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76 responses to “The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill”

  1. Jeremy

    Man, I found your blog today. I love your topics and your writing style. Keep it up.

  2. Lands with a thump… » The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
  3. Kaia

    Hi Hank. Came across your blog today via a Facebook mention of your new book. What great writing & topics. I did not expect to find such solace for my recently missing pet kitty, who I can easily guess got eaten by the coyotes when he was out too late the other night.

    We’d had him for 8 years, and to lose him so unexpectedly has me on the edge of tears as I think how he will be missed.

    But you nailed it. Our culture gives is so little experience of death, though none of can escape it. It’s part of life as you say.

    Anyhow, thanks for the lovely reflection on death & the greater context.

    And I look forward to the duck book too! Maybe someday I’ll become a hunter too.

  4. Kevin

    Beautiful, profound, and ultimately a fantastic summation of what it is to be human AND part of the ongoing cycle of life on this planet. Plus, the Whitman quote is gold. Thank you.

  5. Ryan Jacque

    If I could only tell stories as well as what I try to say in a drawing, I’d write a longer ‘thank you’ for this story (by Hank). This was the nicest way of saying what I’ve privately thought all my life

  6. Sel Sel

    A very interesting and honest read Hank.

    ‘For something to live, something else must die’ is a poetic sentiment. And in fact, the whole of this article is a romantic sentiment of the game played by predator and prey.

    I now feel almost guilty saying: ‘For me to live, a potato must die.’

    That is not to say that vegetarians cause no suffering whatsoever. We do (the dairy industry is revolting). No ones hands are totally clean. But still, a lesser degree of suffering would be caused by simply replacing the meat part with a meat-substitute.

    The idea that something *must* die for something else to feed is romantic; forcing an archaic notion onto the world where it is no longer relevant.

    It is not being a ‘realist’ to say that life must kill life to survive. If it is used as a justifier for the leisurely pursuit of killing, all the worse. It is romance. It should be left in the domain of literature and art. Unnecessary death should have no place in our (supposedly) enlightened age. We can do better, and we can be benefactors of this Earth. We are a damn fine species – but an underachieving one (see factory farming).

    ‘It isn’t death I am seeking, but death is the price I must pay for what I seek’

    Maybe not forever *winds up jackrabbit cyborg made out of potatoes and releases it into the wilds…*


  7. Jeffrey

    Very good essay, well said.

    I shot my very first jack-rabbit five days ago and my first cottontail. The jack rabbit was very hard – I had wounded it just enough for me to be able to chase it down and grab it. Then I had to figure out how to deal the final blow. I had no club, only a knife and my 12 gauge shotgun and a lot of sagebrush. Wild-eyed the hare made a high-pitched desperate scream which was unsettling to say the least. I held on tight as it struggled and kicked. I felt bad for it. I tried to comfort it as much as possible. Regret passed through my mind. I thought No, I am a hunter, a predator, the top predator and this animal who ran out in front of me was prey. This is nature. At least I had feelings for this animal and tried to be as compassionate as possible. I love wildlife. Hunting has given me more understanding and respect for the creatures I pursue than I ever thought I would have. I killed the rabbit as humanely as I could, but I couldn’t watch, I had to close my eyes. After it was said and done I skinned it and gutted it -all the while marveling in its beauty and the wildness of its environment, feeling alive and thankful for the fact that I was a part of the Natural Cycle.

  8. Jason H

    I’m an Englishman and cook who has just stumbled across your wonderful blog. The cook in me can empathise with a lot of this. I passionately believe hunters and cooks are far more powerful advocates of animal welfare than 90% of the populous who are happy buying shrink wrapped chemical laden rubbish from supermarkets and who don’t want to accept the consequence of their convenient low priced gorging. The piece you write about the look in the eyes in hard to read and really does make me look inside myself, its beautifully written. The reality is in our world that the animals you kill have had a better life and certainly a better death than 99% of all meat that ends up in supermarkets and will as such taste better as well. Humane hunting for food is I believe the most true connections to our life on this earth we have. Thanks for the post.

  9. Brent S

    Hank, excellent piece. I think also, the hunter, more than ever feels the responsibility that a species must not only survive but thrive, so that the cycle continues for future generations. No hunter is on a mission to wipe out a species most spend spare time and money to improve habitat and prevalence of the species.

    I found your blog after watching the episode of meat eater in which you hunted with Steve and have been using your recipes and I just want to thank you for them. I used to just use my venison to make chili or taco meat (not the loins of course).

    I thank you for your well thought out description of what hunting is and hopefully can be better understood by those who oppose it.

