Today is the longest shortest post we’ve written.
Your comments during the hunting posts have been astounding – many are blob posts in their own right. Comments are so often missed by most as they read an article and move on (which I understand) and some of the best content here is written by others. I also adore hearing the views of others shared here – it is easy to think that our daily writing is sometimes equivelent to tossing a stone into the ocean.
I wanted to give your comments equal billing today – so we’ve compiled them here. There are very few edits – the only edits I’ve made are to comments which were wonderful comments that could sound like self-congratulations for me to post them here.
We have also placed links to each of the installments if you want to add to any of the discussions below – as I said, I adore seeing comments here.
Lastly, we have to announce our contest winner. There are so many wonderful comments below and so much to think about when reading them and, per the rules, I picked a random comment (used a random number generator from Google to find the winning commenter). I am pleased to say that Rebecca was won a copy of The Food Matters Cookbook. Ironically I had decided that if she was not our winner that I would buy a copy for her anyway – her comments gave me stunning insight into her family’s approach to hunting and her near-daily updates gave me the same experience that many of you had here reading mine.
Let me pass it over to your words (note, becasue this post is so long we`ve added a break to it on the main page and for those who describe – click MORE… to see the rest as this covers all 10 posts)
I just have to say that I had only started following your blog this summer and when you mentioned that you were doing a series on hunting I was really excited. For me, that’s very much a back of why I’m into gardening. It’s about having the skills and confidence to know that you can survive. I’ve never been hunting myself and don’t know that I have the patience for it, but I think that hunting (for food and not trophies) is very important and I hope that it isn’t a skill that’s lost in this high-tech mass-farming age.
Very interesting writing style you chose for this piece, particularly considering the topic is controversial. It sounds a bit ominous and introspective.
Joel (not me)
I have been waiting for the start to this series for quite a while, and I am not disappointed by the picture you have painted.
It seems so much easier to think of eating the flesh of animals, taken in a humane way when someone else is doing the killing. Our friend Alex, takes the lives of all the chickens we eat with a prayer for their life. We may believe that we are creating a sacrifice, yet I always wonder at the willingness of the chicken to be part of the ritual. In honor of the majesty of the land upon which you walk and the courage to take a life, we send you good hunting.
This is such an interesting subject. I was just talking with my sister who still lives in a semi-rural area of eastern North Carolina, where we grew up. After asking about my brother-in-law, she told me that he was well into deer season, his favorite time of the year. I asked, “How much venison can one family eat?” She explained that her family and her children’s families enjoy all the venison they can use. She went on to say that 2 local farmers had asked Danny to come hunting on their land to help keep the uninvited “guests” from eating the crops. She said that one poor farmer had his entire bean crop eaten and trampled in one night! And because he is a good steward of the land, he happily gives anything he kills to the needy families in the area. They are happy to have it! He never has a deer that goes to waste. I am really proud of his contributions.
I know the “1000 eyes watching” feeling very well. Years of canoe tripping, often in remote areas, doesn’t leave me scared of the dark, just aware that there are just as many creatures active in the dark as in the light.
It’s 7:37 am and more than light enough for a clear shot now. There’s a hard frost on the ground but our veggie gardens are tucked up comfortably under their plastic tunnels. It’s the first day of black powder season here. I saw Michael off in the dark this morning at 5:45 to make his way into position 45 minutes before the sun rises and the deer start moving. We’re lucky that we don’t have to travel far to begin hunting our winter meat. In truth, during bow season, I can hunt literally from the back of my house since the deer come down over the piney hill behind us and cross the property on the way to the woods on the other side of our neighboring farmer’s pastures.
While I’m waking up on coffee and blogs, I’m going over in my head the necessities needed for putting up deer if he brings one home: knives are sharpened, cutting table is set up, plenty of wrap, freezer bags and tape is at hand, the meat freezer is cleaned and ready for this year’s harvest, roaster, stock pot, pressure canner, and jars ready for stock from the day’s processing.
