predators. They would welcome the balance in ecosystems that tends to occur when apex predators exist in healthy numbers -- much more healthy and balanced than when humans self-assign as stewards. Just look at what's happening to wolves in Idaho and Montana. There are incredible positive changes in biodiversity as a result of their being re-introduced. But as we speak,they are being slaughtered by hunters, erroneously scapegoated for declines in elk populations. In at least one case in Idaho, it's been shown that human hunters, not wolves, have put excessive hunting pressure on the elk, contributing to these declines.

When elk numbers increase, these same people complain of how the elk are destroying the Aspen growths and then issue calls for more hunting. The upshot is, declines in game animal numbers are NOT what hunters are looking for. They use that argument to sway people who are not as informed on this issue, but in all cases, they are looking to increase their hunting opportunities. Read hunting boards, go to hunting advocacy group websites and see what falls under the auspices of "conservation" as hunters see it. It's rarely in synch with what the rest of us would view as compassionate stewardship.
Jarrod Pace
Jarrod Pace
Nov 30, 2011 01:33 PM
You all have interesting points of view. I don't disagree with all of your comments. I think people should try to be more understanding of hunting, but I also agree some people (and states) are doing it for the wrong reasons. Every state is obviously different in there hunting regulations, and everyone conducts their hunting practices in different ways.

And the answer to my own question: I personally would rather see cougars and wolves than orange clad hunters.

Robb, my venison steak dinner last night was excellent (~70lb of meat for $17.00 plus a bullet is a great value).
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 06:38 PM
While I continue to appreciate the open forums associated with HCN, I do occasionally wonder about the use of the forums to vilify points of view that are different than those held by some.

Hunting is a viable wildlife management tool and often the only one available in cases where populations are too large either because of a lack of predators or because the wildlife isn't native to the location and has become invasive.

And hunting is an essentially different way to engage with 'nature' that isn't replicable by other surrogates like viewing -- if you haven't done it, you won't understand what the difference is. Personally speaking, the actual killing is the least enjoyable part of the experience though it is an act of taking personal responsibility for the decision to eat meat so I don't take it lightly.

There are no doubt far too many irresponsible hunters just like there are too many irresponsible hikers, drivers, anglers, photographers, and every other activity you can think of. That doesn't mean that you should paint everyone who participates in an activity with the same broad brush. At least not if you want to retain an open, non-judgemental mind.
Linda D Paul
Linda D Paul Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 07:17 PM
I agree with Tim. I've been shocked by the immature and vitriolic rhetoric of a few of the commenters. I expect a higher degree of cerebral discussion from HCN readers. Perhaps this forum needs editorial monitoring.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 07:48 PM
Tim, I realize that "taking responsibility for the meat" is now a popular talking point among hunters, particularly since it appeals to the sensibilities of the locavore movement. But as one who grew up around hunting and now is on the other side, working with injured wildlife, the unfortunate reality is that hunting causes a great deal of unnecessary death and suffering among wild animals.

Although there are far too few studies on injury rates, there are game-department estimates which suggest one or two injured bird for every four shot and retrieved. And an injury/loss rate as high as 50 percent in archery. That means millions upon millions of migratory birds, doves, deer and other mammals die because of hunting injury.

So, you are most like (from your commentary) a very ethical hunter and take responsibility for your kills. But hunting sport as a whole takes very responsibility for this tremendous collateral damage to wildlife. For instance, do you and your hunting partners count injured animals toward your bag limit or tag? If so, I would say you are a rarity, even among the several respectable hunters I count among my friends. If you shoot waterfowl, my guess is that you don't even know how many birds you've injured because a whiffed shot often looks like it misses the bird, but trust me -- there are birds that end up in wildlife facilities who, when x-rayed, have plenty of shot in their breast.

I admit, I used to be much more respectful of hunting because I believed most hunters walked their talk. I've seen a different side now and it's almost impossible to reconcile the reality with the rhetoric.

If Linda believes I'm being vitriolic (I'm not sure which commenters she was referring to) I would guide her toward hunting message boards to see what vitriol really tastes like.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 07:50 PM
p.s. Clarification: My previous comment should have read "are left to die from hunting injury, never retrieved."
Raphael Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 08:32 PM
I hate to say this Linda, but there is nothing cerebral about hunting or about discussing killing. However my first comment showed restraint, but when Jarod called it stupid, I had a little fun in my subsequent comment.

People can remove themselves from the realities of hunting and remain cerebral about it...but again, we are essentially discussing killing and butchering wild animals, and there is nothing noble about such activities. It is not a sport, it does not take much skills, and no one who engages in this is starving. In this day and age and in a nation like America, hunting is unnecessary and unjustifiable.

And it is because of hunters that wolf populations are being butchered in many western states. It is man's arrogance that causes him to dictate which animal has a right to live and which should be eliminated.
Linda D Paul
Linda D Paul Subscriber
Nov 30, 2011 10:55 PM
Wasn't you, Oscar.

I have been on both sides of the hunting issue. I grew up in Wyoming. I live in Idaho. I am an omnivore, as I believe my species has evolved to be. I eat meat. Not a lot, but I eat it. Therefore, I'm concerned about all of it:domestic or wild. I am concerned about how it lived and how it died. There are abusers in all aspects of the food industry, from farming to ranching to hunting. I do not believe Nadia White is an abuser. I respect her approach to dealing with the dilema of taking a life to perpetuate life. I had the unpleasant experience of strolling through a Cabela's store in September. The outrageous consumerism that hovered about the hunting displays nauseated me. That is why I found Nadia's essay an interesting contrast. I do not appreciate smarmy, sarcastic verbal dueling. There is too much of that in our canned media and in Congress. We need to learn how to speak to each other with respect, to listen to what is being said, and to respond without personal attacks.

I stand by my opinion that Nadia's bike trek to bring home meat was more admirable than a conglomeration of 4 diesel mantrucks loaded with campers, ATV's, power saws, power stoves, fridges, microwaves,GPSs, and an endless supply of other creature comforts. Of course resources went into her bike, tires, trailer, etc. But how about a bit of perspective here?
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 12:20 AM
I counted 14 deers laying in the grass on my property on summer day...on another day there were 43 wild turkeys...on another day 4 hares...countless ground squirrels. I have seen deer close enough, like 18 feet away, and have appreciated their grace, beauty, alertness, playfulness, I would have to go insane to experience a desire to shoot and kill any of these animals. Isn't there enough meat at the supermarket, for you meat eaters?

Is there is a problem of overpopulation, it is with the human species, that is constantly encroaching on animal territories, not with any animals. Furthermore if we had not killed so many of the predators, there would be no need for "management". Civilization "manages" nature by destroying the balance of nature, the natural order, and then intervenes to try to "fix" the imbalance while creating more chaos. The hunters' flawed view of wildlife "management" is symptomatic of a deeper problem, which is a problem of civilization: being neurotically driven to attempt to control and rule nature and all life in all of their aspects.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 12:34 AM
The shocking aspect of Nadia White article is the manner in which she describes separating herself from any feeling in order to do what she did: "separating the motor from the muscles"..."the machine that ate grass"..."the process that turns sunshine into meat".

