I kill

I kill.

So, for that matter, do you. And you, Ms. Vegan singing songs about respecting animal’s names, never calling anyone a wolf or pig, do too. If you’re alive, human, creatures die to keep you that way. When you die, some of them will eat you. Some of them you will inadvertently kill when you scratch your butt. We are a soup of other creatures walking, eating and sleeping and having sex and farting… a soup in a slightly less dense soup of other creatures doing much the same. Ask any microbiologist.

Humans – just like any other life-form – kill. When you start adding in the ways we alter or arrange or support altering our environment, let alone how most of us feed ourselves, we – including Ms. Vegan in her Prius and city apartment (and possibly especially Ms. Vegan – if you consider the number of higher forms of life her diet kills, as compared to Joe Beefburger) are right up there with a kill rate to make the average lion look like a pussy.

But unlike most of us, I actually take my killing personally. It’s my personal moral stance, not one expect anyone else to live by, and not one I am fanatical about. I just prefer it that way. There is almost nothing in my freezers I didn’t kill. Including the tomatoes… (dangerous prey, tomatoes. Many a bold hunter has ended up faced with the savagery of a cornered tomato, and, wisely, fled. Or am I thinking of Zucchini? You should be cautious with something from the ‘squash’ family.)

On the scale of most of Urban and peri-urban first-worlders, when it comes to finding and killing food, you might say I am the equivalent of one of the finest swordsmen outside of France. As 90% of people are at best ignorant and inept about this part of our heritage, I can safely say I am in the top 10 % Compared to people who still live in hunter-gatherers societies… you might say ‘they live inside France’. I’m not up to that sort of level. I do add some modern devices and knowledge of a wider world to trying not to be totally and utterly outclassed.

Look, to survive, let alone thrive, as a hunter-gatherer, the culture you lived in and the knowledge it passed on were a necessity. So, too, probably were the genes that make for a great hunting animal – the human. If you didn’t have those genes, you died. Probably hungry… And spare me the delusion that humans are not hunting animals. “Where’s the big teeth. Where’s the claws? We’re naturally vegetarians because we can’t possibly catch game.” You’re thinking, honestly, like an ignorant modern ‘civilized’ person. When you think of ‘game’ – you think of a deer. And you think of your personal running skills.

When I think of ‘game’ – or rather prey animals, I think like the monkey I am. If it is an animal, and not toxic to eat… it could be food, and if I was hungry enough, would be. As long as it cost me less calories to catch and make edible than I got out of it, I win. I still win, if it costs me more, but I get something else of value – be that an omega-3 fatty acid that is missing in my normal diet, or a sharp horn or warm hide, I still win. Locusts, termites, eggs, baby bird, lizards, shellfish, rodents, fish, octopus, crabs, the young of most animals (if you can get them away from mummy and/or daddy). These are easy prey. Training for children. Most of them need no tools at all. Nothing more than knowledge and your hands, and sometimes a reasonable amount of speed and dexterity. With practice, and the genes helping, that can be very fast and very dexterous.

Most of them are not things that your twenty-first century “humans don’t hunt” individual would even recognize as ‘prey’ (and yes, I have caught – with my hands — and eaten all of them – and a few more that I haven’t actually eaten – hedgehog, for example.)

Once you add tool use – and yes, if tool use is ‘natural’ for Finches and whole selection of other animals, I can’t see why it’s not natural for human hunters to use — even with something no more complicated than a rock (even before you chip sharp edges onto it) or a stick, the list of prey that humans can hunt with a degree of ease increased dramatically.

That’s before we get onto the fact that humans aren’t fast runners… but they have endurance that enables them to run down a lot of prey – especially when you add tools and out-thinking their prey into it. Our brains make us very deadly hunters.

And that was before we get onto organizing. Because, trust me on this – all those admiring paeans you read about wolves and their communication and pack hunting… they’re kindergarten kids compared to human pack-hunts (these are well-recorded from cultures across the globe. It’s human and it is an old, deep part of us).

Once we got started on agriculture this began to change. Mind you, you don’t leave the genes or even culture behind that easily. In fact we didn’t leave them behind at all. All we did was have people who would have died in a hunter-gatherer society, survive. Selection went on winnowing the genome. In some places and situations the hunter genes and the traits were possibly even a disadvantage. Of course, in some places and situations it wasn’t, and, in my opinion, we still get a substantial percentage with the required traits and instincts, if not the culture, training and skill to live as hunter gatherers. If we even get that Armageddon type event, we’ll find out if am right. In the modern first world, with everything going rather well, Triggly-puff types can thrive – but not without it.

Now, I have many friends who hunt for ‘fun’. It’s a deep instinct, in my opinion. A trait that lives on in a lot of humans, particularly men. It can be done well or badly, and done well, be good for the environment and even the animals being hunted for. But that’s another topic, because I am not a ‘sport’ or recreational hunter. As far as my friends in those circles are concerned I’m just a killer with no respect for ‘sport’.

