Seated in the grandeur of a 1920’s movie palace in Richmond, Virginia at the tender age of 4, I saw an animated deer shot by an animated hunter and cried. The movie was Bambi. It was a big deal to be going to my first movie at the Byrd Theatre. It meant I was grown up enough to do so. It was an important outing therefore the emotional reaction to the killing of the deer was heightened. The message was clear:
Hunters are bad people. They make orphans.
Growing up in the sheltered suburbs, I never saw a person with a gun.
I should say, I never saw a person with a gun until my mother started dating a horrible, abusive man. He owned several guns and since almost everything I associated with him was awful, guns and hunting became awful to me as well. I recall one trip in which this man took me, then about 10 years old, and his three son’s out to practice deer hunting skills. It didn’t matter what I did, it was wrong. He berated me constantly over the course of the day, particularly after proving a better marksman than any of his sons.
No wonder I thought all hunters were ignorant and mean.
Fast forward a few decades to the day I interviewed Landers for the invasive species piece. Part of our conversation was about the sense of hunting animals for food. Here was this smart, relatively normal guy who was making a career out of the message that one way to control invasive species was to eat them. He got his start in this field by teaching adult beginners how to hunt deer as he had taught himself. His reasons for becoming a hunter intrigued me. Basically they were twofold:
- He had been raised in a vegetarian household and found himself disgusted by handling meat. He thought it might help to become more connected to his food sources.
- He had a family and had fallen into a situation in which finances were unstable. He lived in the country at the time and realized that there was plenty of food walking around on his six acres of yard and that with minimal investment ( he had inherited some firearms) he could have lots of meat in his freezer, fairly quickly.
In this era of superhuge grocery stores, people are vastly separated from their food sources. As part of my belief in Ayurveda (the yoga of healthy living) I am all about eating fresh,local, organic, food. Since my constitution requires me to eat some meat for optimal health free range and affordable is ideal. Killing what is roaming around in the wild is as close to that as you can get. Learning to hunt for deer myself sounded like a way to ensure healthy food on my own table even when there are gaps between paychecks.
My conversion had started.
Daffodils are blooming and the undergrowth of the Albemarle county’s woods is fuzzy with pale green as tiny leaves appear but my mind was on autumn this morning as I strolled along the grounds of a Keswick horse farm. Yep, I am already planning for deer hunting season which will start in November.
It may seem a bit fanatical to be thinking about an event so far in advance but there is method to this madness. I have learned that a good hunter looks for hunting spots long before actually hunting. Of course that makes perfect sense- so you will have a plan and can be prepared on the actual day of the hunt. But if you are not a hunter you may not have thought of that. I used to think that hunters simply went out into the woods at random and shot at stuff. I assume most non-hunters think same thing, if they ever thought about it at all.
It is smart to scout for hunting spots in the spring because generally the weather is warmer than winter and one can see the landscape clearly as weeds and leaves are not obstructing views. This makes hiking off-trail in search of good hunting spots feasible since it is much less difficult to get lost. The absence of bugs, poison ivy and snakes adds to the wisdom of scouting in spring.
The farm we visited is over 500 acres with terrain consisting of open field of gently rolling hills and lots of wooded area along the east side of a mountain. The place is overrun with deer and the owner is thrilled to have some extra hunters come help thin out the population.
However, there is one hurdle to jump. In order to hunt on this land we will have to be approved by the guy designated to monitor deer hunting and he sounds a little intense. He has placed several fancy steel tree-stands around the perimeters of the fields and installed cameras throughout the property to monitor deer movement.
As a novice deer hunter and generally curious person, I can’t wait to meet him.
Even if for some reason, Larry (my hunting mentor), and I don’t pass muster with this guy, I enjoyed a tour of this gorgeous farm and got in a little hiking. We also saw an elegant red fox glide across a field and found some bear scat on the trail going up the mountain.
Thanks to my friend, “Frank”, for connecting us to and giving us the tour of this exceptional place.
In the next post, I will begin to explain some of my reasons for wanting to take up deer hunting.
Filed under: Deer hunting | Tags: deer, deer hunting yogini, personal challenge, The Beginners Guide to Deer Hunting for Food
Almost six years ago now, I interviewed a guy named Jackson Landers for a story about invasive species for Virginia Living magazine. He was promoting his second book, Eating Aliens, and we had a great time sloshing around Totier Creek pulling out invasive Chinese mystery snails and fishing for snakeheads in the Potomac while I was researching the story. But last summer I became more intrigued with Landers’ first book, The Beginners Guide to Deer Hunting for Food, a fairly comprehensive deer hunting guide for adult beginner deer hunters. I wanted to cross a few personal boundaries and see what would happen if I went deer hunting.
This may not sound odd unless you know me.
Though I enjoy the outdoors I am not usually thought of as the hunter type. In fact I have been guilty of turning my liberal, urbanite nose up at fishing and hunting as red-neck activities and therefore unworthy of my time. Stereotypical images of PBR-guzzling, burly men with thick Southern accents, toting guns and sitting in the cold woods for hours scratching themselves waiting to bag a buck to add more antler decor to their walls is all I conjured when the subject of deer hunting came up – not my typical choice for company. Most people know me as an arts and culture lover who is perfectly happy being a few steps away from the source of her food.
And then there is the whole yoga thing.
I am a practicing yogini who also teaches yoga as part of my living. People have told me that I am not a real yogi because I eat meat. Imagine how far off the path they would think I was after engaging in the violent act of killing a sentient being?
Since I started this particular blog while testing my metal living in a log cabin, it seemed the appropriate place to write about my foray into a rather rustic world I had previously snubbed. This whole process of wanting to and learning to hunt deer is about a lot of things for me but at the core it is about touching base with with my most powerful primal self. I want to answer the question- can I do it? Meaning: Do I have the wherewithal to actually shoot and kill a big beautiful living creature? What personal metamorphosis might happen along the way? How will other people perceive the concept of a gun toting, meat eating, animal killing yogini?
A solid nine months have passed since I got the notion that I wanted to do this,so there will be some backstory forthcoming. Because preparations for the fall hunting season are starting already, there will more timely posts interspersed with the backstories.
Hopefully you will enjoy the journey and perhaps learn somethings along the way.
I want to give full credit to Landers for inspiring me to take up the challenge of deer hunting. It was through chatting with him that the process of turning my brain 180 degrees on the subject began. He has been generous with his time and knowledge as will be noted if future posts.
Tomorrow my new deer hunting mentor, Larry, and I are going out to a farm in Keswick to scout for good hunting spots. More on that in a day or two.
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