She is talking about a sentient being, that is not different than a dog, a cat, a horse. Would she consider these machines?
There is nothing worse than the rationalization of killing, in any situation, and the detachment expressed in this article would shock any feeling person. But then again feeling and sensitive people are not the majority in this world.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 12:44 AM
By the way factory farmers also consider the cattle or pigs they raise "machines" there we go, there is no difference in the mentality of this hunter and of the factory farmer when it comes to their perception of what an animal actually is: a "process" that turns grass into meat!! There is no respect here, no acknowledgment of the fact that all animals are sentient beings, creatures that deserve to live unmolested by man (or woman).
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 12:53 AM
Linda, your issue of perspective is, indeed, an important one. You're right about the intrusion of trucks, ATVs and so forth.

The difficulty I had with this essay (as did a few others here) was with the issue of the writer veiling this killing in a poetic scrim. That, combined with the Cartesian notion of animal as machine. Those ideological twists in any piece are ripe for critique because they amount to a moral statement on the purpose of animal existence, and any such statement is open to critique, particularly if the revelation (animal as machine) is outdated based on our current understanding and consciousness. I realize that even historical hunting literature (a la Jose Ortega y Gasset) is infused with such romanticism. It strikes me as nothing more than the mind's rationalization for an act that under any circumstances is brutal and quite difficult to reconcile. Even if you believe in hunting.

To those of us who don't hunt, who understand the realities of the practice, it's a dishonest expression of what they have just incurred. Dishonest in the sense that there is no getting around the violence of slaying a living being. There is nothing beautiful about taking another's life, particularly for the prey. If you choose to view your own death in spiritual terms, that's fine. But to impose your own personal quest for connection and meaning upon the death of another is a significant sign of disrespect and disconnect. Given our increasing understanding for non-human cognizance, communication and social complexity, it may not be as far a stretch as some believe, to acknowledge the loss, pain and disruption we incur by such actions.

As such, the argument I'm making is that a deer fell, suffered for an unknown amount of time, hours most likely, and then died as the person who killed her, looked into her eyes and patted her warm hide. This was hardly a benevolent act from the standpoint of the deer, her predator kneeling by her side, watching her die. It is callous, and it's disingenuous to present the act as anything but what it was. I think other readers also respond to that disparity between reality and the author's perceptions.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 08:27 AM
Thanks Tim and Linda, for your comments about moderation. Rest assured I have been monitoring this discussion carefully. The HCN Comments Policy is as follows:

1. Use your real first and last names, and tell us your e-mail address when you sign up to comment. (We will not share your e-mail address; but we will use it to contact you in case we wish to reprint your comment in our print-magazine edition.)
2. Relate your comment to the HCN content or what other commenters have written.
3. Comments may not contain personal attacks, racism, sexism, or hatred; may not use gratuitous profanity.
4. Comments may not contain HTML.

As you can see, some of those policies are open to subjective interpretation, particularly the one referencing "personal attacks" and "hatred."

I take comment deletion and censorship seriously, and, in this case judged these comments to be in poor taste, but not in clear violation of our comment policy. My general preference is to let commenters speak their piece, because commentary is most often a reflection on the individual than anything else. Raphael's comments about accidentally hitting Jarrod toed the line, but I also saw that they were having a back-and-forth, and let it play out a bit further.

When comments do violate our policy I do delete them and notify the commenter with a note about why. Since my policy is to explain why I deleted a comment, I feel I need to have a very good reason to do so.

In this case, I chose not to delete anything, because I did not see a clear violation of our policy (perhaps our policy should add a clause about civility; this is something I shall ponder.) But I am paying attention.


Stephanie Paige Ogburn, online editor
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 11:50 AM
Stephanie, I probably more than toed the line with my last sentence about accidentally hitting Jarrid, so if you would rather take that sentence out, please do so...

Oscar, I could not agree more with you. Thank you for keeping this exchange properly cerebral while making strong points...
However I would like to remind other that we are not discussing 19th century English literature or quantum physics here.

Perhaps we should...indeed Descartes was wrong in his definition of the universe as a his mechanistic views, as you pointed out Oscar, and as contemporary exploration in the realm of consciousness reveals (am I being properly cerebral here?...just checking)

But I would rather, again, simply focus on the fact that the real obscenity here, and the thing that I do not appreciate in any form whatsoever, is the killing of helpless yet beautiful animals without cause. The hunter may choose euphemisms, such as "taking", "harvesting", but the word "kill" is a four letter word any way you slice it, and it is in very poor taste indeed (if poor taste is to be defined here) to attempt
to portray such a brutal and unnecessary action in pseudo-mystical, pseudo-poetic terms that barely hide the dishonesty of the rationalization of hunting.

In war, the enemy is always dehumanized, perceived to be less than human. In this piece, the deer is reduced to be a machine, a process, essentially meat on four legs. The process of detachment from feeling and from reality, from the actual meaning of taking a life, is similar in both cases, and
equally repulsive. I would have more respect for actual honesty...such as: "yes, I really do hate killing such a beautiful animal, and gutting it makes me sick, I do feel guilty, but I am a meat eater and it is my choice that my appetite for venaison should trump any compassion I may feel."

Would not this be more direct, simple, to the point...and honest?
Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 11:54 AM
Hi Raphael, thanks for the note. Unfortunately I do not have the ability to edit comments, only to delete them fully, so I'll let it stand and your note here can be an explainer, which I appreciate.


Stephanie Paige Ogburn, online editor.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 12:15 PM
Thank you Stephanie....I wish there was a way to review a comment before actually posting...for the more impulsive among us, and also to correct all the typos and errors.

Anyway, I will behave...

Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 01:09 PM
I enjoyed reading Nadia's piece and have enjoyed the debate for all it's worth. I've lived on both sides of the killing issue...raised in Indiana eating junk meat from fast food shops, gone vegan in college after being enlightened to the junk meat farms, gone fat on a vegan diet of highly processed foods, sugar, and coffee, and regained some balance starting with the eggs of bantams I fed and flesh of a deer my dear friend picked up fresh off the side of the road. I eat meat and prefer meat of animals who were born wild and died wild. I think it better to kill the wild than raise animals for the sole purpose of consuming them.

All the hunters I know (and particularly the ones who are most passionate about the hunt) suffer when they kill. I've listened to their stories. I'm not sure they know how to purify themselves of the kill through ceremony, but they certainly feel the need and impulse to do so.

I do not consider hunting sport or recreation. Hunting is the act of a predator. When the predator is human with all his human empathy intact (some no doubt have been stripped of this capacity), the human predator suffers when his prey is killed. All costs taken into account, a hunter with any sense about him (and particularly one on bicycle)in Montana is doing his prey and all of us a favor by being just a bit less dependent on the industrial military complex. Though a vegan diet can be balanced (with the absence of sugar and caffeine), a vegan would not survive a winter in Montana without the industrial complex running in full force. We could argue that humans should not live in Montana...or any place too far from the equator... This may eventually be our fate should any of us survive much longer. In the meantime, weaning ourselves from a dead-end system is a good idea. I long for a revival of all predators (two and four legged) hunting with respect for one another...the human ones showing respect for all.

