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108 responses to “On Killing”

  1. Mike Mertens

    Hank, hi and many thanks for this post; it’s something than anyone who has even the faintest desire to ‘go back to nature’ has to think and feel through for themselves carefully and profoundly, rather than skirting around it. I have never hunted myself, and largely I try to avoid meat, both because of the sheer industrialised scale of the process and on account of health reasons but I take your point about vegetarians and the impact that their lifestyle can also have on other animals (as well as on other humans elsewhere in the world, who produce cash crops for export rather than feeding themselves).

    Also, I think your post helps to build a bridge between folks who are often separated on account of potentially glib political divisions – over here in the UK we have for example the “huntin’, shootin’, fishin” brigade whose countryside pursuits seem to be based more on socio-economic status than any affinity with the land or the creaturely world, and they would not be held in high regard by those on the Left.

    But we are all foragers, in the end, we all take from the earth, and in this sense of knowing it ever more consciously, and sharing that responsibility, rather than seeing the rape of the planet as a problem caused by someone else, we can go beyond categories of thought that truly belong to the 19th Century, and work out more distinctly ideas for all of us that belong to the 21st.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of the post and your insight into a world I know little about.

    All best!

  2. Moira

    Excellent write up! I am just now in the process of transforming from “just the cook” to huntress and the cook which has taken me more than ten years (fishing aside). I think you eloquently stated why I am making that transition and also why it has taken me so long. thank you.

  3. John Passacantando

    This was beautifully said.

  4. Rachel B

    I can totally understand and empathize with you. While I don’t hunt, I raise animals for meat and I always get the same reaction from people, except for me “How can you eat something you raised?” is tacked on with a look of horror. How can I eat something I didn’t raise (except for the game my husband brings home)? I want the control of truly knowing where my food came from. At least with my animals I know that they had a great life with only one bad day.

  5. Keith G. Tidball

    Brilliant post.

  6. sjburnt


    While I understand and appreciate your level of empathy when it comes to killing animals, what I really like is the choice that you take – ‘if you’re gonna kill it, don’t waste anything.’

    I love to hunt and fish, but I do not enjoy the actual kill. But I really like everything that comes after, from field dressing to butchering to preservation. I like it when non-hunters are brave enough to try some well-prepared game and they really like what they eat.

    So, OK, I lie a little. There is one kill that I have enjoyed: I used to go to Alaska with an eighty year old; we had an agreement that for any halibut over 90 lbs, he could shoot it before we would load it into the boat. ( Long story short – they can do a lot of damage!)

    But every time he shot a halibut, I would break out laughing, and we would stand there in the boat, sopping wet from the spray, too tired to even pull the ‘but in the boat until we quit laughing.

    Thanks for another great post!

  7. quinn

    Thank you for this very thoughtful and articulate essay. I will share a link to this page with the director of the International Becoming An Outdoorswoman (BOW) Program; I think many members will appreciate your insight.

  8. Alan

    Absolutely fantastic viewpoint on the taking a life. All hunters should keep this in mind
    throughout the process. I am always emotional when I take game. I think that many
    people who are not hunters don’t realize these feelings exist in us. The more we educate hopefully the more people will understand us.

    Great stuff as usual. Happy Holidays and good hunting.


  9. Lisa J

    This, all of this… YES. I grew up hunting, it’s a part of who I am and it no doubt shaped my values and views on food and respect. My views are not largely shared by those in my peer group and when asked to explain myself, I’ve never been able to express myself as eloquently as you have. This literally brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Hank.

  10. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Hank, I think this is an eloquent and clear explanation of what is a very fundamental human reaction: how it feels to feed ourselves.

    I’ve come to believe that there’s a satisfaction in procuring food that hits us on a primordial level, and you’ve probably experienced it more — and in more varied circumstances — than anyone I know. Killing is part of that.

    Thanks for choosing to write about it. It’s important.

  11. caitlinvb

    Absolutely everything I have felt and wanted to say, said much better than I could. And I haven’t managed to *make* the transition to hunter (yet), but I do have chickens and we have killed some of the roosters to eat. Thank you thank you thank you for giving me something I can point to when I am flustered for how to explain myself to some of my peers who haven’t been exposed to this aspect of life (for what is death but a natural part of life?!).

  12. Leah Adams

    I remember when I killed my first chicken. My main worry was not in killing the bird. I was worried that when I was done, I would no longer see my precious cats as the darling little kids that I always thought of them as. Would I see them as just another piece of meat? It terrified me and I almost didn’t do it, not wanting to damage my relationship with them. They are precious to me, and really are my children. (Yup, I’m a crazy cat lady.) But I did it. As I did it, I said a silent prayer to whoever was listening to keep their deaths as painless and quick as possible. I openly thanked the bird for its sacrifice, for keeping me healthy and feeding me. Mine was a group situation with about 20 other people, everyone from people who had done this for years to people who were vegan, and wanted to do this to prove to themselves…well, various things. We all helped each other, held those that cried, and we all learned something. All of us, from the most skilled to the least inclined, walked away with more respect for humanity, our food, and how we get our food. All the vegans came away with the idea that eating meat may not be as bad as they thought, as long as they were willing to grow and kill the meat themselves.

    I got home that night with two of the best chickens I’ve ever had. I sat on the couch and nervously waited for one of my cats to jump up in my lap, not sure what my own reaction to these animals would be. Luckily, it was the same as it always had been, and I petted my kids and loved them. Nothing had changed. Except I was able to share my kill with them, which, in an odd way, made my bond with them stronger. I became even more of a parent to them than I had been before. I had never so intimately been able to provide for them. I had killed their food myself.

  13. Matt

    Well put!

  14. Kevin

    Very well said. I can totally relate – many of the same thoughts and feelings went trough my head while hunting, butchering and then eating deer over Thanksgiving weekend.

  15. Al Cambronne

    Great essay!

  16. meredith

    Hi Hank.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while – since my friend Amanda introduced me to it! This post really nailed it for me. We are relatively new to hunting. My husband and I did not grow up in hunting families. This time of year I am plucking and gutting lots of ducks and geese. Right now I am feeling a little frayed by it all. It’s emotional for me sometimes. As it should be. I butchered a lamb recently as well. I have never felt emotions over food before. I have an emotional attachment to the meat in my freezer. As I should. Thank you.

  17. Kim Graves

    One of your best, Hank.

  18. Sally

    What a wonderful essay. I think all meat-eaters should read this, whether they hunt or buy their meat in plastic packages. It’s worth thinking about how our meat gets into those packages after all.

    I gained a whole new appreciation for the process after my college-age son worked on a farm (WWOOF) this summer. It was more of a ranch–they raise grass-fed beef and chickens and vegetables and sell raw milk at market.. It was a small operation and they let my son participate in the slaughter. He killed a few chickens, too. He wrote a guest-post on my food blog about it (did a great job, if I do say so, but heck, I’m his mother.) It is rare that anyone, let alone young people (let alone young people from Cambridge MA, AKA United Republic of Cambridge) would have this experience, so I was fascinated and proud of how he handled it and the understanding and reverence he exhibited after the experience. By the way, nothing, NOTHING, on the ranch was wasted. A lesson the multitudes have forgotten.

