Thursday, December 6, 2012

Me, The Hunter?

The very nice gentleman at Dunkin Donuts (whose english is getting better but still hard to follow at 6:15 in the morning) is miffed by two things when I stop by there for a dose of caffeine; that I don't ever order anything but coffee ("why no eat my friend?") and that I no longer take "4 splenda and whole milk" in my coffee ("why you change my friend?") I've explained to him several hundred times that I have to be awake for a while before I can eat and that he has me mixed up with someone else - I've never, ever had anything with coffee besides a cup to hold it. Still, though, the conversation repeats itself any morning that I hit his drive-thru. And I have no idea why I decided to include that scenario in my thoughts this morning, except to say that if my extra large black hadn't woken me up yet then the first article I saw upon turning on the laptop certainly did..the one for which I've tried to provide a link may have to copy and paste into your browser.

Taking up hunting has been something I've long considered. In years past, though, I had reason (bad health caused by excess weight)to keep the carnivore in me and the animal lover in me from fighting it out. Hunting would've been way too labor-intensive for me back then. Now, minus considerable weight, I'm still not a world class athlete but I am in good enough shape to wander the woods. In short, the ability to hunt is no longer the issue but the pre-emptive case of buck fever is - COULD I pull the trigger on an animal?

I am, as mentioned, a carnivore. If someone said that I could no longer have desserts in my time here on planet earth I wouldn't blink. If I had to quit meat, I'd cry. I love eating meat. I love cooking meat. I'm usually at my most content manning animal flesh on a grill, grilling implement in one hand, cold cocktail in the other. But I have become greatly concerned about the source of the meat I consume. What type of chemicals has this animal been forced to ingest? Does the chicken in the oven have so many steroids in it that Lyle Alzado would've been frightened of it? Was it thrown around and slammed and slapped in its last moment of life by a poultry processing plant worker that is paid by the chicken rather than the hour? I LOVE fois gras, but don't eat it because I think the means by which it's created is sinful. Conversely, I love lamb and veal so much that I put ethical issues out of my head and just enjoy the rare opportunities I have to dine on them.

I grew up in the suburbs, but had enough relatives in rural Georgia and witnessed enough slaughtering and processing to know that meat wasn't born at the grocery store. Even as a kid, it didn't bother me and I was well aware that sustenance was the motivation. But, as I got older, part of my reservations about shooting wild animals stemmed from the fact that it was sport vs. sustenance. I COULD go to the store and buy meat. But now, whether rationalization or fact, ethical issues (animal treatment, genetic alteration, chemicals) point me back to knowing my meat before it hits my table. And that's an issue whether we're talking about paying more and buying meat with words like "organic" and "free range" on the label or going out with a gun and putting meat in my freezer.

Bird hunting is something I find myself really keen to try. I have a couple of motivations - first, the fact that whether it's quail, pheasant, dove, duck or a goose I LOVE the taste of game birds. But also someone that loves dogs as much as I do has much enjoyment to gain from watching them work in the field. I can watch these shows for hours where duck hunters train these gorgeous creatures to retrieve. The dogs always look like they're having the time of their lives. And I think I could shoot a bird - that's not much of a step up from yanking a fish out of the water and showing it the way to a frying pan is it? (and God knows, I've done plenty of that.) I mean birds and fish occupy the same rung of the food chain ladder, right? RIGHT?

Ok, so I start feeling confident that I could shoot a bird. But what about a four-legged creature? What about a deer? What about a wild hog? The more I hear about over-population and the ravaged crops and car accidents that it causes the more I realize there's a need for the population control that hunters provide. And - after riding with my wife when a deer decided to occupy the same space as her Tahoe and realizing that if we'd been driving a smaller vehicle it could've been a tragic situation - I definitely see the need to cull the herd. And, again, I love me some venison. Shouldn't I be the one to faciliate its trip to my table?

So far, the only step in my endeavor to kill what I eat was a squirrel hunting trip with two of my nephews. Unfortunately, the squirrels had the weekend off and it was mostly a chance to visit, build a big fire, grill us some store bought meat and drink beer in the woods...and that wasn't a bad thing in itself.

So this article hit home with me. I felt a bit less odd having this debate with myself because, apparently, a lot of other folks are as well. I'm not real sure, though, if I'm a "hipster" because I'm not real sure what a "hipster" is. Chances are I'm not. But I'm a southern-born, cacucasian, middle-aged guy who drives a pick up truck and has a labrador retriever...and SURELY that predisposes me to channel my inner Daniel Boone!

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