  10. Angela

    Beautiful!! Thank you for an eloquent expression of the deep heart of one who sees into the nature of things unflinchingly as they are. I do not hunt, but my spouse does. And, we both grieve and feel such tremendous gratitude at every meal. We believe that we live more honestly this way–the majestic stag that wandered the forest floors free gives over its life, and we take in its nature when we take the time and the trouble (and, it really is no trouble at all) to respect and enjoy to the fullest the magnificent gift that was given us. Thanks so much for your beautiful perspective. It articulated precisely the extraordinary reverence that comes with so ancient a human experience.

  11. Friday Morning Mashup 2/7/14 ‹ Wired To Hunt

    […] The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill – Hunt Angler Gardener Cook: An incredible article that I just recently ran across while I was working on writing about the same topic. Hank Shaw very eloquently explores this enigmatic topic that lives in the minds of many hunters. […]

  12. Kendra

    Loving the acknowledgement of the respect most hunters have for the animals they hunt. I think many people, especially city dwellers who only hear of ‘barbarian rednecks’ (referring to stereotypes, not actual people, I don’t mean to offend) don’t know about and especially don’t understand this. Maybe reading your blog (which is written beautifully by the way) may change a few minds.

  13. Andrew Venables

    A profound and thought provoking essay encapsulating thoughts I have had and feelings I have been unable to properly express on my own hunting journey.

    I write this from the UK where urban “values” increasingly make hunters themselves an endangered species, constantly fearing public censure based on purely sentimental argument fed by misinformation on the subject.

    Thank you. I have saved it, will print it out and disseminate wherever possible to educate, inform and spread the words, so eloquently provided.

  14. John Sadowski

    This article is amazing. Many times I have stumbled to try to explain that I love to hunt but I don’t “enjoy” killing. Your words are perfect. Thank you.

  15. Nate

    Nicely stated. I’ve felt this way as well out in the field and I agree that it’s a difficult thing to explain to those that haven’t experienced it.

    Being a hunter means having a front-seat view into the fact that we are all part of a cycle that has been going on for millions of years and will continue long after our lives (and maybe even our species) is gone.

    It’s sad to me that so many people today equate hunting with dominance over nature and bloodlust. While most of us that practice the art feel exactly the opposite—we hold habitats and quarry in high esteem and respect, and would do anything to protect our game’s continued overall livelihoods.

    Couple this disconnect with a continuing culture of glorification of human-human violence, desire for instant gratification, and endless gluttony for the “luxuries” of life and it all amounts to a hypocrisy I will never understand in our modern society.

  16. Anne Hansen

    I enjoy reading your work and this is your best yet! Thank you.

  17. Mike Garland

    I agree with much of the detail and sentiment you shared in your essay. I have the utmost respect for all I hunt, and do not hunt anything I don’t enjoy eating not merely tolerate. I also enjoy the year round interaction wildlife whether it be for scouting purposes or purely for enjoyment.

    My only additional point to add relates to your thought of people knowing animals as Disney characitures. The anthromorphism of animals by the likes of Disney tries to make them relatable and human. This very act strips away what makes the animals in fact animals. Further, by humanizing animals it prevents a person from learning and appreciating the beauty of the animal and its unique life. I shake my head watching the narrarated wildlife program describing the thought process of the female animal with young as if it were a human mother; more accurately a skilled loving human mother, plenty of humans lack the skills of some animals. The reality is that the mother animal is working on instinct and thoughts that are much different from a human. The weasel for example, might use instinct to evaluate her fat layer and available food sources and know that she must kill and eat a portion of her litter to insure the survival of the remaining young. This is a neccesity for the species survival as well as the family unit, but would not make a warm and fuzzy Disney or Discovery segment. Likewise, hunting is not a camera friendly event for the larger public but serves as a management tool if used responsibly.

    Those are my thoughts. Keep up the good work Hank.

  18. Tim Sopuck

    Well stated! My only comment is that I have always had these conflicting emotions about hunting but could not, until recently, talk about them in polite company!

    For those who don’t hunt, one of our dirty little secrets is just how much time we spend waiting for something to happen. Enforced contemplation in nature: that’s my mental health spa and spiritual retreat. Maybe my church. If I am lucky, there’s some honest food on the table, too. I guess the secret is out!

  19. Hank Blackstock

    Well put as it captures my feelings exactly. I feel a spiritual connection to nature and the creator I believe in as a Deist when I am in the field.

  20. Aram

    Hi Hank,

    Interesting and thoughtful perspective. I myself do not eat meat and do my best to avoid any sort of animal products whatsoever from dairy to leather etc. My reasons are strictly moral and nothing else.

    My question for you, and something you should also consider, and I say this respectfully and politely in the spirit of sharing ideas and perspectives, is as follows:

    I understand the whole natural “circle of life” sort of thing and why nature works the way it does. I also understand how nutrition and diets work as well as the evolution of all a kanal and their lifestyles and in our case civilization which adapts and grows based on the situation. What I mean by that is I get the whole ancient need for hunting and eating meat as a means to survive and defend ourselves.