This is correct. If possible, I give my prey no chance at all. And the only way I kill something I can’t eat, is if it is a threat me, mine, or my crops and livelihood. It’s kind of like the difference between a fly-fisherman and commercial fisherman. Both may well eat the fish they catch, but if the commercial doesn’t catch, he doesn’t earn and doesn’t eat. I don’t kill, we don’t eat protein. I do take pleasure in doing what I do, well (and get furious and disappointed in myself when I don’t) – but it isn’t fun, or ‘recreation’. I love to bring home food. That certainly satisfies a deep and basic instinct – and is something I have seen in every solitary individual I have taught (which is quite a lot. I try to pass the old skills on. That too is important to me.). It is what I am and do. The actual killing is the part I like least, and I do with as much efficiency, speed and, yes, respect as I can. Mostly, I can safely say my protein died faster and cleaner than anything anyone buys in a supermarket.

I’m of the solitary hunting kind (except underwater), making me probably more primitive than most. I’ll wear that one. Most of my prey don’t know I’m there, until it is too late. As a wry aside, it’s an illustration of how ridiculous most of the “I feel threatened,” and various forms of abuse flung at my furry pate are. If you actually knew anything about me, and actually even vaguely believed that ‘threat’ you claim…? I mean, it’s a ridiculous idea. I have a very real grasp of human frailty, and what death and injury actually mean. I was an army medic, as well as growing up in a hunter-gatherer tradition — which is why I devote my time and effort to saving human lives. But if you really believed that: It would take a US debt level of derp to start the abuse. So ‘threat’ is just the usual melodrama from the sort of people who have no idea what ‘threat’ or ‘courage’ mean. The ones who say wearing a pussy hat meant courage, or who claimed the claimed the sad puppies were a threat (because, y’know, despite having all of the big five, the media on their side, and control of academia, and most of the review sites, and representing over 90% of the traditional published world and being the powers-that-be, the puppy kickers were ‘disadvantaged minorities’).

It’s kind of like the loud yells “I feel threatened by guns. I feel threatened by Trump. Etc. Etc.” Pure melodramatic nonsense. You’re unhappy about, or frightened into panic by, offended by, or upset by… whatever, not threatened. Trust me on this, I’ve been a threat to enough prey for a long, long time. If you’re all really feeling  threatened and really afraid, you shut up and keep low or run like hell. Humans are no different. If one keeps talking about threats – I know sounds like someone ought to do something, whereas the reality is something that is your own business – but eventually there will be a real ‘threat’, like a real wolf.

So why did I write about this – on a writing blog, which largely deals with sf and fantasy? Well, partly because hunting for food and survival comes up often in fantasy (and occasionally in sf). Now I know – it’s not being right that counts. It’s being right in the eyes of most of your readers. But – bits of reality do add veracity – even if they’re not quite what your audience thought they knew about the subject. So long as you make the reality convincing and plausible, and logical, that is!

1) prey is ANYTHING edible. Different cultures have different rules, of course. But the closer to the bone… the more likely anything edible is to be eaten.

2) Hunting is opportunistic and erratic, sometimes volumes are huge. Never underestimate how much hunter-gatherers would eat at a sitting. It could be a long time between those feasts. That’s why being able to store those times of plenty is so important to me, and sets at level of comfort that hunter-gatherers never enjoyed.

3) Status: It’s a man thing. Not now, and not so much among the nobility in medieval fantasy (who hunted for sport and food), but among people who hunt to eat. Women gather, and often communally. Men hunt, sometimes alone, sometimes in small groups. Often this depends on the prey, the vegetation and geography and the seasons. Sometimes (and in seasons), they work in huge groups, surrounding the animals, allowing none to escape. Feasting, and marriages come out of those hunts. But just as women do (political correctness aside) make judgements on the attractiveness of a mate by signs of wealth and power, so the ability to bring home meat, fat and bones and hides (which was a big factor in survival and successful breeding) is a BIG deal, both among one’s fellow hunters and the women of the group.

4) Importance of the hunt. The deeper you go, the closer this gets to being a holy thing. There is a huge amount of respect for the prey – that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t kill it, and sometimes in ways we would consider slow and cruel (as often as not that part relates to the hunter proving his courage and strength to the group.).

5) The concept of ‘sport’ is a facet of hunters with plenty to eat, even if they fail.

6) It’s about 80% patience and 60% obstinate endurance. It’s 100% in total – those two happen together a lot. Hunting is seldom fast or that easy, even if some people make it look that way. That’ll shape the nature of any character you have as a ‘hunter-for-food.’ They can no more be anything else, than humans can avoid flatulence.