It is a huge feeling of appreciation and gratification that I experience looking over the jars in the pantry, the containers in the produce fridge and freezer, the boxes and baskets in the cold cellar, reflecting on the amount of food we were able to grow ourselves, purchase in from local growers, or forage this year. And, as with everything in it’s season, already I feel grateful and respectful of the animal that will give it’s life to help see us through the winter, and Michael’s skills and ability to do this humanely and well.
The problem is, I think, two-fold. First, I don’t think the most of the reality tv watching public would find ethical hunts, seeped in tradition, good tv. Look at most of the reality tv shows out there that figure groups of people. Rarely are they sincerely working together, there is always some sort of competition, which leads to obnoxious behaviour. Sadly, many reality tv watchers like to watch obnoxious behaviour on tv, gives them lots to talk about. The only exception I can think of (off the top of my head) is the BBC production of “Victorian Farm,” which I thought was amazing, but does not get the same ratings as “Survivor.” Second, if ethical hunts were featured on tv or other media, the backlash from extremists in animal rights groups would be huge. Opening constructive dialogue with groups that have opposing views is one thing. Trying to reason with extremists is another. I am just pessimistic enough to think it would be the extremists who would come out of the woodwork, making it more pain that its worth.
However, I think this blog is a great, sensitively written, introduction to the many dimensions of hunting. It gives exposure to aspects of hunting that don’t get much airtime, such as the prep, the traditions, the method, the group effort, and the respect for animals. By bringing out the complexities, it moves people away from reducing the hunting debate to simple narrow questions such as “why are you murdering animals?”
I’m enjoying reading your article. We were brought up being taught that you hunt to eat and you eat what you kill. With the economy being so rough now days especially her in rural NC, gardening and hunting helps our budget tremendously. I wish you luck and look forward to reading the rest of your journal.
I am enjoying this series of posts Joel, but it is bittersweet.
I am still recovering from rupturing my Achilles tendon and tearing the muscle. I haven’t been able to hunt since February, and am still having trouble walking over rough ground.
What constantly fascinates me is the differences in hunting techniques, both that you write about, and that commenters are posting. I have hunted in two different countries, New Zealand and Australia, and the experiences there were very different too.
In NZ, we can hunt all year round, and a hunting party is normally only one or two people out for a day or a weekend.
For a day hunt, I prefer to go alone, and if longer I prefer to have a companion. The hunting is normally in bush or forest, and involves a lot of quiet walking and stalking. I don’t use a dog, but a few do.
Also, given the size difference between the Canada and NZ, it is amazing how close you are to other people. Here, it is common to fly, either by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, into a remote hunting spot.
If you get down under at any time, I will happily take you hunting here.
Sounds like you’re off to a good start. I’m wishing you much luck tomorrow. Interesting reading about your hunting moose since we have deer here. We enjoy eating the deer our friends and family get. I’d enjoy trying moose. Maybe you’ll share a recipe sometime.
I’m way too tender (read wimpy) to ever go hunting myself but I’ve always kind of envied the men back home and their hunting traditions. It seems like such a genuine bonding experience. Cool that your dad is with you. Shaeffer sounds a bit like my Ranger – pesky.
Me (to Janet)
Janet, I don`t think that`s wimpy at all. Only wimpy if you`re hiding from the mild cold. As far as hunting itself, I can wasily understand how someone can`t do it.
I`ve been hunting most of my life – been in the woods for 22 years with a gun and seen it long before. Yet my grand total harvest is less than 6 birds. Of the birds I`ve taken, some were very easy and others were painfully difficult. Nothing wimpy about that from where I`m standing.
Michael came home early from hunting yesterday morning. He just got too cold to stay out any longer. Since he had a bout with Renal Cell Carcinoma last year he’s had trouble keeping warm. His tests are all clear and the doctors have no explanation for it. Then three weeks ago he unexpectedly had to have gall bladder surgery. Poor guy’s had a rough year and a half and this hunting season means more to him than just putting meat in the larder. He doesn’t say it but I can sense it. He did go back out in the afternoon and watched a good sized, six point buck wander along the creek in and out of the scrub but he never had a good shot at it. Unless he’s sure he can put it right down he won’t take the chance of injuring it or having to track a blood trail and possibly losing it.
