by Leon Archer
I guess it’s high time for me to complete my ramblings about hunting.
This last installment is the hardest one for me to write, because it is much more personal than the others.
I have been a hunter from about the time I was eight and I still hunt, but it’s different these days.
For more than 55 years, I would be elated each time I killed a game animal, especially if it happened to be a deer, because my skills had been tested, and the animal would provide many good meals for me and my family.
I had no inkling during those years that my perspective and my feelings might one day change.
As strange as it may seem to people who have never hunted, I have always loved all kinds of animals, including the ones I have hunted, and to some extent, the same incongruence holds true for the fish I have pursued so avidly since the first day I wet a line.
I could love deer, rabbits, ducks, squirrels, pheasants, and on and on, and yet at the same time I had no problem shooting them when the season was open.
For me, it was perfectly natural and acceptable, the way of my world, and I felt neither guilt nor pity when I pulled the trigger.
Hunting answers a primordial urge in many humans. It is neither good nor bad. Hunting is a valuable tool for managing some animal populations and it provides huge quantities of renewable organic protein every year.
To some extent, I agree with the person who said, “I believe there is a place for every animal – right next to the potatoes and gravy.”
But in a larger sense, I believe animals are much, much more than just meat on the table and trophies on the wall. They are beautiful examples of God’s handiwork and to treat them callously without proper respect is a sin; the American Indians recognized that.
You see, about 10 years ago, I began doing a lot less hunting, and if it were not for my son, Tim, and my grandsons, I might nearly have stopped altogether. The joy of being in the woods with them and seeing them shoot their own deer far outweighed any pleasure I found in shooting one myself.
I actually have become very ambivalent about shooting a deer, in spite of the fact that I do enjoy venison very much.
Two events caused me to re-evaluate almost everything I have ever believed and more importantly, felt, about hunting as it applied to me.
I am sharing those events with you, but it is a painful for me to do so; however, I don’t know any other way to explain where I’m at with hunting today.
The first took place about eight years ago. I was deer hunting with Tim and it had been a slow morning. By 8:30 a.m., I had begun to wonder if there were any deer at all in the woods we were hunting, when suddenly there was a deer standing 20 feet away from me. I slowly raised my shotgun and put the crosshairs on its head. At the shot, it immediately began running and because of trees and brush, I was not able to get another clear shot.
I checked the spot where the deer had been and where it had run, and there was blood on the leaves along its tracks. I couldn’t conceive how it could have run away if I had hit it, but I began following the trail.
In only a minute or so, I jumped the deer, and it was running strongly. I fired again and the deer veered to the right. I fired again and the deer veered back to the left, but continued moving about another hundred yards, finally stopping in some light brush.