7) Hunting is both competitive and communal, especially for bigger game.

8) Hunters tend to be both monofocus (they have a search image, possibly set on ‘anything that moves’ until they have a target, or on an image of that target) and wide peripheral vision. Movement is often on the outer edge of that view. When they’re actually hunting something – then they are almost blind to everything else. (true. I had a seven-gill shark apparently focusing on me a couple of weeks back. I didn’t even see it. I was spearing fish and trying to get close enough for that. My buddy was having a fit. Gatherers (and hunters can go gathering. It’s opportunistic) tend to notice more, to be honest.

9) If your fantasy travelers or space-ship crash survivors are going to hunt to live and travel – It takes time (the more skill, the less time — but it’s never quick and easy. An inn is quick and easy.) Hunting a rabbit and getting one quickly is either luck (acceptable now and again) + prep and cooking time. A lot of time you’re just not lucky. I shoot around 10-15 wallaby a month. I’m fairly good at it, I have a good rifle and scope, and the prey is locally abundant. Some twilights that takes me 10 minutes. Other days, much longer. And every now and again, I come home with nothing. And it is erratic, boom and bust. Bust can kill you if you have no fall-back.



  1. Second Attempt:

    Well said. Not new to me, because I come from a rural background where we hunted and fished for the table. We did see trophy hunting come in, but the main point was food. In a somewhat tight spot considered hunting wild hogs for that reason, even though I don’t like pork. The discussion with my wife went like this:

    “Honey, if I killed a wild hog, would you cook it?”

    “If I cooked it, would you eat it?”

    Though deer were rare when I was a lad, somehow someone in the family knew of a way to snare one. And my parents ate many a meal of game during the Great Depression, some of what wouldn’t be considered game animals now. Like robins. My kin would go to where robins roosted and catch them a “mess.” There’s a reason some places in the US call armadillo “Hoover Hog.”

    The “ick” reaction is what we associate with “city folks.” Granted, as fewer people raise food, “city folks” gets a little beyond the city limits. The last “game” I killed, when mice got into the office, provoked interesting reactions (“bagged” three – two with the “Corn Crib Stomp” and one with a trap). One lady asked if I could pick one up in a paper towel and take it outside. a far cry from a great-grandmother, her dog, and her command “Crush his bones, Queen.”

    I address this part of my medieval stories like walking down the stairs, something not told in detail because it’s a part of life. There’s a couple of comments in one about slopping hogs, and comparing a fat, not a dumb as he looks, henchman to a fattening hog they plan to slaughter that winter. A WIP (stalled due to real life), takes place in a neighboring, more wild, realm, and here the protagonists make two varieties of fish traps to survive, and are opportunistic with their slings when they come across rabbits or squirrels. Simply told, because they see this as just part of everyday living.

    FWIW, there’s an account of the Creek Indians, circa early 1800s, where Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins asked why didn’t they embrace “White” agriculture, since they grew their own crops. They essentially told him that if the young men farmed, what would the women, older folks, and those who couldn’t hunt do? Not long after they did practice “White” style farming, with good results, but at that time they saw agriculture as a social safety net. Have no idea if this was common in hunter-gatherer societies, or if it was something just the Creeks did, but it’s interesting.

    1. “We did see trophy hunting come in, but the main point was food.”

      I wonder if trophy hunting is a way to show status and provider potential.

      1. Status perhaps, but since most women regard them as dust catchers,probably not as provider. Locally this came about with the rise of hunting and fishing as sport. A doctor had a stuffed marlin on the wall of the waiting room, and that was unusual enough that it stands out in my memory. It was just for food.

        The closest status-wise was local turkey shoots, and shooting ability. It’s said they hated to see one of my great-grandfathers coming because he always won. And winning a turkey shoot helped provide, too.

        That makes sense status-wise, as the local hunting tradition for groups was to divide up the meat into equal piles, with one man going off a short distance, with his back turned, and someone else pointing at a pile at random and saying “Who’s is that?” So any status was in killing game or getting a good catch, and that was among the men who did it.

    2. The area where I live has a largeish population of huntsman spiders, which are quite large: leg span often is the size of an adult’s hand. When I find them, I make a great effort NOT to kill them, but to trap them without injuring them and take them outside. OTOH, every mosquito I see, I try my best to kill. I spare the spiders not because I’m squeamish, because spiders eat mosquitoes — and plenty of other bugs too, but mosquitoes are the enemy. And the enemy of my enemy is my ally, at least for now.

      1. Most big spiders are harmless, and we relocate them outside. Strangely, they never seem to try to scurry away when we slip a sheet of paper under them.

        Tiny spiders we don’t notice, and don’t worry about.