But, as has been noted, this piece was not written to inspire a general debate about hunting or the killing of other animals for human consumption. I see worldviews colliding in this discussion. Words have never and will never sell a worldview, which only shifts through experience. In this sense, our words just bounce off the walls of identity we've built.

Knowing the area and the community, I figured the author was from Missoula when I saw the title of the piece. I'd like to see more appreciation for the effort to make hunting cost more human energy than it has to today. I applaud the effort. And, I'd like to emphasize that humans (many at least) will eat other animals as long as they are available to us. In my opinion, the debate should be about HOW lives are taken by the human predator. If you find me unfeeling, I invite you to join me for tea. Thanks to all who have shared their views. Special thanks to those who care for wounded animals and to those who are aware they "suffer with" when they take a life. Thank you, Stephanie for clarifying HCN comments policy.
Mike Welch
Mike Welch Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 03:08 PM
Tim already said what I needed to say. Nonetheless, I cant help myself. Newsflash to all of you vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and other 'ans', plants are also VERY much alive and possess a "spirit" if you will just as much as say a deer or a bison would. Now, go ahead and come down from your high-horses, oh wait, you wouldnt know how to do that since you most likely have never even touched a horse let alone ridden one. I forgot that you are totaly ignorant of traditional Montana values, customs, and ways of life that of which you have NO clue about. Do yourselves a favor and refrain from attacking people and their ways of life becasue you fail to have had the honor and priviledge of leading one for yourself. Stay in Colorado or California or wherever you and your ultra-PC-campus-liberal logic (as the late great George Carlin would exclaim) come from. And please stay far, far, far away from Montana.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 05:08 PM
Mike, your ad hominem attacks of those who disagree with you are a poor choice for debate like this, since character assassination generally means you don't have a cogent argument to support your point. If you have to resort to tearing people down, you probably don't have a leg to stand on in terms of logic for your practices and beliefs.

For the record, many of us who work with animals and support compassionate treatment of animals, come to this line or work or belief precisely because we HAVE lived the lifestyle you describe. I grew up with one side of my family having a long lineage in farming. I have lived in rural areas, am experienced with horses, have been around hunting, including family members who hunted, and in places where pretty much all was laid bare in terms of animal slaughter. I found so much of what I saw to be so inhumane, so unpalatable, so lacking in mercy for the animals in question, I changed my lifestyle to match my belief system about the sentience of non-human animals.

To denigrate that choice is simply to show your ignorance and your lack of empathy. It is not a "privilege" to feel another's suffering. It is in fact a burden to truly understand the magnitude of suffering among humans and non-humans both, a weight made heavier by those like yourself who choose to portray empathy and compassion weak and negative qualities. None of us who argue for more compassion in this world need to feel the type of shame you're trying induce. It's a tough road to walk, arguing for the weak when the status quo supports exploitation of those same entities, human and non-human both.

As far as plants having spirit, of course all life on this planet is infused with energy, how much we understand undoubtedly pales in comparison to the reality. Plants, as far as we know currently, do not have the developed sense of pain and nervous systems that animals like birds and mammals do, including us. But even if they did, your comment is a logical fallacy ... that because plants have life energy we should feel free to exploit any life because all life has energy. This simply doesn't hold up as logic or rationale. It's similar to the argument hunters like to use, saying that an Osprey eats a fish, nature is cruel, so we can be cruel as well. Well, we as humans lay claim to intelligence and consciousness. As such, we have moral and culinary choices that an Osprey most likely does not.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 05:15 PM
p.s., Mike, you mention George Carlin. You obviously never heard his rant on animal rights, including this comment: "I do not torture animals, and I do not support the torture of animals, such as that which goes on at rodeos: cowardly men in big hats abusing simple beasts in a fruitless search for manhood. In fact, I regularly pray for serious, life-threatening rodeo injuries." Sorry to bust your illusion of Carlin. He was a lot more "liberal" than you realize because you obviously don't understand what true "liberalism" is.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 08:46 PM
Mike, choosing not to eat meat, and not to torture and kill animals, has nothing to do with PC or with being liberal. Life has no ideologies, but it has forms of consciousness, which I am truly surprise you would acknowledge, since this is not a part of Montana's traditional values.

As Oscar explained, compassion is not a weakness, and brutality and insensitivity are not strengths. Values that define a disregard for life to be a virtue need to be examined, from wherever they may originate. And values that define insensitivity as a proof of manhood are laughable at best.

Since you brought up the buffalo, yes the bison was "managed" by American hunters in the 19th century, going from an estimated 50 million to perhaps 600, hunters taking nothing but the tongues and the hides in a frenzy of madness and greed, and supported in their killing frenzy by the government, because it was the only way the US could defeat the pains Indian tribes, by eliminating their food source.

That's what hunters do when they are not regulated and held back. Today, they kill off the rhinos, the elephants, tigers, gorillas, etc in other parts of the world. Humanity will not be satisfied until there is nothing left but vultures in the sky and cockroaches and slugs on the land, and the oceans are also empty of any life.

As far as plant consciousness, everything has consciousness, because is immersed in and imbued with energy, even your coffee table, even rocks, and water. And all responds to energy. However, as Oscar pointed out, plants do not have a sophisticated nervous system similar to our...but it does not mean that any life form should not be harvested in gratitude, which is one of the highest form of love, along with

As far as eating meat or not, this is still a semi-free country, more or less, so it is a personal choice. The hunter, in a way, is more honest than the meat eater picking up his diner at the grocery store, and unwilling to look at the hellish realities of factory farms and slaughterhouses. The hunter does get his or her hands bloody, so there is no hypocrisy there. However you should not feel compelled to justify your actions with claims of mystical communion with nature, of wildlife management and other bogus arguments if you choose to kill other sentient being for food.

There are no differences between your horse and a deer or elk, except that one is domesticated and the other is free, and you opt to ride one and kill the other. Would you eat your horse or your dog? If you find the ideas repugnant, that how us vegetarians or vegans, or any other compassionate people, feel about the torturing and killing of any animal for food.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 10:41 PM
Seems the debate here has come down to proving who among us cares the most about the living...who among us is the most compassionate? who among us suffers the most to see compassion gone missing from this world? Pride is poison.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 01, 2011 11:02 PM
Megan, that's not entirely true. When someone like Mike takes the route of character disparagement, it's only natural that those being insulted defend their position and point out the flaws in his reasoning. I can't speak for Raphael although we appear to agree on many things. But as far as my response goes, it was simply about correcting an erroneous and unkind characterization about those who care for animals. I don't see anything inordinately prideful in suggesting that helping animals might be a more compassionate response than exploiting them in any number of activities. That to me seems a natural conclusion to draw.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 12:14 AM
Megan, first of all imagine telling a fourth of July celebrant, who holds the American flag, that pride is poison...Why would it be okay to be proud of certain things and not of others?

