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This is a hard one -- I usually write on the many forms of wildlife in our region, and normally have little trouble coming up with a subject, be it a bat or buzzard, or wink or measel -- oops, I meant mink or weasel!
However this article may raise some eyebrows, perhaps turn off some of my readers, or perhaps win me some too. I'm sure it my possibly even offend some, but I feel obligated to "get it out." So here goes.
As most of you know I've been a "bird watcher" (a term I nearly hate) all my life, and also have a facination with insects like butterflies, and snakes, fish, amphibians and of course our native mammals.
I've written about them since 1972 nearly every week for various newspapers. Thats roughly going on 40 years!
But did you know I also HUNT. I can hear the gasps of horror: "No, not him too!" Hang in there -- it gets worse -- I even enjoy eating them!
Actually perhaps only one in a 100 out there is a true vegetarian, never eating any flesh of any kind except eggs and cheese. Fish have flesh too remember, and though they don't scream or cry when caught (though some like grunts "grunt," and croakers "croak") most lie there silently in the boats bottom gasping for air as their gills dry out, slowly suffocating to death.
Some say any fish you catch and plan on keeping and eating should be bopped in the brain area to prevent them from suffering. Can you picture a commercial fisherman out at sea with a big haul in a mile long net doing this? Certainly not.
So my point is even if you only eat fish, they still have to die.
And as most of you know all store meat comes floating down from heaven all neatly packaged, and does not relate to the big-eyed, sweet old cow you see in the pasture.
Now I'm getting cynical, but I beg of you to hear me out. For any person to judge anyone prematurely, simply because they prefer to eat wild game occasionally rather than domestic animals is (to me) unfair.
I can understand in this age when few folks out there have ever been raised on a farm (as I have), and been brought up butchering hogs, goats, cattle, and chickens they can't relate to the idea of skinning a critter, much lees gutting it, and preparing the meat into chops, back straps and sausage, etc. They couldn't stomach it. No problem.
How many have ever read any book on animal factories. I have, and the conditions most "meat animals" are raised in make me nauseated. At least most wild game is safe to eat, and certainly healthier for one to eat, as it has less saturated fat, and more protein per ounce, not to mention all the steroids and other chemicals found in factory raised meats are missing.
And the wild animal is just that -- wild and free, not crammed into a tiny area so small it can't even turn around, and forced feed unnaturally to grow exceptionally fast and put on weight quickly as well, as many of the factories have been documented doing!
Domestic animals raised for meat are stressed almost from the day they are born. And for that matter so are wild creatures too, constantly looking for danger for out there in the "jungle," it IS a eat or be eaten world! The survival of the fittest!
For eons, we have been predators. We have our eyes positioned to look forward -- binocular vision like predators, not monocular vision as those preyed upon have. We over the millennium have turned nearly naked, allowing us to sweat, and keep cool, litterly running our prey down, as is still being done in more primitive parts of the world.
There are many ways to hunt. What may seem right for one, may not appeal to another. In Indiana where I was raised, because many rural homes were fairly close to another, only shotguns with a close killing range could be used for deer. In other states that have more open range, and less homes per square mile a high powered rifle is often prefered.
Here in our area where there are few farms around -- places that raise pastured beef, many folks prefer to put venison in their freezers instead. And since we have miles and miles of swamps, areas that are often extremely hard to walk through, becouse of the dense vegetation or water, most hunters in this area tend to hunt with dogs that bring the deer to them.
Hunting with deer dogs is also is a social maner of procuring meat. And that has been man's nature also for eons -- for man to hunt in groups, like other top predators (wolves and lions, for example). These guys are constantly on their walkie talkies or CB radios, keeping track of their radio-collared dogs through telemetry.
Most of them use their trucks to sit on, so they can see a deer out over the palmettos, and nearly all hunt along forest roads, where this type of hunting is legal .
I prefer to hunt by myself, and prefer to use what is called "traditional archery" to get game. That is an old recurve or stick bow I've made myself. I rarely connect, but when I do I feel I've really pulled off a feat few could duplicate.
And when I'm slipping through a swamp with bow in hand as quietly as possible, I feel more in tune with nature than at any other time. I'm not a spectator of nature, I'm a participant! It's like it is in my veins! Like it is part of my genetic make up, and rightfully so, for in man's existence on earth about 99 per cent of his existence, he has been a predator!
Keep in mind even a total vegetarian has an impact on wild creatures, for though they may not kill creatures, the acres of land used to raise vegetables, is displacing wildlife and keeping them from even breeding!
Anyway you cut it, our very presence, in this country especially, has an impact on wildlife.