        The medium-size spiders get squashed. We have black widows, brown recluses, and other nasty poisonous spiders here. I’ve been bitten before (ungood) and I’m color blind, which makes telling the nasty ones from the harmless ones extremely difficult. “Kill them all, let the Spider God sort them out.”

    3. Now I wonder if my mother made me kill the newborn mice myself (about 11 years old to about 16 – same family of by that time pretty inbred mice until our cat got to them…) and had gotten some as pets, and they were of both sexes and after growing up enough bred the way mice do – way too many to keep or give away as pets – for that reason, to desensitize me to killing small animals so I would be able to do it if I ever needed to do it either to eat or to get rid of something I had to get rid of.

      I wasn’t able to crush them or anything, but chopped their heads off with her meat axe (or whatever the proper name would be, a small thing with a tenderizer on one side and a small axe head on the other). They died fast, and at least it looked fairly painless to me (have to admit I could do that only with the newborn and still blind ones, once they got old enough that their eyes were open and they could move around easily so you would have needed to hold one by force while it was desperately trying to wriggle free well nope, not anymore. Although I think I would even then have been able to do something like chop the head off a hen – at least one which hadn’t been my pet – if I had needed to in order to eat).

      She had grown up in the country, and had been a teenager and young adult during the wars Finland was in during WWII, and so had first hand experience of times when food was not plentiful or all that easy to get. Maybe life was pretty easy in that way by the time when I was a child, but maybe she was trying to teach me something I might need if times got bad again.

      1. A friend of mine was a USAF survival instructor. Part of the course involved catching and dressing out a rabbit or squirrel. He said some of the trainees washed out rather than do it.

        1. Squirrel I’ve done. Cut a circle around the middle, pull the split pelt toward the head and tail like pulling off pull-over shirt and pants, cut off head, tail, and paws, pull the pelt free, then gut and clean. Never knew why they called it “dressing” when we skinning them.

          Rabbit I haven’t. Rabbits were rare at our farm, courtesy of cats and dogs.

          1. I only saw my dad skin a squirrel once, and can’t remember how he did it, but he did rabbits a weird way.

            He would just pick at the skin around the back feet (if he slit the skin around the foot I never saw it), and it would come free. Do both feet this way, then split the skin between the legs, and pull towards the head. Split the skin between the front legs, and it would come off in one piece.

            I believe he gutted his first, before skinning. He would cut down the belly, grab the head and the rear legs, and make a flinging motion, and voila! gutted rabbit. We washed it when we got home, of course, but it was a very quick process.

      2. I usually fed the baby mice to our dog. Yummy doggie treats, no more mice. Killing two birds with one stone. Heh. And there’s another hunting reference for you.

        1. When my dog finds a mouse or mole nest, I’ll see her dip her head, raise it up and chew like she’s got a gummy bear or something. And I know it’s one of the babies, because she doesn’t like to eat the adults.

            1. With my mouse the age became a problem more due to the fact that in the few days to weeks it took them to get there they had become pets to me, the newborn weren’t that yet. I do have some problems killing ANYTHING, I tend to take even spiders and larger bugs outside rather than squash them when they invade my place, but when I don’t know something personally it is quite a bit easier. Even if I do feel a bit sorry even then and I never like it (not even when I used to fish. But I like to eat fish.). But there are times when it is necessary, or like with fish, gives me something I want, I do it.

              What I will not kill if I can get somebody else to do it are pets (when it becomes necessary because they are suffering due to something incurable).

    4. Arguably (as I benefit from NOT having to do it), the worst thing that happened was that women no longer had to work pretty much non-stop gathering food. That left them time enough to make mischief.

        1. Yes, much as it pained me to admit it as I grew up, I came to realize that the religious maxim, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” was obviously one of those hard-learned bits of wisdom handed down through the ages.

        2. Re: reading the Little House books. I think there’s a comment from Almanzo Wilder’s father in Farmer Boy to the effect that he doesn’t want some time saving machine because what good thing would he do with that time. Also the earlier books are absolutely manuals on how to do certain things like make cheese and fix your field corn with lye…

          1. Yep. It’s interesting how Pa Ingalls and Pa Wilder have different opinions on machines that helped with the harvest. Ingalls liked them because it made threshing easier (so he could then get other work done), but Wilder didn’t like them because it chewed up the straw in such a way that didn’t make it ‘fit for the farm animals to eat.’

  2. I’m a modern suburbanite who has never hunted myself but has at least done some gathering and preserving though mostly years ago. Even that bit combined with reading first hand accounts of folks that were subsistence farmers gives me much appreciation for the modern agriculture system! Also for the ingenuity of our ancestors who used every little part of what thy killed in ways I find amazing.