  19. Janice

    Excellent article! Thank you!

    I am a Hunter Education Instructor and one of the things I ask my students during their hunt planning session is to think about is WHY they want to hunt. I tell them it is a personal thing for each one in their group to consider and not necessary to make it part of their presentation, although I do encourage them to share their reasons.

    I am going to share this page on my FB page and ask my non-hunter and vegan friends to read this…and hope they will.

    Thank you again!

  20. Jun Belen

    I love this: “It all boils down to intimacy.” It is very true. I grew up with my mom slaughtering chickens for dinner and I have always found it fascinating and not at all appalling. It is the intimate connection with the bird that I love. It makes me more appreciative of the food on my dinner plate. Someday I’d love to experience hunting.

  21. Teresa

    The hunters in my family feel as you do. They don’t shoot lightly or for souvenirs. They hunt for meat, which they distribute through our family. I’ve been lucky to have had access to healthy game meat all of my life, along with the organic meat my parents raised on the hobby farm they bought when I was a young adult. My nieces and nephews have benefited most – they’ve been raised on organic meat and vegetables from my parents’ farm, supplemented with game. They’re now learning hunting and tracking skills from my father and brother.

  22. Brickman

    Hank, sir, you nailed it. I can’t add anything else. Thank you, very much.

  23. Phillip

    Nicely turned essay, Hank. And from the comments, I’d say it hits home.

  24. Will Jenkins

    Great article Hank I really enjoyed reading it!

  25. Justin

    Hank, I grew up hunting in northern Michigan, It is religion here. I seldom venture into the woods during our roughly six months of hunting seasons without a gun or bow in my hands. By the end of hunting season I start to feel like the grim reaper among the wild. I love hunting, but I do not enjoy killing. Killing wild game for food makes you realize that we are not removed from the fabric of life.

    “It is here that we seek—and still find—our meat from God”.
    Aldo Leopold

  26. Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore

    Great post, Hank.

    I’m going over my final copyedits right now and this feels like a nicely distilled echo of so much of what I’ve been steeped in here in my own writing.

  27. Mel

    Beautifully said. I appreciated @LeahAdams’ reply, as well – and glad the vegans on your chicken-event came away with fresh perspective.

    I have been witness to my friend killing his domesticated quail. I have held them as he cuts their heads off with scissors (quickly) and then gutted them under his tutelage. You are right – it goes fast with a little practice.

    The cooing noises they made as he held them to calm them down before their death was very striking to me. I recently watched a video on a woman who farmed turkeys and killed them with her clients participating, and how she lovingly calmed them down as well.

    I really would like to learn to hunt. For the time being, I buy all my meat at the farmer’s market, where I can talk to the actual farmer and come away paying dearly for it, but knowing that the animals lived how they were supposed to – i.e. chickens eating insects, cows eating grass, and having a great life till the humane end.

  28. Ryan L

    It’s good to know that others actually think about the kill and look on in sympathy at something grasping for life when the kill isn’t so clean. Also enjoyed the part about why we celebrate, I feel that covers most of us out there but there are a few of the Foiles out there that give the rest of us a bad rap with their demented acts toward their kills.

    I had never thought about that fact that more crops for vegans means less habitat and certain death for animals. Great write up Hank, thanks!

  29. Angelina

    I am a vegetarian (my whole life) and will never eat meat because I don’t like it. I admit that I also have a hard time thinking about animals being slaughtered but I have always known that a vegetarian is not cost free to animals or to the environment. I love reading your essays on hunting because it keeps my feelings about it in perspective. I think trophy hunting or hunters who use very little of the meat they kill is horrible. It really upsets me. But the way you hunt is how humans have been hunting for thousands of years with respect, with need, using as much of the animal as possible, and being cognizant of the relationship (sometimes heavy) between your kills and yourself. Vegetarians who think they don’t negatively impact or indirectly kill animals are definitely kidding themselves and hunters who waste animals and don’t respect the weight of taking the lives of animals are people I can’t admire. I wish both those camps would listen to you, read your essays.

    But the worst, I think, are people who eat meat from the store without a qualm but are horrified at anyone who could look an animal in the face and KiLL it. I have a friend who learned to kill her own rabbits and she got such shit from other people over that – people who eat the meat others have killed with no horror, but somehow they think that a willingness to kill your own meat makes you strange? People having such a disconnection between their consciences and their hands dumbfounds me.

    I know you will probably think nothing compares to the experience of killing your own food, but though I will never have that experience I do feel that intimacy with my food that you describe by growing a lot of my own food and foraging in the wild for some. I do feel the life in all things and I know that makes me sound like way more of a hippie than I am, but for food to nourish it must have life in it. I love looking for and picking wild elderberries in the woods and going on nettle picking trips. I believe our experience of food is not so different from each other which is why I can relate to your writing which is so meat-centric.

    I have the deepest respect for your hunting and your relationship with your food and I can only wish that more and more people will reconnect with theirs in a similar way no matter whether their diet is plant based, meat based, or both. I loved this post.

  30. Chasseur

    Nicely put. As Hunters we have many responsibilities, not the least of which is to kill our quarry as quickly and as humanly as possible. Doing so requires practice at the range, experience and most of all sound judgment. We must each know the limits of our equipment and personal capabilities. Taking a questionable shot is unethical and bad for the pursuit we all love.

  31. Turling

    Well said. Especially the part on the “whooping it up.” I’ve never hunted, but desperately want to. I’ve seen the hunting shows where it’s as if the hunter has scored a touchdown. Now, at least, it makes some sense.

  32. Joe Keough

    Well done. Could not have said it better myself. Thank you.

  33. ELC

    I applaud your attitude and philosophy on hunting and not wasting any part of the animal you kill. It is an attitude that is lost on people who get their meat at the grocery store in tidy little packages. My mom grew up on a farm and they also used every part of the animal they butcher because that is the right thing to do when an animal gives up its life so you may live off its meat. If only more of us apply that same philosophy irregardless or whether or not we hunt. It is important to remember where your food comes from and to appreciate it and not waste it. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it.

  34. Dan

    I too love to hunt and to eat all I kill. I don’t like to kill but get by it by eating the animals birds with respect. I recently lost a big game animal and it is really tearing me up. To kill without recovering the animal can be agonizing if you are fond of animals.

    Great post Hank

  35. Mike

    Not to be repetitive, but this is very well said.

    I’ve been a hunter since I was 12 when I shot my first rabbit. Since then I’ve killed more deer and elk than I can remember. The emotions I now experience when I have success during a hunt may have dimmed a bit since the first time I pointed a loaded rifle at a live creature knowing that when I pulled the trigger it was going to die. But I still say a silent prayer to myself in appreciation of the life I’ve just taken and in thanks for the meat that I’m receiving.