Mike, who seems to speak for the entire state of Montana and to decide who comes and and out of that state (a lot of work for one man, even with a horse), appears to display a lot of pride in his "traditional values" and "honorable lifestyle" that include hunting. But it is not okay to be proud of being compassionate? Huh?

The original point however was not about was about attempting to explain that there is nothing romantic about hunting, regardless of how the above article attempts to portray hunting with a kind of Hollywood romantic glow (you can almost hear the music fading in the background). That was just too much to stomach. I think we made our points clear...

Happy trails...
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 12:25 PM
Oscar, I agree to the need for clarifying and defending one's point of view. The challenge is to do so without fluffing up and beating on our chests. The points are well taken and not prideful in and of themselves...pride is however apparent in the tone of many comments in the mix.
Raphael, I offered no postcript to "Pride is poison" that would suggest I meant to discriminate between pride in a nation, pride of an individual, or prideful compassion. Pride poisons the compassion you (and I) proclaim. We all carry pride. Think hard about what pride in our nation (our flag) has resulted in...unspeakable pain and suffering you will see. This is not to say we should not speak our truth and beliefs, only to say there's something to learn from others' truth and beliefs. And, it is not helpful to be proud of being compassionate. Prideful compassion means you feel somehow more compassionate than another...compassion is then something you do, rather than something you are. Compassion is boundless in the sense that it does not discriminate. The effort is to be compassion itself. Takes practice...I fail at this miserably and often. Pride is at its root discriminatory. Again, all points are clear and well taken by me at least. Thanks for caring. Peace.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 01:39 PM
Megan, please re-read the comments. There's a big difference between pounding your chest with pride over "being compassionate" and defending your position after another reader essentially denigrates you for showing compassion to animals. Big difference.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 01:49 PM
I will read through the comments again, Oscar. And I don't mean to point only to your or Raphael's comments with my reflection. I did not read other's comments to be critical of your compassion to animals, though. More, I read them as assaults on you personally...these personal assaults are what raise flags for me. I will read through the conversation again...difficult one to be had constructivly in an on-line forum. Cheers.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 01:57 PM
Megan, you did shoe discrimination by singling out the "pride of compassion" and not the pride of hunters and of someone who seems to want to embody the entire state of Montana and its "superior" lifestyle (superior to California, Colorado, etc).

I have personally no need for pride, compassion is not about pride but about caring and is not about ego. Hunting is about ego...stating that one's "traditional values" are superior is about ego.

Standing up for one's beliefs and character when under attack is not about ego.

All I have personally pointed out, along with others, is the dishonesty of this article, and its detachment from reality, from the actual act of killing. If anyone feels guilty about eating meat, and if this contradicts their idea of what it means to be compassionate, this inner conflict is their own personal problem, not mine.

The truth shall set us free! If one feels perfectly okay with the way animals are treated, on farms, in slaughterhouses, in the wild, in fur farms, etc etc, then that's their choice, but they should not hide from the truth and attempt to deny or mask reality, or rationalize their choice. They should say: I like meat, darn it, and it matters not to be whether this cow, pig or deer had to suffer abuse, cruelty and unbelievable pain in order to end up in my plate! My stomach comes first, and that's really all I care about, because I am at the top of the food chain, I am the most evolved digestive track around, and gosh I take pride in this!!
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 02:01 PM
Typos, endless typos:
"you did show" (not shoes)
"and it matters not to me whether this cow" (not and it matters not to be)
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 02:19 PM
Oscar, I read through the comments and you are correct that much of the content was to clarify and defend a perspective. I agree with Linda, though, that this conversation is laden with what feels to me like juveniles raising their flags and shouting at one another. Killing rightfully arises such passions, but I hope we can refrain from the blame/shame/naming game that leads us to another dead end. Perhaps this conversation is just the one I needed to check-in with my own reasons...and excuses. However, I do not think that all hunters are strangers to compassion. To say so insults the best of them and insults the best that you have in you to make a difference in the lives of other animals you care for. I most appreciate Raphael's comment about being honest regarding the nature of killing...that it is a terrible act and nothing pleasant to do. The hunters I know agree and say so. There are families (my own included) that depend on wild animals to supplement our diet. For us, it's this or WIC or the food pantry...and I'm too spoiled and aware of the poor quality and sources of these food options to go there. I also appreciate being able to be just a bit self sufficient when otherwise I am totally dependent on a system that I totally disagree with. Living today is complicated. We do our best with the regrets we have for our living.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 02:31 PM
Megan, I most disagree with people who hunt for "sport"...killing bears in Canada for example, or hunting "big game" in other parts of the world. Killing when hungry can be understood when one is unfamiliar with or unwilling to change one's diet. But again it should never be portrayed as a romantic activity.
And then there is the problem of poaching...according to a source in another article, one out of two animal killed in the wild in the US is killed by poachers, who kill whatever they want whenever they want. In my book that makes one out of two hunters a criminal, as far as the law and regulations are concerned, that are in place to prevent an all out killing
frenzy and the complete disappearance of some species.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 02:49 PM
But then...most hunters are neither poor nor hungry. They are not homeless. They have guns, ammunition, permits, horses (apparently) and homestead (the back 300 acres of which remain unexplored).

They hunt because they feel like it, because it is a family tradition, because they like venaison, because they think it is a great way to be in the outdoors, or and for any other reasons that spell unnecessary and unjustifiable killing.

There is no starvation in America yet, and you will notice that none of the pro-hunters in this thread spoke of hunting out of hunger or because of poverty. It may be a choice you made, but is is uncommon. The gear alone hunters need to buy is not affordable by the poor.
Mike Welch
Mike Welch Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 05:27 PM
First off, I never attacked anybody's character, I didnt even mention names. Second off, you all seem to take yourselves WAY too seriously, please, please, I ask all of you with great respect to please get over yourselves. And lastly, of course Carlin was more liberal than anything else. Anyone who isn't would be somewhat of a fool...whoops there I go again assassinating another nameless and faceless victim's character. sorry.
Mike Welch
Mike Welch Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 05:43 PM
Oh, and one last comment, I promise its the last. I happen to be an animal lover and in fact consider a large portion of my family (the majority in fact) to be of another species, of the non "human" variety. My original post was meant to be a shot at those who fail to recognize the traditional ways of the West and Montana in particular. In my opinion those who still remain close to the earth and the natural world live their lives as members of a greater system, the earth's ecosytem if you will. These are the people who still hunt, fish, and live off the land in a sustainable fashion. They live a TRUE natural life. Again, this is just my opinion, so go ahead and fire away from you Mac laptop as you sip your coffee from Whole Foods. Laugh away as you tell yourself how obsurd such a comment is as you are a responsible, prius driving, vegan, who only buys local, why, you must be living an honest post-modern version of a natural life. Right? OUT, END of comments.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 06:24 PM
People who talk about compassion take themselves way too seriously. But hunters who lobby to have the wolf eliminated in the west don' golly, these are true nature lovers.

And for those who did not know, newsflash: no one outside of Montana has ever ridden a horse...they are no horses outside of Montana, it's that simple.