    I don’t think most sub/urbanites understand that time and effort factor in food production, even using relatively modern tools and methods like canning. If just keeping yourself fed takes up the vast majority of your time it’s hard to have time and energy to be worrying about microagression social justice and the cisnormal patriarchy…

  3. Dave, any comments on the moves in South Africa towards uncompensated land seizures?

    From the better news reports I can find it looks like it has a lot of support in the new parliament. At least they are staying inside the laws so far and working to change the Constitution to make it legal before acting in a mass way.

    1. I suspect his comments will be “It sucks” and “Gosh, yet another reason to have emigrated.” As with European Jewish emigration, it pays to get out before the really nasty stuff starts happening.

      OTOH, I’m sure the smaller tribes will also get their land confiscated, if it hasn’t been already, and a lot of individual folks from bigger tribes will suddenly find out that they are white enough to be stolen from. And magically, I bet a lot of politicians and their families will end up with huge estates.

      I have such faith in human nature, you see….

    2. Tprice, if you want another South African’s perspective, Peter’s put up his thoughts here: https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2018/03/is-south-africa-going-way-of-zimbabwe.html

      The really short version: The land that the Boers settled several hundred years ago wasn’t empty and unclaimed; it belonged to tribes, some of whom had temporarily fled heavy fighting and came back to find Boer squatters on their land, and some of which the Boers themselves drove the tribes off. They have always wanted the land back, and regarded it as rightfully theirs, and where their ancestors are buried. The Boers, having settled “empty” land or land they claimed by right of conquest, have now held it for many generations and the current farmers regard it as rightfully theirs and where their ancestors are buried.

      Add onto that the legacy of the British colonizers (who were in their own way worse than the Boers), then Apartheid. In all cases, the white government took all the best land for themselves and treated the black tribes, the coloured mixed-race population, and the Indian population as sub-human, and you’ve got a lot of anger, bitterness, and the most radical elements feeling that they should wipe out the whites and take their own back.

      Mandela saw the trajectory of Zimbabwe and kept a lid on the worst of the resentment, trying to keep it on the basis of “willing buyer, willing seller”. He was trying to build a unified country, to make the land distribution more equitable without creating new violence and genocide. But he’s dead now, and with the ANC having grown so corrupt they’ve alienated their base, and in danger of losing power, the current head is willing to tap into that popular anger to stay in power.

      So… it’s complicated, and it’s going to get worse for everyone.

      1. Thanks for the links.

        It is a complicated historical mess that just gets more complicated the further back you go with wave after wave of migration pushing existing groups around. And any one group will want to turn back the clock to when THEY were the ones in control of the areas in question, not earlier before they got there or later after they lost power in turn.

        As much as Mandela might have had done criminal acts in his justifiably angry younger years he matured into the moderating force that helped keep things from flying apart from what I can tell from over here in the USA.

    3. My comment is a lot less gentle than Peter’s. Just about every human habited piece of Earth once belonged to someone else. The old way was to kill the males you could catch and take the females when you won the physical conflict. Moving beyond that to not killing all the men and raping all the women, and taking them as chattels has a price. That price is that you don’t make the old way seem more attractive. At the moment social pressure is still doing that. I do not believe that it is as strong as they would like to believe.

  4. I can foresee the “skim until offended” crowd getting very upset with this post.

    1. A noble goal indeed.
      Will not wish that they succumb to their apoplexy and expire as I have every confidence that bunch of bottom feeders are definitely not good eats.

  5. “Or am I thinking of Zucchini?”

    Probably. One summer when I was in high school, that stuff took over our garden to the extent we were having multiple zucchini dishes at every meal. OTOH, tomatoes can be quite hazardous when thrown.

    1. Zucchini probably cause more fatalities among veggie gardeners than anything short of parsnips. Their neighbors strangle the gardeners for bringing in one too many sacks of the *&$) things and leaving them on front porches or in unlocked cars.

      1. The joke (used to be? Pre-oil boom…) in North Dakota that one absolutely HAD to lock their vehicle. Not for fear of anything being stolen, but that an unlocked vehicle would get filled with “donated” zucchini.

        1. For the last two years, I had to open the front door with care because of the sacks of squash, tomatoes, et cetera that appeared overnight. If once you say, ‘Sure, I’d like some produce…”

          1. Why do people in Montana lock their cars during August?

            So they don’t return to find a large bag of zucchini on the front seat.

            One zucchini plant can feed India.

          2. Sigh. I garden but never have sufficient tomatoes (there is no such thing as “too many tomatoes”, only “not enough canning jars”.) Even squash I can pickle, but nooooooo, it’s only zucchini…

          3. Dad stopped picking produce and giving it away, except for a select few people, because he got tired of doing all the work himself. He told many people they could go to his garden and pick their own (unless someone was going to stock a vegetable stand, they weren’t going to take more than we could afford them to), but that almost never happened.