There’s no hunting in Virginia on Sundays so maybe Monday he’ll bring one home
Micheal’s not concerned about whether he gets a good looking buck or not and neither am I. Doe or buck matters not as long as it’s a healthy, fit adult animal. He once was near tears when, because of the lay of the land and a trick of the light, he shot a young male maybe 8 or 9 months old. He doesn’t think it’s right to take a deer that hasn’t been through at least a winter or two. I agree with him but I also told him that we would treat that one like the best veal for our dinners. I processed it and labeled it carefully so he would know that the venison picatta or bacon wrapped filets came from the young one.
Yeah…all male hunting camp syndrome… Buck Camp friends in Pennsylvania call it. Buck Camp, meaning men only, stag all the way. I grew up going with my extended family to hunting camp every fall. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, spouses, and all my cousins. Grandpa had a zipline running from the back of the cabin to out beyond the woodshed for us kids before ziplines were the attraction they are now. I know now it was his way of getting us young’ns to haul in the firewood. That was the price of the ride- zipline out, carry a load back. I learned so much at those camps both by doing and by osmosis.
Buck camp on the other hand, is an affront to me. Like an inference that somehow I can’t pull my weight, or I’ll disapprove of something, or god forbid, I’ll get my deer and they won’t. Michael went once while I visited with friends but he wasn’t impressed. He liked the guys but he said there was an awful lot of loose testosterone laying about. He’s been invited back each year since but always begs off.
Me (to Rebecca)
goodness I am loving your posts in their own right…I find them fascinating and am so thankful you are sharing Rebecca…
I grew up a jazz dancer, figure skater and artsy kid; more than comfortable with my masculine and feminine sides. I think I stuggled with the same feelings Michael encountered and can definately understand why you`d see it as an afront. I really am excited for the day one of the hunters daughters show an interest.
Our tag system does not allow us to freely choose between an adult male or female – we have a draw for ANTLERLESS DEER where limited access is given to harvest fawns or does. A `regular`tag allows us to harvest one buck.
Can`t say enough how thankful I am to read your words – wish i was awake enough to comment more; a long day behind and short night ahead has me hunting for sleep.
Joel – I think that your insights into the mens only moose hunt is very thought provoking – I so want to take part in the hunt ever year…but cannot find my place in the male landscape of the hunt camp that my husband and father in law are a part of. The coincidence is that I can join them in bird hunting, like Dana…
I have really enjoyed reading about Schaeffer’s experiences – the wet nose wake up story left me laughing…that is such a Viszla trait…our Remi dog has the same tendency….poor victim!!!
Hope you had a great hunt…
How about partying early in the day so you can pass out early and get a good sleep?
Me (to Angelyna)
Laughing Ayngelina – we`re not exactly saints or nuns on Sunday… You indeed describe a good part of what happens on Sunday…it`s just a little more subtle than Saturday
I’m really enjoying thes posts. They’re a glimpse into the world of the hunter, one that my brothers have always denied me – they think I’m not tough enough, being female. I know how frustrating it can be when you don’t even see sign of your intended prey. For my brothers, a successful hunt means that there is a decent amount of meat for the winter without having to cull stock that they’d rather fatten for market.
I love the pictures, too. I love the north woods, and would rather live there than in the city – it still boggles me that some folks can be happy living so close together. It looks like a good time is being had by all, and I truly hope that your hunt is as successful as you would like it to be.
Being a city boy I find these journal entries fascinating. I’m at a constant flip flop of emotion while reading these entries.
Kiwiswiss (to Manny)
It is exactly the same when you are hunting.
Even reading this post, I felt a range of emotions too.
Excitement at harvesting an animal, sadness, disappointment for Joel that he wasn’t there to see the harvesting, and a bit of relief for him that he wasn’t.
All of the same things that experienced when you are out there.
