God blessed my wife, Kirsten, and me with four beautiful, talented and intelligent daughters. Having lived in a household of five women, I have watched many movies that my friends without daughters may have never heard of or seen. I’m talking “chick flicks.” I am not ashamed to admit that I have watched these movies. Some of them reminded me that I really do prefer films like “Braveheart” and “300.” That said, I actually enjoyed watching “A Walk to Remember” and “The Notebook.” If you need to stop reading now, go ahead…I won’t be offended.
To my surprise, a few of those movies provided me with memorable quotes such as “talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” For those of you without daughters, this line was spoken by Joan in “Playing by Heart.”
To some, writing about hunting makes as much sense as dancing about architecture. You see no reason to do so. Those who hunt should hunt. Those who design buildings should design buildings. Leave the writing and dancing out of it.
Yet I am compelled to write about the hunt. Long before I began this blog, I started a journal. In it, I write down as much as I can about each deer, elk or turkey that I have taken home from the forests or mountains. I hope my grandchildren will enjoy reading what I recorded, but even if they do not I am drawn to put my thoughts and feelings into writing…to express what each and every hunt was like.
Perhaps it is my way of honoring the life of each animal that died as a result of my bullet or arrow finding its mark. It may be my way of giving thanks for the meat they provided for my family. All I know is this, hunting fills me with emotion, anticipation, excitement, wonder and exhilaration. Basketball and football never did this. When I take to the mountains or go into the wilderness, I am tested in ways that nothing else can do…and for some reason, it causes me to sit down and write.
Fred Bear once said, “I have always tempered my killing with respect for the game pursued. I see the animal not only as a target, but as a living creature with more freedom than I will ever have. I take that life if I can, with regret as well as joy, and the sure knowledge that nature’s ways of fang and claw or exposure and starvation are a far crueler fate than I bestow.” Those who have never hunted and actually harvested an animal may not understand this “regret as well as joy.” I have experienced this each and every time I have killed a deer or elk. It is so powerful that I must write about it.
Mitch Ballard puts it this way in his reflections on St. Hubert, the Patron Saint of Hunters:
Regardless, giving thanks to the dead animal, and to God, for the resulting nourishment must be what it’s all about. Respect for the fallen, and seeking a blessing for the meat, and honoring the death of one of God’s creatures must be the catalyst for these traditions. Of course tagging fresh venison is the object, but preparing for and participating in the hunt is almost as rewarding. Activities surrounding the hunt as well as the camaraderie involved with the “tribe” provide untold pleasure as it creates lasting memories. Domesticated animals provide suitable protein but they don’t enjoy the freedom of the wildness experienced by game animals during their lives in the forests and fields. Our teeth and stomachs convert that deer’s living energy into our own and we owe it much deserved respect. So, if you wish, say a prayer of thanksgiving when you kill your next deer or elk; just remember to honor the death of the wild animal and utilize the meat with respect. It died so that you might live.
By the way, those of you who enjoy an adult drink called Jägermeister may not realize the connection with St. Hubert. According to Roman Catholic tradition, he was pursuing a magnificent stag and in a clearing in the forest, the animal stopped and turned. Hubert was astounded at perceiving a crucifix suspended between its antlers, while he heard a voice from the figure of Christ say, “Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!”
You can read about Hubert’s life thereafter by going online and using your preferred internet search engine. His is a remarkable story.
Back to dancing about architecture….I mean, writing about hunting. Some of you understand exactly what I am trying to say here. The hunt….from start to finish…from forest to feast…moves you deeply and profoundly. Others of you may never hunt…and have no desire to do so. I understand. I have zero interest in joining a bowling league and working on my technique…yet thousands of people find this downright exciting and satisfying. Same with needlepoint and mountain biking. To this I say…suum cuique.
Even now, as I get up at 430AM most mornings to run or hike in the mountains as part of my training for this fall’s hunts for ibex, deer and elk and hit the gym five days a week to strengthen my muscles for the rigors of the chase, I have started a personal journal. The hunt has not even begun really, and yet I am drawn to write down my thoughts and feelings in anticipation of what the autumn months will bring.
I hope for plenty of wild game in my freezer. I look forward to sharing this meat with family and friends. Let me know if you are heading this way. I’ll put some venison on the grill for us.