            1. Wise man, your father.

              And if someone offered that bargain to me, I would probably be in there every week picking tomatoes, lettuce, and other delicious salad ingredients. I find it… well, too easy to believe (because many people are indeed lazy) but hard to comprehend why someone would turn down a “fresh produce for free, you just have to come pick it yourself” bargain.

    2. The last four! years my zucchini haven’t grown well-got two last year. If it weren’t for the kindness of neighbors . . . Look, the van’s unlocked. Bring any produce you don’t need. It’ll disappear the way everyone warns you people disappear when big, white vans with tinted windows are nearby.

      (The downside of six kids: there’s someone who doesn’t like anything. The upside of six kids: there’s someone who loves anything. The lesson learned: Momma isn’t a short order cook, eat or be hungry.)

    3. This is why we never drive with our windows down in the South. Somebody might throw zucchini into the car.

    4. Garrison Keillor once said that you know you have too much zucchini when you find yourself making zucchini daiquiris.

  6. Re: medieval status — Mm, half and half. Game really was an important supplement to your castle’s diet, depending on the time of year, and that was part of why you had professional hunters and gamekeepers.

    OTOH, hunting was both popular in itself, and seen as an acceptable manly substitute for war. A lot of the weapons and equestrian skills were similar. Also a good way to get an adrenaline rush while making oneself useful. There are lots of contemporary books about this sort of thing.

    (Also lots of abbots getting in trouble for being way too interested in hunting to be properly spiritual, as well as torquing off all the underling monks who weren’t allowed to have horses and gear and time to go hunting. I read a great article about this once, and whether jolly abbots and abbesses were actually doing enough business and collecting enough donations to compensate for all their junkets and time off. Didn’t happen as much at convents where they had frequent elections.)

    The more dangerous hunts (like for boar) usually prohibited women and kids from attendance. But if they were out after deer or going hawking, women and kids were around to see who was a good rider, a good hunter, etc. Sometimes women also hunted or hawked at these gatherings (hawking was a lot more common, but some ladies joined into bowhunting or hunting with dogs), and this seems to have aroused some competitive spirit among the sexes.

    If you want a rabbit for dinner, get a dog. It’s surprising which breeds are good at this, although most sighthounds will do it. Irish wolfhounds have a great instinct for grabbing rabbits and giving them one quick shake to break their necks. (Although they are also very good at being nice to pet rabbits.) There are also a fair number of breeds designed to go down holes and get critters that way.

    1. When I was a child my parents were going to Get Rich Raising Rabbits. The rabbits propagated, but the customers didn’t… after a summer of feeding the rabbits, my mother got the idea of just turning them loose to fend for themselves.

      Shortly after, there were fifty or so white rabbits milling about confusedly in the back yard. And then the family dachshund noticed and tore off for them at warp (dachshund) speed… and began herding them into a group, circling around, picking up stragglers by the scruff and dropping them in with the rest, and glancing back at my mom with an “I’m doing my part, what are you waiting for?” expression. (dachshunds are very expressive)

      Mom finally picked them up and put them back in the cages, and eventually found someone who wanted four dozen rabbits all at once…

  7. Life requires a constant stream of death.

    It’s my belief that a whole host of societal problems arise directly from losing touch with the baser truths of reality.

    I will say that if you haven’t hunted, you are ignorant of a lot of important things about yourself. It’s my opinion that a lot to people intuitively know this, but fear what they might find. (The emotional reaction is certainly much stronger than “I don’t want to.”.)

    I’ll quibble with your statistical breakdown, though! 🙂 Knowledge of your quarry, knowledge of the terrain, and luck all need to be included as major factors.
    (Heck, I have to learn to hunt in the Midwest now. It’s a darned sight more complicated than “where are the water sources” + patience + a rifle sighted in at 400 yards.)

  8. At least we human carnivores kill our food before we eat it. What about those carrots you veggie lot are munching while they’re still alive? Can’t you hear them scream when you jerk them forth from their earthen homes? Won’t someone think of the carrots??

  9. One other point about “sport” hunting. This is from the records of one of the British great houses — every day the lord, or his huntsman, would go forth and shoot 250 pheasants. Egads, profligate waste, right? WRONG. That was the day’s meat for the myriad of servants whom his lordship kept employed and fed (and any surplus went as charity to client villages). Some of whom were employed as gamekeepers to ensure a continuing food supply, and as kennelmen to care for the dogs that did the gamefinding and pickup.

    Hunting isn’t the least bit unnatural, even in modern times — rather, it’s part of a sustainable ecosystem.

    1. On a modern prosaic level. In Oklahoma, we had a campaign about 10 years back (If I recall the timing correctly) to INCREASE the deer hunting in the state, especially of does. The Environmentalists were horrified… until the game wardens explained that we were rapidly approaching max sustainable population… and we had about 3 or 4 years before critical OVER population hit, and they started eating the state down to the dirt. When the prey aren’t hunted, it is not ha happy forest land. It is a barren waste of starving critters.