Some other simple facts: all who express compassion for animals are PC, latte sipping, liberal-minded, prius-driving, whole foods consumers yuppies, and of course they have mac laptops!...Somehow it all goes with being compassionate...If I was sitting on a horse right now, I would be falling off, laughing so hard.

Hey, if I was to visit Montana and felt like I had to ask permission to anyone, I would ask the Native Americans, not the other kind. After all, it's their land, always has been, always will be. End of comments as well, we are getting so far off topic but it was fun as long as it lasted.
Oscar P
Oscar P Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 06:47 PM
Mike, first, nice of you to decide that the commentary ends with you. That aside, you've been listening to way too many Limbaugh talking points. Your characterization is a laughable stereotype. Furthermore, the totally-self-sustaining lifestyle you describe is such a tiny minority of Americans, it's barely statistical. I can think of only one hunter I've ever met who genuinely lived off the land ... without an F-150 truck, without stops to a fast food joint on the way back from the hunt, without buying food products that contribute to agribusiness, without the very things you criticize liberals for (computers, etc.), without buying camo gear that had to be shipped from China, etc and so forth. This guy lived in the wilds of Alaska and came to the depot just once a year for the barest of supplies. In other words, there is no equivalency whatsoever between the type of "sustainability" you describe and the majority of hunters and recreational hunting behavior -- which is the majority of hunters. If you take a close look at most lifestyles, they will not be anything close to the "natural" ideal you're proposing.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 02, 2011 07:13 PM
Back again..."The legend of the west"...who created it? John Wayne?
The truth is, the government has to bribe the American population with "free Indian land", because no one wanted to venture west. Many died on the trail, not from Indian attacks but from a complete ignorance of how to survive in the wilderness...drinking bad water, etc.

The only people who knew how to survive were mountain men...and only because they had learnt from Indians.
Indians even had to supply the US army with dried buffalo meat...the government did not even know how to feed its own army.

So where does this tradition of living off the land in the west come from? Some are legends in their own minds.

Now if we want to go all the way back to the Puritans in New England, they were starving and completely incapable of taking care of themselves. They were pitiful, and the Indians came to their rescue, for which they were rewarded with diseases and massacres.
Tom Schmitz
Tom Schmitz
Dec 11, 2011 04:01 PM
I was extremely saddened when I read the piece. Reading about hunting I always think of the of the animals who relied upon the animal that was killed - the young who depended upon the innocence harvested, to use a term the hunter would probably approve of, who will likely perish due to starvation - a slow horrible death. I'd never considered how many animals are injured by hunting - another reason to be saddened. Often the writing in HCN saddens me -- but, I'm routinely thankful for having been made more aware about the angles to issues that one generally won't find elsewhere.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
Dec 12, 2011 05:09 AM
Tom if you enjoy feeling sad you are welcome to it, but please don't imagine things that aren't. Fawns orphaned via the fall hunt have exactly the same chance of surviving the winter as those that aren't. True for whitetails and mulies. Biologists study this kind of thing.

Many animals do die of starvation in the winter, because winter range is so much smaller than that in summer, so you see Ms. White might well have saved another doe from dying that slow death you imagined.

As for innocence I'll have you know that doe was a regular Jezebel, cavorting with multiple bucks and telling each paramour that they were the only one. Innocent? Hardly.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 12, 2011 07:46 AM
Tom, thank you for actually expressing feelings on this thread. Don't mind the unintelligent comments of clearly intellectually challenged individuals who are making some lame attempts at it a coincidence that such individuals are hunters?

Aren't you glad to know hunters have the best interests of animals at heart, and kill only to save animals from suffering the hardships of the wilds? I feel so much better...perhaps they should shoot stray dogs and cats as well, and save animal shelters from the hassle and expense of having to catch and euthanize them. They might even develop a taste for dog meat, who knows? I hear that with the housing crisis, there are plenty of stray, abandoned pets running around. Come on hunters, show a little heart and a little compassion, won't you save these animals as well from painful starvation, with some lead?
Tom Schmitz
Tom Schmitz
Dec 12, 2011 08:27 AM
I don’t think anyone likes feeling sad. I’m often perplexed, concerned and saddened hearing the justifications put forth by people who take the life of animals needlessly. I think the only valid justification would be related to fending off starvation. Yes, of course, most of the killing is done legally - but, one only needs to look at Wall Street to know that legality and doing the right thing don’t routinely go together. And there is an undeniable history of folks relying on hunting to provide for their families well being - when faced with extreme poverty generations ago or even in some areas of our country today I suppose there are difficult choices that need to me made and I wouldn’t question someone’s choices in that type of environment. But, I suspect there aren’t many readers of HCN who need to kill to eat. For the vast majority, it’s entertainment – pure and simple. Causing death for entertainment is a really, really sad thing – no matter how it’s justified.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 12, 2011 09:33 AM
I hesitate to spend my time here, but my heart is racing reading these most recent comments, so...I wish you folks who are totally against killing animals for food would go pick on farmer's raising chickens, hogs or other (be they big industry or small shop local organic kind) if you are so inclined. Perhaps you do. The hunt may keep some people sane (ie entertainment), but I don't know a single hunter who would say they kill for entertainment, though I know there are folks who "enjoy" shooting prairie dogs...that's not what we're talking about here. One need not say they are sad to express feeling. I've seen a lot of feeling expressed here. Please do not lump all killing into one bag. This season, I am so very thankful for the meat in my freezer that I do not have to go to a store and buy. And who is to say that shooting stray dogs and cats isn't more humane than caging them only to kill them when they are not given a home? How about an awareness that would keep these animals from turning to the streets in the first place? One is not more compassionate simply because he is opposed to killing animals for food. Please revisit teachings on compassion...there are very old texts to consider, though quieting the mind is as good a start as any.
Tom Schmitz
Tom Schmitz
Dec 12, 2011 10:53 AM
I'm glad you're spending some time here and expressing your thoughts. The more thoughtful dialogue on things the better.

If by using the word sadness I impied I'm more compassionate than someone who hunts I didn't mean to.

There's a great book on the topic of the relationship of man to animals that I'd reccomend to anyone interested in the topic. Reading it actually changed my life. Here's a snippet of a review of it from Amazon - I encourage eveyone to google it and consider reading it.

