Posts Tagged With: Hunting

Into the Wild

My apologies to Jon Krakauer. I am unabashedly stealing his title for my own non-commercial use. I won’t do so without giving him due credit, nor for that matter without recommending you read his (to me) wonderful little book about the life and passing of Christopher McCandless. It’s the sort of book that could change your life if you allow it.

I commandeer the title though because of something it implies, mainly that “the wild” is something that can be gone into and out of. From the perspective of civilization, I suppose there is a certain amount of truth in this. My home to the naked eye is more domestic than the hillside behind it, which itself is more domestic than the larger expanses of forest in the mountains to the east, which are more domestic than the great expanses of “wilderness” in Canada, etc. “Wild” in this sense means a place inhabited by no or few people or at least less-impacted by the hand of humanity. Fair enough.

However, this seems to me a terribly misleading idea. Certainly what we humans do tends to leave a footprint. Often a big muddy one all over Ma Nature’s pretty carpet. We don’t like admitting that we have the tendency to muck up the joint but only the most delusional truly deny it. It’s obvious just about everywhere one looks. Even those “wild” places often carry the marks of our passing. My favorite trout streams are wreathed by railroad beds of past industry and often harbor fish not native to the region. We are a herd of bulls in a very small china shop.

Still, to impact something is not the same as controlling it. The processes (and ultimately “laws”) of the natural world remain intact. Dammed (damned?) rivers still have a way of finding the sea or evaporating into the air. Deserts blooming with the desired produce of mankind stop blooming as soon as the water supply is cut off. Weeds pulled from my garden have a way of coming back. Again and again and again. We may channel certain natural forces, even alter them incredibly, but in the end we never really control them. Reality remains undomesticated and our attempts to domesticate it are futile at best or self-destructive at worst (and unfortunately, destructive to other creatures as well).

I am trying to shift my paradigm. To see the world as it is. To see that “the wild” may be altered but not conquered. To see that my domesticated home is filled with wild creatures–from the birds that nest on it to bees that nest in it to the billions of unseen creepy crawlies that as I type are swarming over my keyboard and desk and hands and all the rest of my body. To see that I need what they need–air and water and habitat. To see that the physical and chemical and organic processes that govern them also govern me and all my kind. To see that I have made my home in the Great Wild. I cannot go into the wild because I am already there. I was born into it and so were you. It is to our mutual peril when we think otherwise.

Categories: Miscellany, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life is a Hunter

Life is a hunter, and it preys on death.

We tend to think of this the other way around, but one of the simplest observable truths is that as soon as something dies living things begin their work of turning it back into life again. Death may stalk life, but life stalks it right back.

I sat in a tree this evening to hunt. My purpose was to take a life.

Not for fun, for I find no joy in the actual death of any living thing, and certainly not in being the one bringing about that death. To thoughtfully hunt is one of the more sobering things a person will ever do. But I know death is part of life, and that all animals (and even a few plants) kill to sustain themselves, for even herbivores must kill the cells in the plants they consume to obtain their nutrients. So I sat in a tree with a bow and arrows in the hope of being quite directly and personally involved in this sacred circle that sustains all creatures.

I did not have long to wait. After only a short period of time, three deer passed near me, but not near enough for me to take a ¬†clean shot. I have no desire to merely wound an animal and see it suffer. If I shoot, I want to be as certain as I can the animal will feel no needless pain. I want–no I need–a clean shot for a clean kill. If I am going to consciously join this dance, I owe the animals that much and so much more–for the animal will help to sustain me.

Shortly after the first three deer passed, two more approached. I drew my bow on the first and my arrow flew true. The doe ran only a short distance. I felt sad and thankful and deeply a part of something wild to the point of scary. On reaching her, I thanked her and told her I was sorry. That she could live on in me perhaps. I stroked her fur and felt her beauty and wildness. I thanked the earth from which she sprang and ¬†the Maker of all things–for the food, for the experience, for my own earthy life which one day too will end.

I will butcher the deer myself. She will be truly honest food for me and mine. I will not take one bite without thinking of her. Of her living and of her dying and of my part in both–and of both our parts in the larger story of life on earth. Much of that story is the ceaseless hunt. Death stalking life and life stalking death. Life is a hunter. Today, so was I.

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