      1. And when the predators aren’t hunted by safaris, they turn from “dangerous cash producing resource” to just flat “dangerous”. At which point, the people living next door to them have no reason to sacrifice their livestock, let alone themselves and their kids, so cute lady photographers in fake leopard headbands can oohhh and ahhh over them.

      2. When I was working in Really Flat State, everyone got excited because Wisconsin announced a “no limit on does” three-day window. They’d gotten so over-populated that starvation, wasting disease, and other things were really starting to be a problem. Most of my co-workers and the folks at church hustled off to see about starting the application for out-of-state permits. The next year, if you wanted a buck, you had to agree to take two does as well. Apparently it helped.

        And then there were the [censored] [censoreds] from the Twin Cities who brought a llama in to be processed because they were absolutely certain it was a doe…

        1. We’ve got some prety high limits out here. But it’s 2:1 does to ‘antlered deer’ out here, and the holiday hunt is does only. Because population control of herd does NOT work if all you’re taking is males. Though out here they tend to label it ‘antlered’ an ‘unantlered’ because there are rare weirdnesses.

          As for the llama… *sighs* there’s always that guy… or in this case ‘those guys’.

          1. Here, for many years, there were limits on does more than bucks, and even parts of the season that were “antlered only”. Now, however, they want more does taken, because they’ve become giant rats as far as being everywhere goes.

        2. Yeah, been several states that abruptly noticed they were about to be overrun and swarmed by surplus deer, and declared open season on does. A couple of eastern states reported populations up to ten times greater than the natural load.

          Well, when these ‘reintroduced’ wolves finish colonizing everywhere, that problem may self-correct and start tipping the wrong direction, like happened with Montana’s elk herds (reduced by up to 90%).

    2. > 250 pheasants

      That’s not hunting, that’s *work*.

      Before the mid-1800s when shotgun shells came out, that would have probably entailed a servant or two as a loader as well.

      1. That was my thought too — and consider it had to be done in all weather, cuz everyone liked to eat every day…

    3. Hunting isn’t the least bit unnatural, even in modern times — rather, it’s part of a sustainable ecosystem.

      Conservation Australia has volunteer hunters who are requested to keep feral populations down; if the meat is good, they can take it home; though a number of these just end up dog food. Feral goats, sheep, cows, deer, pigs… all the way to camels. As far as I know there is no such thing as ‘rabbit season’ – you kill the things ALL THE TIME. I gather though that feral cats, dogs and foxes are not eaten, though some might be nice for pelts.

        1. Out here, no season no limit, unless you’re hunting them in deer season because we had too many who ‘were just hunting hog’ and ‘accidentally’ shot a deer… or seven. So you have to have at least one deer tag on you to keep hunting hog during deer season. Any other time? Yeah, there’s even one a county over from us that’s got a $1000 bounty on its head (big sucker) because of the damage he’s done.

      1. Used to be rabbit roundups in the high desert, cuz otherwise they’d eat everything down to dirt. I’ve seen jackrabbits climb on patio furniture after potted plants.


        (Tho I doubt they had anything to do with mosquitoes and malaria; more likely that correlates with wet years and farm irrigation. Cuz otherwise you’d see the effect immediately, not in 25 years.)

  10. Gatherers do, in fact, notice everything. I am not much as a hunter, but I have frequently boggled both husband and father by noticing chickweed/non-fruiting blackberries/dog fennel/other tasty stuff as we cruise by it at 55 miles per hour. 🙂

    1. That’s a skill I wish I had learned. Dad knew how to hunt and gather, but we dared not try mushrooming because we didn’t know the nonpoisonous ones from the ones that were poisonous – though I could identify a morel fairly easily. I identified wild strawberries though, but I wasn’t sure if wintergreen berries were edible when I saw ’em (apparently they are.)

      1. I have a mushrooming class coming up in a couple months and am !!excited!! over it. As for the rest…well, my grandmother grew into young wifehood during the Great Depression and made a point of telling me everything she saw growing in the ditches that she’d once fed and/or doctored people with. 🙂

      2. (Also, I got curious and looked. Chickweed is apparently considered an invasive plant in your neck of the woods as well, and I *highly* recommend it. Lovely texture, nice green taste with a little bit of a peppery/oniony bite. It’s got a 4-6 week season in *early* spring, and I usually chop it up into omelettes/pilaf/salad.) C&P http://www.eattheweeds.com/?s=chickweed if you want. 🙂