    I have two daughters who began accompanying me on hunting trips when they were six years old. When they were old enough to skillfully use a knife they would help butcher the animals for the freezer. They are now teenagers and have each successfully taken several deer and elk themselves. They don’t revel in or enjoy the kill, but they are proud that they can help put meat on the table.

    When we package our meat, we identify the animal taken on the package by date and sex. When we sit down to a meal of elk or venison we reminisce about the hunt when this animal was taken. And although my wife doesn’t participate in the hunt, we all appreciate the connection to the animal we are enjoying.

    Although we live in a small town in western Colorado where hunting is not rare, it is amazing to still hear the comments from the anti-hunter crowd. “Why do you hunt – you can get perfectly good meat in the grocery store.” “I can’t believe that you take your daughters hunting.” And “I can’t believe they don’t have a problem with killing things!” I have always either just shrugged them off or if I thought they might be somewhat receptive to a different perspective, I’ve tried to explain ours. From now on I’ll just forward them a link to this post.



  36. deadbait

    I just completed Jackson Lander’s course on Hunting Deer for Food in VA over Thanksgiving, partly inspired by you Hank. I appreciate it that you take it all the way, and the time to really pin down what are difficult feelings to capture in print. I will share this essay with my fellow classmates.

  37. somsai

    Great blog, this is the first time I’ve stopped by to read. You sure do think about things a lot I have to say. Good that you use the fifth quarter, too many leave the best bits. I think you have to be into cooking or exposed to eating game to see the opportunity in a shank, or the rarity of fresh embryonic sack.

  38. Carolina Rig

    Hear hear, Hank!

  39. Chris Niskanen

    I hunt because it is a human thing to do. If I lived 10,000 years ago, I’d be the guy painting pictures of stag elk on the cave wall because I love not just the meat crackling on the fire (and Hank would be there too, whipping up some crazy-ass delicious sauce for the stag), but I love the animal. Love. The. Animal. I love the wildness it represents and the beauty of its environment and when I’m in that wildness and with that animal, I feel more human and more alive than when I’m anywhere else. All tribes have their hunters, those skilled individuals who are hardwired to shoot the arrow, slit the throat and shoulder the bloody kill for the long hike home. Hell, isn’t that how our species survived the freaking Ice Age? I killed my first bird when I was 11 (a valley quail with a pellet through the eye) and I knew then I was that person in my tribe. Hank would be pissed because I breasted it out and charred it like a piece of black toast on my dad’s barbecue, but I’ve never looked back. (But my cooking skills have improved.)
    Thanks, Hank, for adding another masterpiece to the cave wall.

  40. JOhn McGannon

    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your blog “On Killing.” Very well said! I will be up at SAC ISE, I hope I get the chance to meet you there. If you get a chance swing by my WildEats booth. I think you’ll find we have a lot in common.

    Respectfully yours
    John McGannon

  41. Richard Mellott

    I’ve hunted with you, and whooped with you, and it’s great to see your writings concerning this subject. Thanks to you, Charlie, and Holly, I enjoyed a return to duck hunting after many years of absence from the field. I took the studious way of returning to hunting, by examining some of the books that you and Holly recommended, and it has been my experience that I go through the same emotional connections as most hunters you’ve described.
    I’ll be coming up North on my way to Seattle, and hope to see you, get a signed copy of your book, and hunt with you and Charlie…heck, even Holly can come and do her duck dance. I also want to see if you can recommend someone to take cooking classes with in the Los Angeles area. That might also be one of the ways to pass on your heritage. It will be the way I am remembered by many who have been to my table, and eaten wild meat for the first time.
    Best, R

  42. Jim Caldwell

    A beautifully wrought piece Hank. A few weeks ago, reflecting on two pheasants I’d killed but never did find, I realized quite clearly that the relationship between hunter and prey is founded on uncertainty but that once an animal comes to hand that relationship is transformed into one of almost unbearable intimacy. A lost animal is an abrupt interruption of the unfolding of that intimate relationship. Your piece makes that relationship, or at least an understanding of it, accessible to those who have not experienced it for themselves. Great writing.

  43. Jamaica

    Your essay was truly a pleasure to read. Many years ago I sat in my car with the stereo turned up loud, so as not to hear the screams of a domestic rabbit my husband was feeding to our large python. How things change. Now as a falconer I thrill to hear those same screams from the jackrabbits my hawk catches, as they mean success. She clamps her talons over the mouth and nose of the hare to stop the screaming. It is a life and death struggle, as her life cannot continue without the jack’s death. I make in with all due haste to dispatch the rabbit as quickly as possible, both for the safety of my hawk and to minimize the suffering of the prey. It is during these moments, when I literally hold the lives of two magnificent animals in my hands, that the inner conflict rears its head. The choice to kill is what gives me the intimacy you mentioned, not only with the hare, and of course with my hawk, but also with the desert which all three of us call home. It gives me ownership of wild lands, and with ownership comes stewardship, a deep desire to see these deserts remain untouched and beautiful.

    Thank you for a great read.

  44. Marc LaBeau

    Thank you, you’re words ring true of a contemplative hunter. These sorts of essays (in defense of hunting) always make me wonder about how indifferent we are to killing other organisms. Almost everything we eat (minus minerals and water) is/was living and yet we only reflect deeply when the evolutionary relationship is close. Has anyone read an essay from a miller describing the mixed feelings over grinding wheat embryos, a brewmeister regarding malting barley embryos, or a mushroom hunter when frying the spores? All humans are killers when it comes to food – some simply put limits on what is acceptable for them to kill.
    Thanks, Marc

  45. John Boles

    Really well done Hank. Every meal of duck, goose or pheasant reminds me of the hunt: the planning, travel, friendships and the shot that put the bird on the table. Your essay captures the wide range of emotions involved, and I hope will help non-hunters understand a little better why we hunt.

  46. Nathan Z

    I started hunting as a teen in the midwest. The first, and last deer I shot has stuck with me for more than half my life. I gut shot a giant doe. It bled like crazy and ran. I assumed I’d find it 50 yds away. I tracked it for miles. I never did find it. I’m certain that it suffered for hours that night and it was my fault.

    I still hunt and fish. I’d hunt deer again as well. Subconsciously I think I’ve sabotaged any opportunity I’ve had to use a deer tag. I don’t know if I agree with your opinion that we all have blood on our hands. But I do have blood on mine, and it’s not something I take lightly.

    Those “hunters” who only celerbrate, and never reflect on what they do make me sick. Top of the list is that celebrity duck “hunter” with all of those sleazy behind the scene massacre scenes.

