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40 responses to “An Awful Mercy”

  1. Jim

    Yes you know you did the right thing, I know you did the right thing. However, not to get to “woo woo” here but that yearling knew he was being delivered from what must have been misery, swiftly and mercifully. This is the way of the universe and times like that hold a mirror up to our souls to reflect for us who we really are. Will we act despite the circumstances.

    What you did and what you provided for your family is a gift from mother earth and you’ve honored everyone who feels the deep seeded responsibility that comes with hunting. Thank you sir.

  2. Rachel Hoff

    Beautifully written. You really did make the best choice for that fawn and you’re not wasting the animal.

  3. Shelly Christman

    The heart of a hunter is truly an amazing thing! You did what ANY responsible hunter should do! I applaud you!!

  4. Joel MacCharles


    Your post was sent to me by my girlfriend (Dana, who you met a year ago in Toronto while I was moose hunting and couldn’t make it). Your words are so powerful that your experience leaves me with a similar haunting.

    Honoured to have read; I know those 6 meals will be with much consideration…

    Respect and love,

    Joel (aka WellPreserved)

  5. Warren A. Dennis

    And once again I am reminded why I follow your post.

  6. Nicole Novak

    That was a beautifully written piece. Bless you.

  7. Jim

    Wow. Thank you for sharing the story. We’re all honored to “be a part” of your harvest.

  8. Ricardo Rodríguez

    You did the right thing, sure enough. God bless.
    But I don´t know how safe it is to consume an animal that has been wounded, and maybe was with fever. An infected wound would disseminate harmful microorganisms or toxins in the body, or it is just a matter of trimming the spoiled meat?

  9. Loretta Gartman

    Touching stories like this make me think that such times as this is one in which you were actually one with nature. Maybe it was propinquity, serendipidy or karma? But you made a great and noble decision to take this animal. The best part is that you will use his sacrifice to nurture yourself so that he lives on.

  10. Robyn

    Wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing the whole story….not just the recipes that I’m sure will follow.

  11. Jenn

    Wow, brought tears to my eyes. So moving.

  12. Bethann @ fruit.root.leaf.

    The stark-yet-poetic reality you describe resonated deeply with me. My husband and I eat meat as you do – only that which we have harvested ourselves. Although we have yet to serve as the intermediary between the necessary ecosystem scavengers, as you did in this instance, I always feel a similar sensation of conflict and joy – angst and celebration, when my mortality strikes me to the core as I prove the mortality of another living being. It is a remarkable cycle, and one that moves me greatly. I do rejoice, though, in the knowledge that we are still able to participate in it.


  13. snimtz

    Good feeling and good writing, Hank.

  14. Laura

    You absolutely did right to use your tag on this little one rather than to kill another and leave this one to suffer. I know you didn’t do it for the karma, but it will come to you.

  15. Stephanie

    Isn’t it nature’s way to pick off the sick and old? That’s the proper order of the food chain. Good on you.

  16. Maria

    Grippingly narrated story. Wrenches my heart. However, you saved this poor creature from a worse fate.

  17. Karen

    Brings back some memories I’d rather not remember. I know exactly how you feel.

  18. Steve

    Well written and honoring. What at houghtful experience.

  19. Steve

    Previous should say thoughtful.

  20. Trish

    I’m not a hunter and no one in my family hunts (rare, I know)….

    But I went to school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and saw whitetail deer that were starving. No matter the view on deer, starving is not my view of a good exit.

    Thank you for being a responsible hunter. I hope that the meat works well with your planned menus!

  21. william

    Thanks for that piece. I had the same experience elk hunting… “why am I getting this close to a two year old bull?” In my case the “coyote” was another hunter that had left two bullets in him. I can’t know why he wasn’t found by the person that shot him, but I was proud to take that elk home to my family.

  22. Anthony

    It is a tough thing to realise that there is a death involved in your meat and that it does not come cling wraped from a supermarket.

    Even harder on situations like this. Tough call and I have nothing but respect for you. I can only hope I would make such a good decision in the same circumstances.

  23. Hamish

    Hank, you have an amazing gift with words (not to mention your recipes). As a conscious carnivore I am constantly in debate with “moral” vegetarians and naive meat eaters who don’t (or choose not to) understand the life and death of all animals.

    Your story just reaffirms my theory that every wild animal will live its life free until it gets eaten alive by preditors, maggots or ants. Then you have the intensely farmed animals that whilst being killed “humanly”, they live a cruel and inhuman life.

    As a conscious being we wish for a free life and a swift death. Hunting game is our way of offering that to the wild.

    I will be directing sceptics of this way of life to your blog for enlightenment.

    Ps can’t wait for the new book.

  24. Amanda

    Hi Hank,
    Thanks so much for this lovely post and indeed your whole blog. My husband and I are looking toward a similar model of living and it’s encouraging to have people like you as role models.

  25. Karen

    Beautiful story. One I imagine will make the meat taste that much sweeter.

  26. Heather

    Thanks for sharing your experience. No doubt you did facilitate mercy to this animal.