Title - Dominion - the power of man, the suffering of animals and the call to mercy.
"Matthew Scully has written a beautiful book in which he bases his argument for animal protection not on rights, liberation, or ethics, but on mercy. He tells us, "We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don't; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us. Animals are so easily overlooked, their interests so easily brushed aside. Whenever we humans enter the world, from our farms, to the local animal shelter to the African savanna, we enter as lords of the earth bearing strange powers of terror and mercy alike."
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 12, 2011 03:33 PM
Thanks, Tom, for the book recommendation. I'm always up for a good read and am intrigued by Scully's message, though I think animals are powerful in their own right. We simply most often do not recognize the consequence of our harms to them. My reference to a hierarchy of compassion was pointed at earlier comments in this thread. Killing can be merciful. I do not see humans as lords of the earth, though we may pretend. There are other rules and rulers...other agendas here than our own. We are animals and many of us eat other animals. I would not tell a cat to stop eating other animals, as I would not tell a human to stop eating other animals. Killing or torturing other animals for kicks...that's another conversation all together. This article was about killing for food and, even more so, focused on how to go about the hunt. In an earlier post, I noted that I was vegan for about 4 years and darn near starved myself. One day, I decided to try the eggs from bantams on the homestead where I lived at the time, figuring the ecological cost of these eggs was less than processed soybeans (tofu) packaged in plastic and shipped from...where? So very many layers to this debate. Anyway, I sailed through that day after eating a few eggs...felt energy I hadn't known in a couple years. Some other body is likely to handle a vegan diet better than me. Just saying, I know what it's like to bite into what is supposed to be a vegan burrito and find you are munching on chicken go back to the counter pissed off and protesting the sickness of it all. And, I know what it's like to have every cell of my body starved for some mix of nutrients not found in the vegan be totally full (able to consume two plates or more in one sitting) and still be hungry...absolutely starved. In an earlier post, a comment was made about taking ourselves too seriously. I admit to that. I take all others very seriously too and life in general. I'm not here to play games. I do not find our present circumstances at all humorous. And, the best and longest laughs I've had are in response to my own quirks and those of my dearest friends while in their good company. cheers.
Luke Terry
Luke Terry
Dec 12, 2011 06:19 PM
This is a great article. As an avid cyclist, and a burgeoning hunter, this resonates with me and I plan to scout and hunt extensively next year via mountain bike.

An excellent book recommendation for the virulent anti-hunters on the board: "The Vegetarian Myth," by former vegan Lierre Keith. I believe that same book has been excerpted by this fine publication.

I am an unapologetic hunter. When I hunt, my senses are fully activated, as they are at few other times in life. The meat from the hunt satisfies in ways farm-raised meats do not, though I do consume pastured beef, pork, chicken,etc. I honor those animals and the people who raise them by buying them locally, and paying a fair price for them.

Hunting is in our DNA. Our digestive process includes elastace, an enzyme that breaks down a protein only found in animal flesh (elastin.) Animal foods provide an essential nutrient not found anywhere else in nature (B12).

Hunting is THE most ethical way to eat meat, if one chooses to eat meat. It puts you directly in touch with the process. Meat is no longer simply a shrink-wrapped product on display at the local market, but a living, breathing being. Hunting is visceral, real, and authentic in ways that many aspects of modern life are not.

 In many states the fees from hunting licensing provides the economic resources for all game conservation and habitat management, and in some cases, state parks as well.

Without hunting, many species will overpopulate and cause habitat damage. Indeed, in my state, areas that don't allow hunting often have pestilent deer problems.

You may deny your own nature as a meat eater, but others do not share your views. You can spew vitriol all you want, but the hunters have always been here, and always, we will remain.

In the final analysis, I honor the animals I hunt. I practice my craft and pray for a quick death for the animal. A skillful hunter will provide a much quicker, cleaner death for his prey than that animal would receive in nature, would it be killed by coyote or wolf or lion or by disease.

Eventually we must all die, and eventually our flesh will be consumed by other beings. ("I want to be buried in plain pine box, sans embalming.." ~Ed Abbey.)

This is the cycle of life. I celebrate it. I'd rather die by the jaws and claws of a mountain lion, than in a hospital bed, entubated, and with some strange person emptying my bedpan. I'm unequivocally sure that the animals we hunt feel the same.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 12:18 AM
Luke Terry, I agree with you that hunting is the most ethical way to eat meat, if you choose to be a meat eater. It's not hypocritical, you actually kill and dress the animal, and don't ask someone else to do it for you. You get your hands dirty. As long as you do it with actual respect and gratitude. Yet most hunters do not hunt for meat but for sport or trophy. That's totally unjustifiable. Meat then is not the goal of hunting but its by-product. As it is unjustifiable to kill wolves, bears in the US and Canada, and to shoot elephants from the air in other countries. Or shoot Buffalo in Yellowstone, who happen to wander off unreal, man-made boundaries, and kill them for phony reasons.

When the debate is reasonable, there is no need for sarcasm. But if you want to hear actual vitriol, listen to how hunters speak of people who are opposed to them! Not beating around the bush and telling it like it is is not's only shocking to hunters who expect non-hunters to be PC, peace-loving, meek individuals.

As far as one's true nature, you could make the argument that the desire for war is also part of human has gone on since the dawn of humanity. So let's keep going folks, let's keep piling up weapons and sing the glories of war! Forget religions that taught us to seek peace, compassion, understanding and brotherly love, because that's not really part of who we are, that's bleeding heart thinking, ain't it? Better to have bleeding bodies, right?

Lower instincts are not necessarily to be upheld and fulfilled if we are to evolve as a species. If we want to remain cavemen, with sophisticated technologies used to pursue the same old destructive goals, then let's not pretend to be civilized...let's call ourselves technologically advanced barbarians, it will be more honest.

As far as being vegans, it take some education, and one cannot keep the fast food habits and live on fake hamburgers (soy is not necessarily easily digested), coffee and sugar alone and make it. Many people are successful vegans and if it does not work for you, you have to look at your own failures, not the failure of vegetarianism.

As far as mercy, it comes from compassion, and from respect and love. I find it highly ironic that a civilization (and the people who live within its cultural confines) that is so hell bent on separating and elevating itself from nature at every level and in every possible way, a civilization that claims a superior intelligence and morality over nature, a civilization that seeks to make nature obsolete and irrelevant, nevertheless always turns back to nature when running out of justifications for its most abusive and egregious behaviors...whether it is the exploitation of the so-called weak (using the argument of the "survival of the fittest") or killing or exploiting anything, saying "all animals do it".

Let's make up our minds, people! Are we civilized or are we animals? You can't have it both ways, destroying nature on one hand because claiming superiority over it, and then attempting to justify your behaviors by saying you are just like any other animal, doing your thing as nature intended. Animals live in HARMONY with nature, and never break its laws, ever!
You can't exactly say the same of humanity and its civilization.
Luke Terry
Luke Terry
Dec 13, 2011 10:07 AM

I was vegetarian for 2 years, and vegan for another 2+ years. I have professional nutrition training, and thus I wasn't "doing it wrong." No junk food. It just doesn't make sense to me to take synthetic vitamins when better natural alternatives exist.

As for vegetarians being a more compassionate, or merciful way of life towards animals, it doesn't hold water. Vegetarian/veganism is not bloodless. In fact, it's far worse for the environment than sustainably raised, locally consumed pastured animal products. Read Lierre Keith's book. For every acre of monocrop cultivated soybeans, corn or any other grain/legume crop, thousands of animals die. Groundhogs & prairie dogs are poisoned or crushed. Birds are poisoned and shot. Plus groundwater is polluted, and soil is washed away because of tillage, even in organic agriculture.