  47. Calvin

    Thank you. One of my proudest moments as a father was hooking a rockfish for my then 5 year old daughter to reel in. On the way home we filled a small container of blackberries from the side of the road. I had her watch me clean the fish and help prepare a fruit salsa. We ate the fish for lunch less than an hour out of the water. Whether she ever raises a fishing rod again, she will retain a different relationship with nature and with food for as long as she retains the memory. My family has lived in the Pacific NW for well over a hundred years, my relations felled the trees and harvested the salmon that helped fuel our nation’s westward expansion–a source of pride for me and disgust for most of those who have arrived here in the last 20 years or so. We as a society have left the primal thrill of the hunt and the fruit of the endeavor for the chasing of information and the harvesting of money. The deeply considered and complex relationship that you maintain with nature is the thing that will preserve it…not the disdain and revulsion that you (or I, or my fellow commenters) might receive from those who believe the wild world is best foraged from a mountain bike and that food comes from their local PCC.

  48. Amber

    Beautifully written, Hank! As one of your vegetarian admirers, I’ve always respected the sustainable approach you take to your food. To know it, to grow it, to discover it in the wild: a way of life not many can aspire to! I’m not sure anyone is more “awake at the whisk” and conscious of where their food comes from than you. Brilliant piece of writing.

  49. Robert

    Loved it and appreciated your being able to put into words what I’ve so often felt.
    Well Done.
    BTW, would love to see some more recipies for ground venison!

  50. Mike Spies

    Elegant essay, Hank.

    The number of people who must hunt to eat is rapidly approaching zero. Perhaps this is not a good thing, since the need to explain to those who do not hunt tells us a great deal about how the human relationship to the land has changed.

    When the land becomes an abstraction, when much of our population lives in a cocoon, when ‘moralists’ attempt to create a fanciful new reality, hunting keeps us grounded and ultimately teaches us the value of all life.

    Good read. Thanks.

  51. Jackie @Auburn Meadow Farm

    Awesome post. The very thing I’ve been thinking so much about about recently. I raise beef and carry this crazy paradox with me all the time as I care for and love the cows I raise to slaughter.

    Recently, I brought some of my steaks to cook dinner with a friend. She took my steaks, showed them no regard, ruined them and thought nothing of just grabbing some new ones from her freezer to try again.

    I knew right then how drastically my world has changed by the acceptance of death in my life. The fact that my friend will never imagine just how crushed I was by the way she treated my treasured meat really illustrated what an outsider I have become in my old suburban plastic wrapped world.

    It’s crossed my mind more than once that I’d much rather have the death my steers will have than a million different options that I could very well experience. I suppose that makes me not so fit for polite company : )

  52. Robert Smith

    Hank, great job, and really well done. Here is a link to a magazine article on why I hunt that I wrote for a food magazine last winter.

    I got your book yesterday, along with Al’s Gut It, Cut It Cook It. Great stuff.

    I shot a deer over the weekend, processed it beginning to end Sunday, then went bird hunting with my 12 year old grandson. My girlfriend, who had been after me to shoot a deer at our house because of all the damage they’ve done to her landscaping, was at first elated. But when she saw all the work and the hands-on nitty gritty of processing a deer, it really set her back.

    I told her that every person should have to kill, gut and process an animal early in life, because you will have such a different view of the meat you eat from that point on. I think that whole process takes you to a totally new and deeper level as a human in nature. You expressed those ideas wonderfully.

    I read some sections of your book to my girlfriend last night, and we discussed a lot of the ideas you cover in this essay. I think she’s really coming to grips with the concept of killing your own food, and why I hunt. I also have to say that I feel an unusual pride in the skills necessary to butcher an animal.

    This is an essay I’ll read again, probably many times. Thanks!

    Robert Smith

  53. Ryan from Paonia

    Hank –
    Went hunting for the first time ever at the age of thirty. Hiked and hiked and hiked some more searching for elk. Almost got a shot, but after five freezing, exhausting days I came home with nothing. We all struck out. It was a soul-shattering, mind blowing, body hurting experience. The day after I returned from the woods I planted a winter garden in my little hoop houses. I think this is what it means to be a vegetarian. Thanks for your thoughts.

  54. Ryan

    I’d love to get into hunting for the reasons you’ve so eloquently stated. I have a similar emotional response even for the fish that I dispatch. Thanks for writing this.

  55. Hunting | Friends, Food, Wine

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  56. Dana Moore

    I was sent this story by a very good friend, Mark Cousins, he is the head of Hunter Education in Colorado. I believe that you have put into words the feelings that hunters like my self can really “sink our teeth into”. All I can say is thank you for saying it so well.

  57. me

    Thank you for writing this thought provoking post. It really made me think about my own morals when it comes to killing for food and what I believe is right and wrong. This post was very well written. Thanks again.

  58. Alaiyo Kiasi-Barnes


    Your deeply considered argument “On Killing” is a testament to your “moving” meditations when you are hunting and the inner stillness and contemplation that you surely experience. I’ve been reading your blog for weeks in silence, but I just had to speak out about this post. I am moved by your words and will never again engage in wholesale judgement of game hunters.


  59. Jennifer McCharen

    Hank, this is so fantastic. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, and your years of experience. Over at my newish blog, which a few other young homesteaders and hopeful homesteaders-to-be follow, we discussed something very much like this a while back. My post was similar in nature to yours, discussing the realities and complexities of killing your own food. The responses I got, and the ones you’ve gotten, just scream out loud and clear that the world needs to hear words like yours, about this kind of intimate experience with the land, with other earthlings. It’s so important. A thousand cheers! More more!

  60. Albert

    You explained it very well. The emotions felt while hunting are difficult for me to explain to non-hunters. I’m a hunter and I can still remember the first shot that I took years ago that made me one. I smiled and cried at the same time, and touched the pig, promising it that it was for a good cause and be treasured. For a family of 4, we spend about $20 a week at the grocery store. We grow or harvest almost everything we need, from potatoes and beans, to rabbits we raise and deer we hunt. It not out of need financially, it’s out of need spiritually. The sense of fulfillment is one that very few people I know have felt. Not only do know I will survive no matter what life gives me, I know that I am up to the challenge of being able to take care of myself and family. My children know that steaks don’t naturally come wrapped in plastic, leather doesn’t come from Macy’s, and that it is very easy to eat healthy, the way God wanted us to.

  61. Nate @ House of Annie

    Beautiful essay, Hank. It should be considered for Best Food Writing 2011. Really, it’s that good. It speaks to the mind, heart and soul.

  62. Read Up On It – For December 9th, 2011 « Passable

    […] Hank Shaw, avid forager, fisherman and hunter, talks about that part of eating animals we tend not to dicuss: killing them. […]

  63. Susan

    This is a fabulous article, and really nails the love and respect for nature that good hunters have–something my non-hunting colleagues just don’t “get”. Thank you.

  64. Al Webster

    Well said. You have captured my feelings in words. As I wander the prairie in search of truly free range meat, there is only one thing that can put a damper on a day, a wounded animal that escapes.

