Dear Fellow Hunters,
This letter is not meant to defend "hunting" and it is not meant preach (although it will contain both). I'm a hunter. Although there is a small amount of "recreation" in it for me, that recreation is merely being in the outdoors and a personal challenge within me to outsmart that which I am hunting. I say "small" because it is more my love for venison or wild poultry that has me out there. That, and the fact that venison is a far more healthy meat than beef. Far better for those of us that like red meats.
No, this letter is to ask my fellow hunters to please do yourselves and me a favor. Know what you are doing before you go into the woods dressed in your newly purchased "hunter's clothing." There is more to the hunt than simply "looking the part." Please (yes I'm begging here) have respect for nature. For instance, if you are hunting a white-tailed deer, I'm asking you to do some reading. Learn about the animal you are after. Understand their habitat. Know their anatomy. Learn about everything that you are doing. Are you hunting with a rifle? Before you go into the woods, know that your rifle is the right tool for the area you are hunting in. Practice! When you squeeze that trigger, make sure that it is lethal. Do YOU want to suffer when YOU die? I'll give you an example.
I was once asked by a friend, "Ray, could you come out and help me find a deer I shot. He ran after I shot and I can't find him."
I was disgusted, and yes, a little pissed off (saddened even that an animal was probably out there suffering). I replied, "I'll do my best, but I don't know how well I can track a deer."
"But I thought you've gotten deer in the past."
"Yes, I have. 13 that I can remember, but they all died where they were standing and it was over in a split second. I don't like them to suffer."
We found the animal, but it was a good 1/4 of a mile from where it was shot. I don't like that one bit.
So, please know what you're doing. Would you get into a car and drive it through a busy city if you weren't sure of your skills as a driver? Would you build a house for you and your family to live in if you had no idea how to do it right? Would you want a doctor operating on a loved one (or you) if they had never been educated in surgical procedures? Then don't squeeze a trigger if you aren't absolutely sure of yourself. And for goodness sakes if you don't like the meat, get out of the woods. I absolutely hate it when I hear the term "trophy hunter." A deer that may be 200+ pounds and have a rack of 10+ points has beaten the odds to become what he has. He's the dominant buck in his area. He has beaten the odds against huinters in the past. He has survived (in some cases) sub zero weather or dealt with deeps snows, and foraged for food when food wasn't so plentiful. He deserves respect for his accomplishments.
Oh yes, and please, know what is out there before raising your gun to shoot. Bring binoculars if you have to. I don't want the crosshairs of your scope on my head just because you may be curious as to who I am. Because earlier in your hunt when you thought there was a deer out there, you raised your rifle, and flicked off the safety. You never returned the safety button or lever back to its safe mode and now you think you want to imagine you are Rambo and you squeeze the trigger. At 2000 to 3000 feet per second, it's a tad difficult for me to duck the bullet. Never point your gun at something you don't intend to kill.
When I was 10 years old, I asked my dad, "Dad, when do I get to go hunting?"
He said, "When you put away your toy guns, stop playing "cowboys and indians," and show me that you aren't going to point even a water pistol at somebody, then I'll teach you to hunt." I handed my toys down to my brothers. In the military when we'd be cleaning our M-16s in our rooms, if somebody had their weapon completely dis-assembled and the barrel of it was pointing at me, I'd let them know (with some not-so-religious language) that I was displeased.
I'm tired of having people find out that I hunt and say something like, "I have no respect for hunters." I want to shout back and ask if they are vegetarians, but usually just walk away. I have much less respect for a society that raises beef specifically to load onto conveyor belts so that a hydraulic hammer can smack them between the eyes on their way to Burger King and McDonalds, resulting in the consumer having above normal Cholesterol readings, high blood pressure, etc. (Nuff on that).
So dear hunter, I only ask that you respect nature. If you eat a snack in the woods, bring your scraps out with you. Also, spread this message to your friends that hunt.
Oh, and one more thing. If you know people, hunters or not, that like to feed the deer in the winter time, could you do me a favor and please tell them not to do that. If they throw a bale of hay over the fence for the deer to come and eat, they just killed more deer in one night than I have all my life, because they didn't have enough respect for the animals to learn something about them. In the winter, a deer's digestive system changes (at least in the north where the snows are), and they live on browse (tree buds), frozen apples, bark, and hemlock branches. They cannot digest grass and hay. They'll eat it until they are full. They'll go off into the woods, and their bodies won't break down the hay. They'll lie down in the cold snow, and slowly starve to death. This is even worse than the hunter that wounds a deer.
Am I being harsh? Yeah probably. But there are a few "bad apples" out there that have created a label that all hunters are irresponsible. I, for one, am not crazy about that label. Thanks for your help.