Permaculture techniques that integrate natural systems and work with nature, including large ungulates, is the way of the future, is more humane, more sustainable, lower carbon footprint, actually sequesters carbon & builds soil, enables concurrent vegetable, fruit & nut farming, makes better yields per acre, and far more money for farmers. It's a win-win.

Your question about whether we are animals or are civilized is an interesting and enlightening one. I for one am 100% certain, and in touch with the fact that I am an animal, albeit a civilized one. After talking with hundreds of current and former vegetarian/vegans, and being one myself, it seems that vegetarianism can be seen as a subconscious response to the visceral nature of being alive on this planet. It's practical denial of our animal nature. But we are animals, and we have animal drives. It is this disconnect from our natural selves that drives much of the consumptive lifestyle. People who deny we are animals seek to place manmade strictures around themselves, artificial barriers between us and nature.
In contrast with native cultures--the Lakota come to mind, as to the Chumash--they existed on plants and animals from the forest, lived as one with nature, took only what they needed, and honored all of it, including our own animal nature.

Repression of any form causes the soul to become sick. This is why priests who take oaths to deny their sexuality become the most sick and perverted beings sexually--they are denied, by the church and their own choices, healthy outlets for that animal nature.

And your last comment about animals living in harmony with nature and not breaking its laws--this is a tautology. They don't break nature's laws because they are a part of it, not because they never do anything that may be perceived as cruel. Quite the opposite, actually.

As a bowhunter and student of ecology, I've been studying wolves. They are models of efficiency and the power of teamwork. They are ruthless killers, and not without behavior that we would project upon them anthropomorphically as cruel. As an example, wolves love, love, love to eat the fetus of pregnant elk. Often, the fetus is ripped out of the cow elk before she has even died, and if the wolves are well-fed, they may only consume the fetus, leaving the rest of the animal to rot. There are countless youtube videos and studies by ecologists and biologists to back this up.

A human sees this and is enraged. A rational hunter knows that this lupine behavior is simply a function of nutrient density vs. time and effort put into the hunt. An ethical human hunter considers that no pregnant female should ever be intentionally taken, and when an animal is killed, as much of its body is to be used as possible. I use everything I can, down to the bone marrow, and the bones get crushed & added to the garden.

We must respectfully and intelligently take part in the cycle of life. Our actions should support and increase biodiversity. The ethical actions of hunters does this. The well-intentioned, but misguided food choices of vegetarians/vegans, whom rely upon monocultured, mass-produced crops, does not. I won't judge, but I ask you to look at the evidence. Look into permaculture. Read Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin. Read Lierre Keith for ecology, and Robb Wolf for nutrition.

Mitakuye Oyasin.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 10:40 AM
Just a Thank You, Luke, for laying this out so well. We are indeed animals who are, like all others, a part of nature, though I agree with Raphael that civilization is hardly civilized. The forgetting what we're a part of keeps us from living up to the civilized (socially enlightened) ways we would like to claim...ways that are every bit as natural for us as barbarism. Comes down to what we or fear.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 11:24 AM
Thank you Luke, this is becoming an interesting dialogue...
Mono crops are comparable to factory farms in their destructiveness. I am sure you would not defend meat eating by declaring factory farms the ideal source of your food. I would not defend vegetarianism while presenting mono crop agriculture as the ideal way.

Everything in life is a choice...there are many traditional cultures with extremely diverse diets...from the Masai who live mostly on fresh blood and milk from their cattle to Tibetans why are mostly lacto-vegetarians. Vegans and raw foodists are a bit extreme, everything is a matter of balance. Many years ago some people got into the macrobiotic diet and died because they thought they could live on brown rice alone.

What I meant by animals not breaking natural laws is that they live according to what nature intended for them. I am not outraged by animal behavior. I do not judge it. Nature balances itself out. As long as you follow natural laws, and are respectful and appreciative, you are in sync with nature, whether you hunt or tend to your garden, or gather wild roots and berries. People who kill wolves from helicopters are not in sync with nature. When thousands of animals are killed to increase profits, such as in large scale agriculture, or when the raising and butchering of meat becomes a cruel and abusive industry, that's breaking natural laws.

That's the problem with our civilization...civilization is currently acting as a cancer upon the earth, precisely because of its efforts to conquer and overcome, subdue nature. When nature is the "enemy", so is life. And this can only lead to destruction. Thank you Megan for agreeing...

In the end, it comes down to whether we live in our hearts...hunters or not. Native Americans were very respectful of animals "nations" (oyate in Lakota). Too many people today do not live in their hearts...the wallet or the ego rules their lives, and they have no respect for life in any of its forms, and for the spirit or consciousness inherent in all life. After a while, we see nothing but mindlessness and destruction around us. I respect a respectful hunter, and do nor respect a disrespectful one...I am not sure which kind is the most numerous, but would tend to think the latter, unfortunately.

All my relations...That's absolutely everything...plants, animals, rocks, people, trees, mountains, stars. Everything is related and interdependent. It's when we understand the kinship of all living things that we become respectful...wouldn't you say? Something our global civilization has yet to comprehend, while still assuming the role of would be conqueror and master of nature, helped in this process by insensitive, unbalanced technologies.

Luke Terry
Luke Terry
Dec 13, 2011 12:24 PM
Raphael, thanks for your great feedback. I'm in complete agreement, in fact I'd say that CAFO's are WORSE than factory farming by an order of magnitude, since they rely upon conventional monocrop agriculture as an significant input. I do all I can to minimize my consumption of feedlot products.

Civilazation is dramatically uncivilized in how it treats the natural world, but the natural world isn't taking this treatment lying down. Climate change and resource depletion will guarantee that sooner or later, industrial civilization as we know it will be a relic, and only those truly sustainable, resilient microcultures will survive. I have high hopes for humanity and for this planet, and I believe they are founded in good faith that we'll find the way forward by peering inward, using the lens of the heart.

Megan, thanks for your comments too. Regarding what I feed, I feed love.. with elk, venison, pastured beef, local eggs & bacon, lots of homegrown veggies & local fruit. And Chocolate.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 02:57 PM
Chocolate is high on my list too, Luke...and since you mentioned peering inward, you may want to check out I also have high hopes for humanity, not that we will save ourselves, be saved, or stop the present mass extinction of species (this is happening, does happen in a transient world, and i do not think keeping anybody alive longer is really the point), rather that we will live out our potential to live peacefully before we pass...
Luke Terry
Luke Terry
Dec 13, 2011 03:24 PM

The website you listed is pretty darn interesting. Keep up the great work. I'll look out for your work on other media & may be in touch. It seems there are many common threads woven into life's tapestry.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 03:53 PM
Thanks Luke for your comment...I have been waiting for what we call civilization to crumble since I was 15 years was like an old knowing, that things that are out of balance with nature cannot last. It seems to be common sense, yet many do not see it. Yes, nature will collect the rent...I don't want anyone to suffer, but I think the earth will let out a sigh of relief when our civilization can no longer move forward on the same path (exploitation, endless growth, endless exhaustion of resources and pollution), and so will a few sane people, including most indigenous people.