  65. Helen Markow

    I thought this was wonderful. I recently did a stage for an family charcuterie company here in Austin. I learned to butcher a pig by doing it on one they raised and that I had met. It was a humbling experience and brought home to me the need to be honest about, and aware of my food sources.
    I find very interesting your use of the word communion. Both that and your essay content brought to mind a short article in this quarter’s Gastonomica by Christopher Mohar. It is located in the ‘ the hunt’ section titled just that : Communion. It relates his experience as a boy, hunting., with much of the same emotions you do.What he concludes with is that due to place and circumstance he no longer hunts, and because of that; he no longer eats meat. Except when he goes home, where his father cooks the meat he has killed. Mohar does not feel in the least guilty for this, rather what he would feel guilty for was eating an animal he had not shown the respect of killing himself.
    I wish I had your courage;I do not.

  66. Todd

    I grew up with a dad that fished. Loved fishing, so now I love fishing. I remember pulling up Crapie by the dozen and pan frying them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I remember reeling in that first 30lb salmon, my arms pulsing and burning from a long fight. I remember so many good times that are now story and lore in our family, and I am so grateful for that. For some reason though, my dad, even growing up with his dad who hunted, well, he never took to it. Unfortunately for me, this meant I didn’t grow up hunting.

    That being said, I’ve always wanted to hunt. I completed my hunter’s safety ed course at 12 years old, and then we promptly moved, and moved, and moved once again. The certificate was tussled around and lost in a couch, maybe in New Jersey, maybe Florida, but the desire to get out there and hunt game never vanished. Unfortunately hunting is one of those things that’s intimidating and difficult to just pick up (maybe rightly so). You need licenses, you need to know your quarry, the right ammo, the right clothing, and a place to actually hunt. But after years of wondering what is like to drop a duck at 30 yards, or flush a covey of quail with your best pal going to retrieve them, I finally know.

    I got my license at 34 years old last fall. Picked up a nice Over/Under (which I found out is way too nice to take to the duck blind over brackish water), a bag of decoys, and a few calls. I hunted alone for most of last year. It was everything I thought it would be. I knew it would be before I hunted (but hey, you’re reading from a guy that sailed a 26 foot boat 4000 miles to Mexico and back with no experience but that from what was taken from books).

    Of all the hurdles in this whole process, taking life (and dealing with it) was the most difficult thing to get over. I remember that first Bluebill I downed. I remember taking it home and plucking it; pulling out the guts and having blood all over my hands. “Ugg, what’s that smell!” Intestines have a way of waking you up at anytime of the day. But as I slowly worked over the bird, as the feathers were plucked and the skin shown itself, it transformed into something you see behind the butcher’s glass, and then, I didn’t feel so bad. I was doing the whole deed, and when I consumed the bird later that night – damn did it taste good – it tasted good because I earned the whole thing.

    I still feel bad looking at a table of dead ducks in all their regal glory, but hunting and killing is something that man has done for survival and proliferation throughout his history. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t eat meat. I’m at peace with it. For me, it’s a source of meditation, simplicity, and being in touch with a world that is real, and I can’t wait to continue the story with my children someday.

  67. Stef

    Not much I can add that hasn’t been said already but what a fantastic piece of writing.

  68. Angela Kingshill

    I am glad to have read this. This is how I wish I could explain why my husband and I hunt to some of my nonhunter friends and family. I stared hunting in 2010. I’ve only had the blessed opportunity to take pheasants and I was very proud of those and honored them by cooking them well. I have hunted for boar and deer with no success yet but I can relate to your comment about wrestling your concsious mind about deer fever. I’ve gotton that alot while hunting for boar, darn those rocks playing tricks on me! :) I also have to say about taking game is that I love being able to get really close to an animal and see it and touch it, I would not be able to see what makes up a pheasant if I had I not hunted it.
    “we all have blood on our hands, only I can see mine” Well said Hank. Thank you.

  69. Ryan Farrell

    Hank, this should be published in magazines to get the word out. Thanks for your words.

  70. Teresa

    Thank you, Hank. Reading your eloquent piece makes me almost want to try hunting for myself instead of just enjoying the results when a hunter friend is willing to share. (Unfortunately I think my poor depth perception might make it an exercise in frustration!)

  71. Jeddrick

    I LOVE your post. I wont say that i am a hunter because i am from a caribbean country that does not have deer, or wild boar or game. But i drew up with a grandmother and aunts and uncles who raised pigs and goats and they were mainly for food. I am one perso appreciates where my food originates. I can raise a pig, and kill it and eat it (sorry for being so crude), it doesnt put me off in the least. But i would treat that animal with respect. Because it will have free range or motion, be properly fed and watered. EVERY PART of that animal will be eaten. I grew up fishing in the ocean, diving for lobsters, raising chickens for eggs and to eat. I was raised on ground food, fresh products.

    I find your blog very inspiring and very enjoyable to read simply because I can see that you respect your skill and also have great respect for the animal.

  72. Josh

    Well-wrought words, Hank. It brings to mind “The Fish”, by Mary Oliver… and also my own experiences in the wild. Heck, I feel bad pulling weeds; how can I shoot something? And yet, I can most definitely shoot something.

    Or, at least, I can shoot at something.

  73. Kevin

    The part I get the most here, as a hunter, is your feeling around the time of the kill. The instinctual adrenaline is perhaps a coping mechanism to make us ignore logic and get the job done. It’s certainly a mixed bag of emotions just around the kill, and one that I wish more meat-eating folks would know about.

    I never understood vegetarians until I killed my first big game animal. Birds don’t strike me [although I know what you mean about ducks], but the big game animals impact me.

  74. Hilda

    Well said. I still remember the first deer I shot. I was 15 and I took it down with a bow, it took two arrows. I remember not being able to sleep that night, both with thoughts of those seconds between arrows when the deer suffered and with elation over the fact that I, a girl at 15 was able to help provide meat for my family.

  75. Robert

    Outstanding in all regards. Thanks for putting down in words what I feel every time I hunt.

  76. Friday Morning Mashup 12/9/10 | Wired To Hunt

    […] On Killing – Hunter Angler Gardener Cook: A very insightful piece looking at the idea of killing another animal. Reflective and emotional. I can definitely relate to the authors feelings on the matter and I think he explained this “act” in a very thoughtful way. This quote summarizes pretty well… […]

  77. David Pentoney

    Bravo, and thanks for writing this on behalf of all of us. I’ve read a lot of your writings and this is the best. I’m proud of you….

  78. Janis

    Ya know, I grew up in Los Angeles and my first boyfriend was a hunter. We both worked for a vet for years. He was a hunter too. Hunting always meant respecting the animal to me. To take the time to hunt means a more personal connection and respect for what you eat. I was honored to be present at the slaughter of the pig I bought (320lbs) raised by Neil Foley with love. I was thrilled to meet you at Farmstead in RI. You are a natural born teacher. Beautiful post Hank.