    As a newbie to handling and cooking game meat, I also wondered the same thing that Ricardo Rodriguez posted above, how do you know that with an animal in this state, that the meat is safe for you to consume? (Is there “practical guidance” you can share with us, that guided your decision to deem it safe – and/or is the decision to eat the meat, at the end of the day, your own personal judgement call?)

  27. Scott

    Rather than say the same things as everyone else has, let me say I read your post with the feelings expressed by all so far…however I am surprised that someone hasn’t latched on to there being something wrong.

    for that I am grateful – that all seem to see your post for the feeling that it was certainly meant to evoke. Thank you for caring for the things you hunt

  28. Guy Balestrieri

    What about the poor coyote! Nobody mentioned him? He painstakingly stalked his prey, was able to fend off blows from the mother Doe and father Buck Prong Horn and herd, chased the young fawn, wounded the fawn, then not able to finish the fawn off for some unknown reason, is still searching for it’s wounded meal when he heard a truck pull up the road. He probably hid from site while Hank approached. He sure got the short end of the stick when Hank showed up. Hopefully he got to have the innards as a conciliation prize for his efforts? Poor Coyote!

  29. Nate

    Nice work. I was just north of casper hunting antelope as well. I could hardly believe how many antelope were there. Thank goodness for a GPS. We were able to harvest a buck and doe each….I will have to try a few of your recipes. So far the meat has been amazing.

  30. Honest Food — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen | Hunting Chase

    […] week he posted about his recent experience hunting pronghorn sheep in Wyoming.  Where the hell had this antelope gone? I looked to the right, […]

  31. Jack

    You gave the fawn a quick and painless death at a time when it would otherwise have had a slow and painful death. Even the most anti-hunting person would (should?) have wanted to do the same.

  32. adam howard

    Thank you for the well written peice and being a ethical hunter. I am looking forward to some antelope recipes as one of my hunting buddies just gifted me some and it will be my first time cooking it.

  33. Marisa

    I am a former city girl living in a commuter farm town. I don’t hunt or fish. I’d love to forage and am hoping to someday find a seasoned buddy to help me out. I unsuccessfully attempt a garden every year, and with each passing midwestern season, I become more grateful for the local farmers I support. I adore your blog. I greatly appreciate the respect and consideration you give each subject you write about. You’ve certainly opened my mind and made me think more carefully about my food choices. Today’s post isn’t the first that’s brought me to tears. Thank you.

  34. Joe Keough

    Thinking back over my career as a deputy sheriff in a fairly rural county here in Ohio. Thirty years of responding to all manner of calls.

    Some of the calls that stick with me today, were those where I had to “finish-off” deer that were stuck by motor vehicles. Fractured limbs, but otherwise alert animals. You did what you had to do. Had to euthanize (the clinical word) probably close to 300 animals, maybe more. Most found their way to freezers, but I’ll never forget their tragic end.

  35. Tricia Kauffman

    Hi Hank,
    I am new to your blog and am enjoying it very much, even though I do not hunt or fish. I recently reposted your link to my FB Wall on corned venison (along with a heavy hint) in hopes that some hunting friends would make it and invite us to dinner (I even offered to provide the corning ingredients!).
    I just wanted to say that I love to read, I love the gift of words, and I love animals. Your story about the Wyoming Pronghorn fawn was very moving. Thank-you for sharing this experience, and your heart, with us. I lived in CO at 8,400 ft for 9 years and we had herds of deer, elk, and Pronghorn roaming our own 40 acres and the surrounding national forest. I have a question that stems from living in a free-range state. We have hit deer, elk, and even a calf on the roads and others have taken the animals to use for meat. (Our insurance company even paid the rancher who owned the calf for his loss, and then he had it butchered and stocked his freezer.) Our vehicle broke the calf’s back leg and even though we immediately tried to find which of the neighboring cattle ranchers owned this calf, it wasn’t until two days later that this poor, suffering animal was loaded onto a trailer and taken to the butcher. My question is this:
    Aren’t hormones resulting from fear, pain and stress released into the flesh, turning the meat from a healthy, nutritious fuel for our bodies into a negative, potentially harmful substance?

  36. Lou


    Brought tears to my eyes, too. Simply brilliant writing.

    Thank you.


  37. Honest Food — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

    […] week he posted about his recent experience hunting pronghorn sheep in […]

  38. Sean C

    I just found this site and of all the wonderful things on it (my taste buds are daydreaming), this piece draws me to a comment.

    As a hunter, an angler, and a forager, I know this scene and this feeling all too well. Time and again, I’ve been the hand servant of The Reaper and several times in similar situations to this pronghorn encounter. Whether it be the whitetail buck chasing a doe with its rear leg shattered, or the one that escaped feral dogs by swimming a creek but not before they had torn the hams, hocks, and abdominal cavity, or be it the goose with the wing broken from a mid-migration collision, or be it one of a number of other animals, I’ve provided that merciful coup de grace not infrequently and will be called to do so again. I say called to do so because I believe that we are: we are called to provide that last measure of relief and to be the predator that takes the life, makes use of the life, and does so hoping that some day when The Reaper has come for us that the end will be as swift and as merciful.

    Beautifully written, Mr. Shaw. Thank you.

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