I checked your website Megan, congratulation, you are very accomplished and on a good path. I personally go out in the wilderness, alone, periodically...I need to do it alone, to commune with nature...the last time was 3 months in a row. Nature is my element. There is a spiritual energy throughout the natural world that is vital to the health, development and fulfillment of our human hearts and is not just "the great outdoors", it is "wakan" (Lakota for sacred and mysterious) and saturated with life force and spiritual energy (prana, negative ions). The most difficult thing is to return to "civilization"...after being at home and free in the wilds....and living and working in a box again (those toxic and cramped environments people call houses and offices).
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 04:29 PM
I am personally terrified of the collapse you refer to, Raphael. I want peace (and believe it's possible) before the **** hits the fan...though some would argue it already has...I might agree. The smoke from fires as our communities burn would surely leave the air unbreathable. This suffering would be such great sorry, I cannot imagine feeling relief in this loss. I have no interest in seeing any more babies more.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 04:31 PM
Hey anyone who is interested should check these books: "Thrive, the vegan nutrition guide", and "Thrive Fitness, the vegan-based training program", both by Brendan Frazier, professional ironman triathlete. The guy is in top shape and not looking pale or faint!
But I am not vegan, that's too extreme for me at least for now, I am a lacto-vegetarian, and I got into it gradually, not overnight, to let my body adapt. I found that people who cease to eat animal products while exclusively moved by compassion tend to overlook the health aspect and requirements, and that their diet become almost as a religion, a dogma.
I try to keep everything in balance. I think that, actually, all points of view have value, there is no "right" or "wrong"...except that which opposes the natural balance, and our own hearts, souls and conscience. And even these things are not "wrong" in absolute terms, they are simply potentially detrimental and hurtful to the environment, the future generations, the self and/or others. But we all have free will to hurt and be hurt, until we learn, in this lifetime or another.

Still, I see deers every day on my land, it would break my heart to see one of these beautiful, graceful animals stumble and fall, and struggle, hit by something they do not understand and are not made to be protected against, one minute enjoying life as they were meant to, the next slowly and painfully dying without understanding why or how. There is communication between prey and predator, and a deer attacked by a mountain lion understands, at a certain level, what is happening, because it is part of the order of nature, and no animal is stupid or ignorant of nature. But a bullet is not part of nature. It is as foreign to a deer as an alien death ray would be to us.

Feelings are highly personal. I am just expressing mine...not saying they are better or worse than anyone's. I am sorry I was so outraged at the beginning of these commentaries, but the response I got at the top, that stated that my comment about Indians honoring the spirits of animals was stupid, got me on the wrong path, the war path, for a while.
Raphael Subscriber
Dec 13, 2011 04:54 PM
Megan, I do not want to see people suffer either. But we will, one way or the other, because the majority is too stubborn, worldwide, and too unprepared, to exert the tremendous energy and find the commitment it would take to change the course of our civilization today (tomorrow will be too late).

What will we see will be a death and rebirth...a spiritual rebirth. It may not happen for another 50 years. What is happening today are just warnings, nothing serious yet. But a massive and global storm is coming, and the people who will be hurt the most will be the ones who do not understand and resist the will be like being swept away by an undertow...if you go with it without panic, you eventually surface, but if you struggle you die (I experienced an undertow, I went with it, surrendered to it, was tossed to the bottom like a cork by a very powerful force, and popped up after a while). This coming change is comparable...It is the Ghost Dance of Native Americans...physical survival should not be the priority at that time, for all will need to look inward, the only secure place they will find being their own eternal inner spirit. It will be a tough lesson, bitter medicine, but a way for humanity to take a huge step forward is its evolution. Are not we here to learn something about ourselves and our own creative powers anyway? There is nothing to fear but fear, as has been said before.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 14, 2011 11:51 AM
Luke, Absaroka Institute should have 2012 expedition dates/details posted by Jan 1. Please do be in touch/check back if you have interest...will look forward to a conversation with you.
And, speaking of unspeakable harms, Raphael, I'm sure you aware of the dolphin slaughters ongoing in Taiji. Humans are senseless to kill cetaceans no matter how that killing is carried out, and the methods used in Taiji are among the most brutal practices we have going on the planet. Given that bottlenose dolphins are known to have metta cognition (thinking about thinking) and mirror self recognition, these slaughters are the equivalent of locking humans in a cell and forcing mothers to watch as their baby's throats are slashed. We humans have done this to members of our own species, yes. We must stop the dolphin slaughter.
of course, the food we consume is a personal choice. and, there are indegenous hunters who kill cetaceans for survival...or have done so traditionally. trouble is, as has been noted, the vast majority of cetacean kills today are industrialized like everything else and the meat of cetaceans is likely the most toxic on the planet...that is, other than our own flesh. sucks to fear the water we drink and food we consume, eh? what a mess.
and, my last thought on veganism/vegetarianism: a dear friend of mine who is an activist vegan (does not eat honey, use leather or silk) has said that consuming dairy is even worse than consuming meat because it requires separating babies and mommas. She said she would eat meat before ever including dairy in her diet again.
I am not convinced, but am beginning to think that both apocalyptic cries and a call to enlightenment (at least as popularized today) result in a certain apathy we cannot afford at this time. yes, the planet and civilization are in transition and where there is change there is loss. How we treat ourselves and one another will determine the pain (and subsequent suffering) of our losses. I do not fear death, I fear pain. So, being unenlightened as I am, fear motivates me to work toward minimizing pain in this world...not to avoid pain that exists, but to work toward preventing senseless harms. Raphael, the experience you describe in your last paragraph above reminds me of a series of dreams I had a couple years back. thanks for the reminder. best, m
Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn Subscriber
Dec 14, 2011 11:57 AM
Hi folks,

As always, I appreciate your comments at However, this thread is overlong and fairly off topic at this point. So, unless you have something to add that is referencing the article itself, I ask that you take this side conversation private and hold it amongst yourselves and off, as the intention of allowing comments is to have them focus on the content and issues brought up in the article, and these comments are well on their way to being a separate (albeit interesting) conversation, one that I don't feel it is appropriate for the High Country News web site to host.

Thank you,

Stephanie Paige Ogburn, online editor.
Megan Drimal
Megan Drimal Subscriber
Dec 14, 2011 01:01 PM
Agreed, Stephanie. I wonder if Nadia ever imagined the conversation her piece would spark. Thanks for the notice. Best, Megan
Kevin Zepp
Kevin Zepp
Mar 11, 2015 11:43 PM
I enjoy hunting and have been doing it for 30 years. I like to get out into nature, track down an animal, and kill it. Yes I said it. I enjoy the killing part. You can say that's sick or whatever but to me that's part of the enjoyment. Then I get to eat it. Yes, organic, free meat that costs a fortune at Whole Foods.
Bob Laybourn
Bob Laybourn Subscriber
Dec 11, 2015 01:43 PM
Wow! All the comments, some of them really thoughtful. A nice article, I enjoyed it. A few years back I used a bike as part of my transportation suite in various areas of Wyoming; hunting big game and forest grouse. I never saw another bicycle hunter.