  79. Hoss

    “I have nothing against vegetarians, and the vast majority I’ve met understand what I do and respect it. But to those few who do not, I say this: We all have blood on our hands, only I can see mine.”

    You’re right that no diet is cruelty-free, and any vegetarians who think otherwise are simply deluding themselves. The difference, however, is that those vegetarians are making food choices that greatly minimize unnecessary suffering and death. You, by contrast, are actively *causing* unnecessary suffering and death. Yes, we may all have blood on our hands, but only some of us actively bathe in it.

    “I am at peace with killing my own meat because for me, every duck breast, every boar tongue, every deer heart is a story, not of conquest, but of communion.”

    Communion involves both parties sharing in a mental or emotional experience. So unless you’re terrorized and have the life brutally crushed out of you every time you go hunting, then I’m sorry – but you aren’t “communing” at all. You’re victimizing.

    The key word here is “unnecessary.” What is unnecessary in your eyes is a vital part of life to me. All animals kill to live. It is the paradox of our existence. And I would dispute your characterization of a vegetarian diet as “greatly minimizing animal suffering and death,” especially when you consider that the leading cause of animal extinction is habitat loss — and that most habitat loss is caused by people clearing land for crops. But, to each his own. ~Hank

  80. Graham

    This was an exceptional post, Hank, and will stay with me for some time.

    Thank you.

  81. Luke

    Nice idea but unsustainible.

  82. Vane

    Thank you for this articulate and thoughtful post. I’m vegan and have never hunted but it’s interesting to learn the hunter’s point of view. It’s not one I share or even fathom, but this is good information. Thanks again, best wishes.

  83. Tera

    I appreciate what you do about not wasting anything, but no meat is necessary. I disagree with any killing at all. Hunting is a terrible “sport”, that requires hardly any skill. Why not just shoot at a range, and have pretend animals that move back and forth? No killing is justifiable. To me, this is the same as a cannibal killing another human (it is, actually, the same EXACT thing), and using all the body parts for their meals.

    While I also appreciate your point of view, I would hotly dispute your assertion that hunting requires “hardly any skill.” That simply isn’t the case if you are hunting truly wild animals. To say so is to both overestimate our human abilities and grossly underestimate those of the animals we pursue. ~Hank

  84. Rory Tira

    Agreed – one of your most important and best pieces, and telling too, with the momentum and spotlight it has generated in a short week. But the part that made my breath catch? Holly’s photo at the close surprised me and made me tearful, grateful. That sense of satisfaction, contentment, and thoroughness to the meal, captured 100%. Also, love the phrase about the deep calm you find in the field. I know that for sure for my husband and await the same for my sons.

  85. SpectreWriter

    Look at the creatures before. Then look at these after shots. How can anyone possibly confuse the act as anything but destruction?

    There is a disconnect between how hunters and many biologists view animal welfare and how animal rights people tend to view it. Yes, these particular ducks are dead. I killed them. Nature is a hard mistress and never forget that we are part of nature. To do so is to deny who we really are. But on a larger level, you should know that I personally spend thousands of dollars every year on restoring, maintaining and expanding habitat for all waterfowl: ducks, geese and many species that are not hunted. Most hunters do this, even if it is just money from the licenses we buy. Hundreds of thousands of birds have a home because of us, and in return we can hunt — and yes, kill — a few hundred for a few weeks each year. It is a rare animal rights advocate who has spent such resources on habitat preservation. And remember, the marshes we maintain remain when we are gone.

    Were we never there, there would be no marsh, no ducks. Hunters are primarily concerned with the welfare of ducks in the plural, while many animal rights people focus on the individual duck and ignore the larger issue of habitat. It is a deep divide that separates us. ~Hank

  86. SpectreWriter

    Hank, your response to #85 is nothing more than a justification, and a rather protracted one at that. Without man’s 7 Billion people, and our Clever Monkey intelligence, there would be no need for those watersheds. Nature has done just fine without us. It is we, and our indifference, which causes whatever need there may be. But for the most part, men put those ponds in place for their own pleasure, to attract game species, to keep the dust bowl from happening again, etc.

    Hunters are not concerned with ducks in the plural, except as how not having them would make for a difficult hunt, It’s still self-serving, and nothing better or higher than that.

    I return to the point that you never addressed: How is that difference — from the vibrant life they had to the dull, empty shell your imposing death upon them has caused — how is that anything better than wanton destruction? How is it any different, really, than the ravages of war?

  87. Fishstick McGee

    I have no problem with hunting – but what about Ocean fishing? With factory fishing depleting the stocks of wild Ocean fish – especially predators – worldwide, is it really the right moral choice to contribute to the problem with Ocean game fishing? I’m not trying to be snide or snotty here – I’m genuinely curious how you reconcile this.

    I actually think you need to flip the problem on its head. Just as on land, it is industrial, factory fishing (or farming) that is doing the most harm to the oceans, or is causing the most suffering to animals. To stick to industrial fishing for a moment, it is far better to catch and eat your own fish than support trawlers that mangle the seabed for cheap fish sticks. Recreational take of fish pales in comparison to commercial “harvest.” ~Hank

  88. R.G. Piovesana


    Great post. I’m glad to hear that the emotions/outlook/conclusions you so eloquently describe are shared by so many. This should be required reading for the masses who have so long ago forgotten the process by which their steaks and hamburgers arrive at their tables.

    And kudos to you for the illustrative counter-points to those who may disagree. It’s very easy to dismiss or denigrate those who speak out of ignorance. A reasoned, sensible and educated stand such as yours goes a long way in helping to enlighten minds and hearts.

    Merry Christmas,

    R.G. Piovesana,
    Ridgeland Outfitters

  89. Mark Reinoso

    “How is that difference — from the vibrant life they had to the dull, empty shell your imposing death upon them has caused — how is that anything better than wanton destruction? How is it any different, really, than the ravages of war?”

    Comparing the killing of animals for food to the destruction that war causes is comical. I’m at least glad you didn’t compare hunting to war itself, such a comment would not have even deserved a reply.

    The destruction that war causes is largely indiscriminate, it kills/destroys anything and everything that it has the misfortune to be nearby, including animals, soldiers, civilians, infrastucture, crops, water sources, not to mention a whole nation’s psyche.

    The damage that hunting does is minute by comparison. One animal gets killed(hopefully with a clean shot), and the environment, people, other animals around it remain unscathed. I can also argue that most everything else is better off because of it. The hunter and his family get their food, the environment gets protected because of the money that goes into licensing and whatnot, and with some exception, the herd becomes thinned, which allows the remaining animals more access to food and habitat. Remember, we as humans have replaced/killed the natural predators that kept the natural world in check. I’m certainly not saying that we are “doing gods work” or that we deserve a medal, ‘Im simply saying that there is a place for it. There has been a place for it for the last 6000 years of man’s recorded existence.