    But the reality is that there is no single evidence anywhere that points that eating meat is any way even close to being required to live a healthy life. In other words, at this point with where nutrition, agriculture, and 21st century human diets are, we DO NOT need to eat meat to survive or even be healthy. It is simply a choice and a culinary luxury. There is just no evidence whether in principle or in practice to refute that.

    So while I appreciate your connection to nature, as I have one also, albeit from a different perspective, I don’t understand the notion that it is something that is needed.

    Hence, perhaps you could understand the viewpoint shared by myself, and others like me, that killing animals to eat them is unnecessary. And since we both seem to love animals, I am having a bit of a hard time understanding the logic behind it.

    But again, with that said, I’d like to point out that in a purely logical world, and I don’t mean this more in a figurative sense, so don’t take offense to the verbiage as it is more a figure of speech, but hunters are the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to people who eat meat. And might I say people who criticize hunting yet eat meat themselves are complete hypocrites and get me upset because as I said above, at least you are front and center and aware of your food source as well as “picking out” your food directly out of the natural habitat as opposed to out of the completely unnatural and sadistic hell that is called an animal farm or slaughterhouse. So in a hypothetical scenario had I only two options I would rather go hunt my own food rather than buy something from the meat industry.

    But in either case I would be interested to hear your response, and opinion regarding what I had said above about the fact that eating meat is not necessary to live and be healthy. Taste and gastronomical preference aside, purely “survival”.



  21. NickI

    Totally agree. In the UK hunting and conservation go together. The act of killing may be unpalatable to some but equally the mass processing of untraceable meat is unpalatable to others.
    Heather moors and ancient woodlands exist because of shooting. Without it the management of these treasures would be lost.
    Shame that this is not understood by the plastic wrapped meat eaters.

    Keep up the good work – great site!

  22. Mark

    Just discovered your website. Cooked chilindrone as per your recipe with venison and it was awesome.

    On killing. I teach biology and begin the section on energetics with the statement, Every day that you are alive, something has to die. It is a cold, hard fact and makes me glad that I am at the top of the food chain.

    Thank you for making it delicious.


  23. Korrena

    Hi, I just wanted to tell you how thought-provoking this essay was for me. I am studying ethnobotany and stumbled upon your website through a Google search for wild ginger. As someone who had struggled with human relationships and responsibilities to animals and the natural world, this essay really resounded with me. I have never hunted, so it was really eye-opening to read about hunting from the perspective of someone who hunts and has a deep love of nature. In my studies I have identified this same reverence for the animals killed in the cultures of First Peoples. Modern society is so divorced from the less pleasant aspects of daily life that many people simultaneously consider themselves “animal lovers” while being consumers of factory-farmed meats and animal products. As long as we’re not present or aware of the horrors of factory farms we think our hands are clean. But if we’re the ones bankrolling corporations that treat animals like little more than machines, how can we be innocent? I look forward to reading more on this site and your books. Thank you for your unique perspective and for talking openly about an issue that can get so heated.

  24. Tom in Oregon

    This was excellent reading. Loved it!

  25. David

    Great article! I haven’t hunted as much as you so I appreciate your thoughts and feelings on the subject. While it was a small part of your essay I would like you to consider some alternative thoughts to one of your statements. You state that in order for us to live something else must die. That is very true. But you also state that this has been going on for 600 million years. I believe that number is greatly exaggerated. The Bible says that we and the entire universe have only been around for about 6 thousand years. Later you quote Acts so I’m assuming that you have some knowledge of the Bible and that is why I believe that you would consider what I’m about to say. Only since evolutionists have dominated scientific thought has the idea of millions of years been around. But if we read the Bible and study its timelines the Earth can only be about 6 thousand years old. How do we reconcile this with what the evolutionists and evolutionary geologists tell us? Well, the creation account in Genesis was dictated by God to the writer. God was there and told us what he did and is an eyewitness. No geologist was there so all of their ideas are based on assumptions that can be proven false. I’ll leave it to you to look up the various Creation Science organizations and discover for yourself how evolutionary thought is more of a faith based philosophy than most religions. One book that I can recommend which is short and to the point is, “Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe” by Russell Humphreys. He is a Christian physicist who has worked at Sandia National Labs working on such projects as pulsed-power research and “Particle Beam Fusion Project.” I think you’ll find his book enlightening.

    And probably the reason we feel some remorse for taking life is that there was no death before Adam sinned. Men and animals all ate plants. Only after The Flood was Noah given permission to eat flesh in Genesis 9:3.



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