Hunting is a substantial part of the culture of my family. I remember a time before all my teeth had fallen out when my father painted my face in greens and browns. It was exciting for me, I felt like he was sharing a bit of himself.
I remember him coming home with dove meat that he had shot, and us cooking it for dinner. Although I’ve only had dove once, it is still the most delicious meat in my mind, even after the memory of its taste is long gone. I remember eating venison spaghetti with my grandparents and watching my father scale catfish. I recognize the pride all these men had, bringing home meat for their families, and the admiration I felt towards them.
I have also had a very indirect connection to hunting. I have never shot an animal, and when my brother ran over a kit in our yard with the lawnmower, I cried. I have always felt deep respect towards animals. As a little girl, I understood hunting as something that men do, but never connected to humanity.
My uncle believes that hunting is a part of being human, but that it does not make humanity. “The whole structure of nature is based on predator and prey; everything hunts. Plants hunt for water, everything competes for what they need to survive.” Listening to him, I started to understand what he meant. From my uncle’s perspective, gathering is a form of hunting as well. To hunt is to search for nutrients. “Hunting is a necessity.”
My father has a different perspective. “I wouldn’t say that hunting makes us human, but that it is an element of humanity. Plenty of humans don’t hunt.” He believes that hunting comes from the instinctual drive and a means of feeding ourselves. He claims that hunting, in its most original roots, is a means of sustenance, but that it is no longer a requirement. “The hunters I have the most respect for give thanks and ask for forgiveness to their prey. They hold stewardship for that animal’s life and take care of the meat properly. My father has always taken hunting seriously with this mindset. He views it less as a game or sport, and more as a practice. “I have spent a lot of time hunting without even shooting anything.” It is about being with an animal as much as it is killing it.
These are the men that have taught me about hunting. Many times, hunting is viewed as the murder of another, and I believe that hunters do just that. When a hunter is killing in competition or for fame, like a trophy hunter, their gratitude is not directed towards the creature they have taken but is replaced by pride. They do not see this animal as a precious gift but instead feel they are entitled to it. This image does not sit right with me. They kill unconsciously, and without respect. That is an aspect seen in humanity that can be unique. Hunting can be violent and I do not condone that.
Does hunting make us human? No, but to be human means to hunt. To hunt does not need to mean to kill. It is about instinct and survival. One can hunt for a beautiful tree to sit in, or for a patch of nettles to carefully pick and brew for tea. Hunting does not need to mean death. It comes with the feeling of desire and need to fulfill, and without greed, hunting is part of the cycle of living. Hunting, when viewed with responsibility and care, is a way to connect humans to their past and their kin.
We are all hunting constantly, and to be human means to want for. Some of us are more materialistic than others, but people are resilient opportunists. We have the brainpower and mental ability to take advantage of what’s in front of us. Many times this results in a beautiful creation. It is in our nature to want to grow. It is a way we can blend into nature and appreciate what the Earth can provide for us. Unfortunately, it can also result in a lack of awareness of other beings, and in turn, we have pillaged what’s around us. It is our job and responsibility to take care of our planet and resources.