    To minimize it or villify something basic like hunting only shows how insecure of a species that we have become. The fact that we provide directly for ourselves in fewer and fewer ways only proves that we have lost touch with what it is to be human and to actually be part of(and not dominating) our natural world.

  90. Jen

    Such a thought-provoking post. Thank you, Hank.

    I’m among the 2.5% of Americans who choose a vegan diet. I try my best to align my consumption habits with my personal “do no harm” ethic. I find it simple, enjoyable and healthy and I encourage others to consider joining me.

    Nearly all Americans oppose animal cruelty. Yet most routinely purchase and consume food from systems that keep animals confined in spaces so small they can barely move for their entire lives, that inflict painful procedures without the use of anesthetic or painkillers, that breed animals for such fast “meat” growth that their skeletons can’t withstand their weight. The suffering that billions of animals raised for food endure from birth to death is unconscionable.

    With that scale of suffering in our midst, who can justify even a minute worrying about Hank’s killing? I haven’t done the math, but frankly it’s possible his way of eating causes animal suffering on a par with a vegetarian diet.

    If you care about reducing animal suffering, I recommend spending your time telling others about the ills of factory farming, trying to reform those systems, and urging more people to think about where their food comes from and to act according to their principles. If wild animals are your focus, there are rampant poaching and abusive practices that demand our collective attention.

    While my own walks in the woods will never involve shooting at or killing an animal, I’ll trade quarreling with Hank about his killing for the effort he makes to avoid – and encourages others to avoid – animal suffering.

  91. Michael C

    Well said. Extremely well said.

  92. Justin Dean

    Great writing Hank! Coming from a farmer, hunter & chef you nailed it!!!

  93. Mark Reinoso

    Very good point Jen. Well said.

    Its really only in the last 75 years or so that humans could have this viewpoint that hunting is barbaric and useless. The global supply chain gives us everything we need, whenever we want it. The fact that you can get Watermelon from Chile, Lamb from New Zealand, Cherries from Washington state and caviar from Russia in the middle of the city in February is INSANE and unsustainable. But I guess as long as “food” is readily available and cheap to buy, this attitude can and will continue.
    On another note, how long before basic human actions like gardening or fixing our own leaky faucets or even wiping our own behinds are vilifed, or labeled by the hoi polloi as “beneath us”? Sure its an exaggeration to make a point, but where does this end?

  94. Nichole

    Beautiful post Hank! I grew up in a family that hunts, fishes, forages, grows & raises most of our food. But I haven’t been hunting since I was a teenager because I’m blessed with being able to enjoy the fruits of my Dad’s labor. One of these years I need to pick it up again. Your posts on using every part of the animal are great, that’s a lost art that I’m picking back up in our family and your recipes are very helpful.

  95. Joshua

    Spectrewriter, you make an interesting point about our (hunters’) self-interest in preserving habitat. Perhaps you are right about humans’ monkey brains – but then, we’d be the equal of other animals, and denying our animal rights to eat an omnivorous diet would contradict your position. However, I don’t really think you follow that line of reasoning (it’s a cheap shot, but one that does open up a logical inconsistency in your position). I believe you assume that we are a higher order than other animals, an order that can make conscious decisions about the harm we cause others. On this I agree with you. We are conscious, and thus higher ordered than most other animals vis a vis our global responsibilities (and the other animals with consciousness approaching our own eat a lot of meat, too, by the way). And yet, we cannot escape the law that “ought implies can.”

    Humans are not disembodied phantasms; all of our actions have impacts. In the realm of eating, we are built to feed on life, and we have built systems that require the taking of space and life for our nourishment. A vegetarian diet requires inputs of commodity crops (soy and peanuts, in particular), and energy-intensive processing in order to maintain healthy body weights and energy levels. Both of these processes necessarily kill and maim many millions of animals. To whit:

    Farmers must control pests; they must kill rats, mice, voles, gophers, and myriad insects. Most often, their farming techniques kill millions of birds, snakes, and other animals as unintended consequences. Please, visit the farms from which you buy your food, and ask about their pest management and their harvest methods.

    Second, their control of their habitats necessarily picks winners and losers, and by “losers”, I mean wounded and dead animals.

    Now to bring it to your point about self interest. You act on your self interest by letting some other person you don’t know kill a bunch of animals for your food, but you let the animals, themselves, rot and roll in pain in the field; you don’t even use their bodies, or thank them or think about them, because you are too deep into your own self-interest about not having any blood on your hands, directly (when it comes to food). Duck hunters act on their self-interest by paying farmers to create habitat that nurtures lives other than merely waterfowl. By paying for water to flood what was once wetlands, hunters’ self-interest builds nests for birds, for muskrats, for crawdads.

    Additionally, by acquiring their food outside of the contrived food market system, hunters help alleviate hunger. When we perpetuate the notion of food as commodity, we perpetuate false scarcity (i.e., bad food markets), leading to socially constructed starvation for those who cannot afford food (we actually grow enough food to feed all of us right now; bad markets and borders starve people). When hunters go outside of the marketplace to get food, they impact the notion of food as commodity.

    Your self interest only kills and takes (when dealing with food) as an afterthought, while hunters’ self-interest actually creates more wild animals, and alleviates contrived food scarcity, perhaps also as an afterthought. Which road may be better in our semantic circles is debatable; but the road that is better for the actual world, the wiser way (and so the philosophically preferable way), is obvious.

  96. ingrid

    I wasn’t going to weigh in because a lot of you here have heard my points of view way too many times in other blogs. But it’s tough to see the talking point about vegetarianism used over and over by hunters as an absolution of hunting, without any pragmatic refutation here.

    First, it’s a fallacy of logic (“Tu quoque”) any time someone says “because this other thing causes harm, the harm I am causing acceptable.”

    Second, you don’t cite where your figures come from in terms of vegans causing more incidental harm. If you’re using the Davis study, then you’re probably as aware of the refutation of the Davis study which cites serious flaws in the way the numbers were used in absolute terms versus per capita terms.

    Third, you fail to take into consideration the huge proportion of those crops grown for the purpose of animal feed.

    Fourth, many hunters, if not most, contribute to the very same system you criticize. How many hunters out there, for instance, never buy these same crops or grains at the store? There are some of course, like Hank, but I would argue that there are as many vegans, too, who source their foods carefully precisely because they are accustomed to understanding the consequences of their choices on the world food system and on animals as a whole. I’ve heard a lot of hunters comment about stopping off at a burger joint on the way back from a hunt, or resorting to fast food breaks on the road. So, in those cases, in addition to their impact by way of hunting wildlife, they contribute to the same agricultural and intensive farming systems you criticize. That impact is clearly more substantial than, say a vegetarian who doesn’t eat soy products or mass-produced grains.