Michael was out Monday and Tuesday. Saw several deer but nothing he would hazard a shot at. He’s hunting on a friend’s property who in years past, allowed the farmer next door to graze his cattle on until hunting season. Last year she stopped the practice and in a year’s time the scrub has overgrown so much that the “shooting allies” have become obscured. Michael’s tried it from both sides of the brush but it seems that the deer must be sensing him because when they start to move they always choose the opposite side of the scrub from him. He must be centered enough, he said he had a finch land on his back yesterday! Today is Michael’s last day off from work so his hunting will be limited to evenings while there’s light left, and Saturdays from here on out. We are getting a little antsy because usually by this time we have two deer in the freezer and anything else he gets we share out with other folks and our local food pantry.
Hunting regs here in Va are pretty, umm, lax, for lack of a better word. You do need a license and proof of a hunter safety course to get that license, but once you have it, you can take 2 bucks and 3 does per person. Once you’ve filled your quota you can get bonus tags for more does. Hunters used to have to stop at a registered check-in station (usually a convenience store or gas station) after harvesting a deer to get their licenses punched and the animal’s ear tagged but now it’s a call-in system. You’re on your honor to call in and register your kills. You do have to use a particular weapon for a particular season: muzzle loader, rifle, bow. I’m especially excited about bow season because we can now use crossbows. That used to be limited to handicapped hunters. Up until the past year I used a Mongolian horse bow, a traditional style bow with shorter arms that made it easy to carry and shoot in the brush while packing more punch than a recurve or long bow. The crossbow gives me a lot more options and power without giving up the mobility. The deer are so plentiful and damaging around here that in past years some of the towns have had to let bow hunters who go through special training and licensing into some parts of the towns during certain early morning hours to try to cut down the “urban” deer population.
Michael’s been caribou hunting up in Quebec twice now so he’s well acquainted with all the licensing you go through plus all the paperwork he had to do to get his rifle across the border. He’s brought home a total of 4 caribou and we still have a few roasts and shanks in the freezer. It’s wonderful meat and a pleasant change from deer. I chose to opt out because I have a terror of traveling lonely, remote icy roads in trucks. But the photos he brought back were absolutely beautiful and if I could have teleported into that camp I would’ve. Unfortunately on his last trip back out from the camp they had a thrilling moment driving the Trans-Taiga and that pretty much pegged his fun meter. No injuries, a few dings in the truck but no need for repairs, and the truck pulled right out of the ditch they slid into, but when the anxiety of the drive outweighs the enjoyment of the hunt it’s time to stick closer to home!
Interesting how even hunting has interesting dynamics, especially when things start to get tense.
Joel – where is your hunt camp? My husband has been hunting in Limerick for the past 5 years….your camp sounds like it is in the same geographic area as theirs with the same swampy challenges, beavers, bears and birds…
Me (to Kelly)
we’re close to Huntsville – about 25 kilometers from town center.. quite a trek to Limerick by looks of maps – it is amazing how much our canadian shield and forest line contrains much of same type of land… I bet there’s some pretty neat areas wwhere he is too
Joel thank you for sharing this journey again with us. Having been (off season) to the camp, my memories of the roads and hiking it thru bush to go for a swim makes it incredibly real for me. I am feeling like I am there with you. You have done another amazing job sharing your emotions and thoughts. The pictures are wonderful and well there are no words to say how proud I am fo Schaeffer!!! Very happy for you that the hunt was successful for your group!
Reading your posts is like reading a gripping novel. Can’t wait for the next instalment each day.
Your photos are stunning and really help to set the scene and I really look forward to the dogging montage.
Thanks for putting in the time to record your thoughts in the field, so you can put it together so well now.
We came across a post yesterday that had one dish you may have a little laugh at…
about a quarter of the way down is a pic entitled Dove, Shot, Pum!
Shows how different cultures have no problem with reminding the diners where this meal originated.
