As a hunter I confront the finality of my action each time I kill an animal. Each time, every time. It is a soul searching pause that is never easy.
When I was introduced to hunting by my father he instilled in me a deep and abiding appreciation for the fish, fowl and animals I would take. He made me pause to honor and thank them for the sustenance they would provide my family, or friends or me.
I have often searched for an explanation for the honor of the hunt. I think I found it.
“And that is the thing about real hunters. Real hunters love the animals they kill. It is not about trophies, or ego, or dominance. For real hunters, the life they take is already a part of them, and when they take that life, they do so with reverence and awe and the understanding that being struck down cleanly, without pain or suffering, is a far better end than any creature usually has the privilege of meeting.”
That passage is from Allison Glock’s wonderful tale, First Shot, in Garden & Gun. She writes of her first hunt for a turkey with hunting legend Jay Walea. The story is about a first timer, Walea’s skill as a turkey hunting and in the end it captured for me, that elusive explanation above. Her story ends fittingly with;
“We say grace. We toast the gobbler. And then we pass the plate. I do not hesitate. I honor his death with appreciation. And extra gravy.”
A toast to hunters, hunting and the cycle of life.