    Lastly, I have to agree with the commenter who took issue with the sense of communion and intimacy discussed here. That is clearly a one-sided perspective on a situation that resulted in the death and, sometimes, the prolonged suffering of one member in this so-called intimate relationship. You may feel that way, more connected and alive because of the blood on your hands, as you say. But from the outside, it sounds quite perverse to suggest an intimate relationship with the one you killed. It takes into account only the experience of the hunter, not the hunted, and it seems disingenuous to portray it in that way. I doubt you would see it that way in the case of human-to-human interaction that was this clearly imbalanced and violent. And yes, that’s a valid point because intimacy implies an equality of relationship.

    Angela wrote, “I also have to say about taking game is that I love being able to get really close to an animal and see it and touch it, I would not be able to see what makes up a pheasant if I had I not hunted it.” I’ve seen people behave in myriad and strange ways toward wild animals, and I’ve often thought it’s because wild animals are inaccessible to most people and that people crave that connection, sometimes possession. I wish more people would translate that desire into helping, rather than harming. I know people in the wildlife rehabilitation field who would like it if they never again had to handle or see close up, an animal that’s come into the facility because of some form or human harm.

  97. Hoss

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Hank! You wrote:

    “All animals kill to live. It is the paradox of our existence.”

    True, but there’s a big difference between killing plants which lack sensation — much less consciousness — and clearly sentient beings like pheasant, deer, turkey, and even fish. All these animals feel pleasure and pain much like we do. And they clearly want to live.

    “What is unnecessary in your eyes is a vital part of life to me.”

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect you’d get by just fine without hunting. I mean, would you end your life if you couldn’t hunt? If not, then why do you think your interest in hunting — no matter how “necessary” — could come close to outweighing an animal’s interest in living?

  98. Zane

    Thanks for the mention in the update, Hank. You’re welcome. Happy hunting and cooking.

  99. Chris S.

    This has to be one of your best written and near-deeply personal posts I’ve read this year. It moved me.

  100. IIUVDUX

    Never been a hunter-too much work and guns are too loud for me. My earliest memories growing up were of gardening and caring for our animals. I was taught that the garden and animals were cared for with great respect to feed the family. We didn’t like having to kill our animals but once it was over with, cleaning, dressing and food preparation was done together with my parents and grandparents. We knew ‘who’ was on the table and the worst thing anyone could do was to waste the food. When people tell me that I am cruel because I eat the animals I raise, I can’t understand how they can be so cruel as to eat meat they have purchased and even toss away some of it uneaten. How can they ignore the fact that they are the reason that animal was killed, yet they themselves have not felt the pain of that sacrifice? They eat with no appreciation of the life given for them or the work someone else did in providing it to them.

  101. Robin R

    Simply great article Hank! Hunters are participants in nature, as we were created/evolved to be. When I’ve killed deer, I have felt sadness & even at times shed a tear. The anti-hunting, anti-human interaction with animals on any level people are so very out of touch with the earth.

  102. Killing to Eat | Jughandle’s Fat Farm

    […] I never really intended to write a post about killing animals for food, but while perusing the blogs I like to read, I came upon a great article written by one of my favorite bloggers, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook’s, Hank Shaw. […]

  103. Joshua

    Ingrid, I’m so glad you weighed in here, partly because I feel a kinship with you; based on what you’ve written over at Holly’s blog, it would seem that we are two halves of the same spirit.

    I do disagree with you here, of course, and I would like to clarify some points you took issue with:

    Your first complaint would have merit, except that I did not say that because of the pain caused by vegetarians, the pain hunters cause is okay. I said that none of us can avoid causing death and pain when we nourish ourselves, and since “ought” must imply “can”, we are all stuck with a sad fact of the Earth. I then implied that, in light of this fact, hunting is ethically preferable, in that it doesn’t merely kill as an incidence of eating, and also that its very action creates more life than commodity-crop farming. (Here in California, hunting actually partially mitigates the ravages of monoculture, by making wild huge tracts that would otherwise sit as flattened sections of dry dirt for many months of the year).

    Second, your attack on my argument about hunting subtracting from participating in food markets walks a little close to the tu quoque (“hunters do it, too”). As for its numerical quality, I was not referring to a study. I was looking at it as a person who has considered my actions in a deep way, and the harm and good that I do.

    I know that, were I a vegan, I would have to rely more on commodity crops and heavy processing for my nourishment, while as a hunter, at least some of the food I get originates outside the market system. Since I grew up in the middle of monocrop country, I have no illusions as to the nature of Big Ag (and even small ag., and organic, sustainable, etc.) When you watch 200 seagulls and crows flocking behind a discer, you know that they aren’t picking up seeds; they are picking off dead bodies.

    Yes, I still participate, to a large degree, in that system; right now, we cannot afford to completely remove ourselves from it. But I feel far, far worse for that than I do for buying my license and shooting a pheasant or a duck. I know which money has more blood on it, and which money has gone into preserving more habitat, more plants and animals. Hunters’ impacts to wildlife means more habitat protected than would otherwise be the case, and it means more animals and plants.

    As for the communion comment, I have a more personal experience with that. There is a communion with the circle of life (yes, I know, Simba and all that) that takes place, and there is also a communion, of a type, in the predator-prey relationship that is unique. Who carved the graceful legs of the gazelle, but the lion? (To paraphrase a quotation I cannot seem to find right now.) But, I’m not trying to defend that in a way to convince you of my feelings on the matter; that communion is a personal experience, beyond the realm of reason, and it would cheapen both of our hearts to pretend that we could convince one another.

    I, too, completely agree that many more people need to go to wildlife rehab facilities. They also need to go visit hospitals, for a parallel reason. My first wild animal rescue, I realized, as I reached down for that cormorant, that I didn’t know how to grab it, except by its neck to wring it. In that instant, I was changed; I had to cultivate a new physical relationship with this creature.

  104. Comfort food « Mama's Wine Rack

    […] the way, read this blog about hunting for food to get the Cliff’s Notes version for why I love using hunted meat, and […]

  105. Moose Loaf | One Wet Foot

    […] the blogosphere for the past few weeks. I did manage to read Hank Shaw’s thoughtful post on hunting and it inspired me to share a recipe that I’ve been making for years. Though I […]

  106. Hunting in the Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve | kimberlyventresca

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  107. Field Notes — 6/21/13 | Intrepid Pioneer

    […] On Killing Hank Shaw, author of two books, Hunt Gather Cook & more recently Duck, Duck, Goose. Shaw also manages the  blog Hunter • Angler • Gardener • Cook which I’ve been reading and following for years. This article I’m featuring specifically is about killing and Shaw’s thoughts around this inevitable ending. This is the hardest thing for me to grasp, I understand it and I question myself if I have what it takes to kill in the field when the moment presents itself. I can club a fish, slit it’s gills, but is salmon my gateway to mammals? Only one way to will find out. This article discuss the internal struggle with the kill in a personal account and I’ve reread it more than once. […]

  108. Moose Loaf | One Wet Foot

    […] the blogosphere for the past few weeks. I did manage to read Hank Shaw’s thoughtful post on hunting and it inspired me to share a recipe that I’ve been making for years. Though I […]