Evangelistic hunter

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have a habit of accepting all friend requests on Facebook. Nine times out of 10 it’s from a middle-aged guy with some sort of dead critter in his profile picture. Sounds about right. Accept.

So I was taken aback the other day when a fella launched into an (albeit calm) attack on hunting and my friends who hunt.

Stranger still, he posted his comment on an image of my son dressed as a sheep for our church children’s nativity. I could better understand if it was on a photo of me with a deer or turkey.

You can read the exchange between Phil and me in its entirety on my Facebook page; just look for the post of a cute little kid dressed as a sheep.

Instead of ignoring him, I thought perhaps, because the ensuing conversation was on a non-hunting-related post, my explanations would go beyond preaching to the choir. Maybe this conversation had a greater purpose.

I didn’t delve into a “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” response. He approached me as a British gentleman, and I answered as a Southern Belle. He entered into this conversation on my turf, and I rolled out the hospitality.

Here’s the exchange, edited for content and to fit this screen.

Phil: I have actually no idea as to why I am a friend on Facebook, still it is super. I am British, I make no apology for that, but I am asked if I know all these people. I naturally decline as they seem to spend most of their time killing animals. What is the kick in that? I did leave South Bend, Indiana, as it seemed full of folk with guns, low on IQ.

Me: Not sure how we connected on Facebook either. I’m always open to meeting new folks, and maybe our meeting happened for a reason. I hunt, as do many of my friends on Facebook and beyond. I don’t associate hunting with a low IQ, and I don’t expect everyone to understand why people hunt. It’s an individual decision; everyone has his or her own reasons. I’m proud to be a hunter, because I find more satisfaction in serving a meal of venison that I put in the time to harvest than I do grilling hamburgers made from beef wrapped in cellophane from the grocery store. I hunt because I enjoy the intimacy it offers in regards to nature. More often than not, I leave the woods empty-handed but just as fulfilled that I spent time in the beauty of the outdoors. I hunt, because in the United States, hunters foot the bill for 80 percent of our state wildlife agencies’ budgets. Those agencies do the research it takes to maintain healthy habitats and wildlife populations for everyone to enjoy, whether they hunt or simply watch wildlife. I don’t expect everyone to want to hunt. Most of my family doesn’t, and that’s cool. But I’m always willing to share why I do…and it’s not just for kicks. It’s deeper than that. And I’m pretty sure most hunters you ask will have the same sort of personalized response. Thanks for taking time to “listen.”

Phil: Thank you for your lengthy explanation. I respect your response. I do find it difficult to understand “I hunt because I enjoy the intimacy it offers in regards to nature.” Killing a healthy animal for no reason than “to be able to do it” is sad. Just fight it head on; do not hide behind a weapon. Then you would lose. I am glad you enjoy killing animals; for me, it is visiting different places, cultures and exploring. I respect all you and your friends, perhaps a simple difference of opinion. Take care. You are polite and responsive.

Me: We have something in common. I like to visit different places too, and hunting allows me to do that. You really get to see the land and people, not just touristy stuff. But we have a differing opinion on killing animals. I believe animals were put on this earth as part of an intricate food chain. I believe God gave man/woman dominion over them. I don’t feel bad about taking the life of an animal I’ll eat. It’s no different than eating chicken or beef from a store. But, actually, it is. I’ve taken responsibility and look head-on at my quarry instead of ignoring the fact that the meat in the grocery ever had a face. A life was taken either way. Hunting is a very emotional experience, and my enjoyment doesn’t come from the act of killing. The joy comes from the hunt. It’s hard to fully explain until you’ve been a part of it. I certainly respect your decision not to hunt. And even more so, I respect that you have engaged in this discussion in a friendly manner.

Phil: I can see that you are an adventurist. I am forced to agree, as I just returned from shopping and indeed am eating pork for my supper. So yes, it was raised and killed for me. I must say I think it very sad when an animal with young a female mother is killed. It destroys the next generation and the offspring die. That surely is self-defeating, however, I love this interchange of ideas, thoughts and being meat eaters.

At this point, I figured I’d made some significant headway with Phil. I’m sure he’ll never hunt, but maybe he understands why people do a bit more than before. I thought my witnessing on behalf of hunting took hold, until this morning’s entry by ol’ Phil (this time, edited for young eyes):

Phil: Seems to me all your so-called friends just kill animals, so live well. They are all @$$holes. They even have a photo, with a gun. Pr!cks, of the lust of death. Sorry they are not educated, smart. In Great Britain, we would call them %!@#heads. Sorry they are sad @$$es.

Sorry, Phil. You’re no longer my “friend.”

A beest of a journey

I’ve never been one to have the animals I’ve taken preserved by a taxidermist.

Perhaps it’s because my husband has enough stuffed critters in the house for the both of us. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never really killed an animal worth mounting (at least in my eyes).

The first (and only) shoulder mount I’ve ever commissioned was this blue wildebeest taken in South Africa. My impala and springbok are rockin’ it as European mounts, but I felt this big daddy deserved more. Check out a slideshow of his journey to America by clicking on one of the images below.

Sure, I have tail fans and beards of some of my turkeys on display. The rest of the feathers have gone to crafty friends who don’t hunt but like to make wreaths, ornaments and whatnot with animal parts.

The two deer I’ve harvested carried less than 6 points between the two of them. No wall hangers there.

That all changed when I went on my first African safari last year — two weeks hunting plains game on the Eastern Cape of South Africa with SHE Expeditions and six other gun-toting women.

A hunt of a lifetime like that warrants the utmost in memory preservation.

My favorite hunt was when I took down a behemoth blue wildebeest at 250 yards with a single shot. I never knew I had it in me!

It was an empowering experience to harvest an animal big enough to feed my family for several months. Of course, I couldn’t bring the meat home, but I left a deposit with African Pride Taxidermy that would ensure I’d have a reminder of “the beest” — and all the memories that surround him — for many years.

The wildebeest made to South Carolina about five months ago. I hate to admit that it sat on my dining room floor until yesterday. I just couldn’t decide where to hang it. (Maybe THAT is why I’ve never been into taxidermy.)

“The beest” now hangs in my office above my right shoulder (securely anchored in a wall stud, fingers crossed). No doubt, he’s a conversation starter, and I’m more than happy to share my treasured Africa experience with anyone who dares to ask.

And because I feel guilty for not putting the wildebeest in his rightful place before now, allow me to share with you his journey in pictures…

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