Thanks so much for sharing this. As a recently lapsed vegetarian, I understand the conflicting emotions you describe. In the same way that buying produce from farmers whose faces I see or names I know makes the food more nourishing to my soul, I feel that this connection with the animals and the land that sustains them makes this experience very different. It’s interesting to think that many consider hunting to be a brutal act based on some preconceived notion, but don’t consider the reality of modern factory farming as a very different form of brutality. Is it more ethical for me to buy a sterile package of bacon made from an animal that may never have seen the sun? Or to consume an animal that I know had a life of freedom and nature and that I ended that life as humanely as I could? You have given me much to consider. Thank you again.
Me (to BobbieSue)
Thanks for taking the time to comment – I know much of the same struggle and thoughts you speak of and thank you for your kind words.
I wrote an intro to hunting and our views in 2009 that talked about my own journey and prolonged periods of not eating pork or red meat (wild or otherwise for more than 5 years) and that you may find some more food for thought in that post.
Either way, thanks for sharing your journey!
Congratulations on the success of your hunt Joel! I’m sure that the meat added to your freezer is a satisfying feeling. I know for us it puts a lot more meaning into the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving, not just on that day but every time we prepare a meal from the meat we’ve harvested ourselves.
Shaeffer has obviously moved from his week of high alert status to job well done recovery mode! Good boy, Shaeffer!
We’re still hunting muzzle loader for the next few days. Then rifle comes in. Michael has weekend duty at work this weekend so he won’t be going back out until next Saturday, possibly some evenings this week if he gets home before dark.
I get what you mean about coming back to civilization, although since I live in a rural area noise and indifferent people aren’t a problem. It’s flush toilets and hot and cold running water all in the same house with me that I find luxurious!
Wow, what an interesting post. It’s as if you were in a very extended meditation and emerged with fresh eyes to see what a city really is and what it does to its inhabitants.
I live in Norfolk County, and one of my great joys is the ability to drive 5 minutes down the road with my dogs, and slip into Carolinian forests. No matter the time of year, it’s always blissfully quiet. (A few gun shots during hunting season, but since I’m walking in a conservation area, they’re far enough away to be muffled.) I have to remind myself to stop occasionally … to stop and hear the music of the forest. If you stand silently, all of the soft and subtle sounds gradually emerge. I never feel more at peace than at those moments.
Did you get a moose? I’m sure you will do something delicious with the meat this winter!
On a culinary note, I opened and consumed a jar of my Asparagus Soup the other day … my first attempt at pressure canning! And I’m still here … so I guess I did it right.
Me (to Karen)
Our camp ended up with 1 and shared 2 others. We’ll be splitting it 14 ways so there will be some in the fridge indeed.
Those quiet moments are indeed a treasure.
Congrats on your soup – very liberating! Just got news that I’ve god some deer bones headed my way so stock s in our pressure canning future.
It saddens me that over the years there has been a split between the breeding of dogs for the show ring and those that breed for their original hunting purpose. In many breeds the original purpose is no longer viable however in the sporting breeds it is a shame to see some of these breeds having no natural instinct for what they were originally developed for.
Form follows function is a well known term to dog breeders and it thrills me to see that Schaeffer not only carries breed type (meaning that anyone who looks at him has no doubt that he is a Vizsla) and still has the instinct that the breed has carried for centuries.
Schaeff’s purpose has always been primarily to be an integral part of the Joel and Dana family and this purpose he has certainly fulfilled. To see that he has the instinct to do what his ancestors have passed down to him is a joy for me to see and I know that Joel is proud to see that Schaeffer is indeed is a Vizsla both in heart and soul.
One might say that Schaeffer’s breed type is Well Preserved!
It’s great reading along with you on your journey, Joel! You are so generous, as always, with how much you share. One day I hope to join in the hunting ranks. Great work!
Me (to Julia)
Less than 5 years ago I was worried that we would never find another hunter for our cabin. Hunting was largely tabboo and the most vocal groups were anti-hunters or the “trophy” hunters which made conversation about such things very difficult and the prospect of interesting new hunters very unlikely.
It is interesting to me just how many people are showing such interest – and, in particular – how many women have been sharing the same interest. It shouldn’t be a gender thing but the amount of male hunters vs female and the number of women sharing their interest with us is fascinating and in quantities that are notable.
Thanks for your kind words!