  11. I no longer hunt. Hunting is hard work, you get up before dawn, go out in the cold and damp, hope to stumble upon your prey of choice as much by luck as by skill, and if the hunting Ghods grant you a clean kill, well then the real work begins. Locally, a deer will run anywhere from 100-200 pounds live weight 50-100 dressed out, and you have to transport all that back to civilization and butcher it out yourself or have a specialist do it for you.
    At this stage in my life I freely admit that I’ve become a lazy sod and all that is too much work.
    Still, currently in my large chest freezer I have venison, Elk, Bison, and locally raised beef. You see, I have the skills and equipment to reload a variety of ammunition, and do so in cooperation with several enthusiastic hunters of my acquaintance. We discuss what sort of performance they want from their hunting ammo, agree on a load, and crank them out in the warmth and comfort of my reloading room. And eventually they show up at my door bearing large sacks of meat.
    As for that beef, no it was not hunted, just harvested from a farm owned by one of my shooter buddies. That was a trade for several hundred rounds of .223 and .243 used to help control a major prairie dog problem at a ranch several states west of us. Sounds terribly cruel I know to shoot an animal you have no intention of eating, but the P-dogs tear up pasture and cause stock to break legs. The alternative would be to poison them putting the local predators at risk. Shooting them keeps the populations at reasonable levels and provides an easy meal for hawks and coyotes.

    1. I’ve just decided this year that I’m going to start looking for someone who usually gets more deer than they usually need and offer to pay for the tag and the processing if they want to shoot an extra.

    2. Spent a few days in central Colorado shooting prairie dogs, and was praised for that action by the local ranchers and horse breeders.

    3. I’m starting to get long enough in the tooth that dragging a deer through the woods is no longer appealing. I’d have to use a wheelbarrow or something.

      I do want to do some hunting before I’m unable. OTOH, I once hunted with a man who not only was long in the tooth, but had a heart condition, and had to take nitro capsules when he saw deer signs.

      BTW, the best deer we ever ate was the one my father killed with the bush axe, and that was because we were able to let it age like beef before cutting it up. Delicious.

  12. This reminds me of a reenacting event a few years back – one of the guys in our group was discussing the various types of ancient hunting weapons he had on display and two teenage girls in his audience made comments along the lines of being glad that people no longer had to kill animals for food. All a person had to do, the two girls asserted, was go down to the local supermarket and buy food.

    “Just where do you think the meat at the supermarket comes from?” asked the somewhat perplexed reenactor.

    “Well,” one girl replied, “some sort of factory where they make it.”

    “Yeah,” her friend agreed, “a factory.”

    After they left he went on for some time about the sorry state of even a portion of humanity so unaware of where food comes from.

    I am pretty sure anyone involved in reenacting/living history for any length of time has similar stories. I encountered a couple of 10-year old boys at another event who did not understand that one should not punch, or headbutt, a man wearing steel armor to see if said armor was real. You would think good manners, or at least common sense, would have come into play there, but… no.

    1. Oh, I couldn’t have let that pass. I would have asked the girls, “And just how to you think they ‘make’ meat?” And when they said they didn’t know, I would have described it to them.

        1. Ultimately resulting in a bolt gun to the head and the disassembly of the component parts for processing and use.
          Come to think of it not so different from some human relationships I’ve seen.

        2. For some reason this brings to mind a Southern US hockey team once called the Macon Whoopee. They now have one called the Macon Mayhem. Don’t think they ever had one called the Macon Bacon.

    2. The operative words there are slaughterhouse and butcher shop. Or is the old term abattoir something still in use?
      I could wish that a field trip to such a “factory” would be mandatory for upper grade school or at least junior high students. But the screams of horror from snowflakes and their parents would be deafening I’m sure.

      1. Still called an abattoir here. Shrug. Went to many a one following my father around before I was old enough for school. One early memory is seeing one grind hamburger from a cow we had them butcher.

        1. Having grown up on a ranch, I can assure you the the most satisfying meat comes from an animal that has done its level best to kill you.

          1. Huh. That, and memories of the smell, is why I don’t like pork. It wasn’t that they’d turn aggressive from time to time, but I’d go to knock one a winding and my father would yell “Don’t you mark that hog!” Not that I still didn’t some attitude adjustments.

          2. Ayup. I remember the steer one year that got pinkeye a few months before slaughter time.

            He was already too big and strong to hold in the stanchion stall we use to hold the occasional cow, so twice a day I had to rope him, snub him up to the fence with him resisting all the way, and hold his eye open with one hand while spraying the medication with the other. All the time dodging as he tried to kick or crush me against the fence. I forget how many days it took before he didn’t need treatment – around a week, I think – but I was really quite happy when the time was up.

            Lets just say that the beef that year was *really* tasty.

      2. Have a friend who used to live in a town called Slaughter. You can figure out the name of the main hotel in town…

    3. Nominal adult, waving hamburger: “Killing animals is wrong!”
      Me: “Where did you get that hamburger?”
      Nominal adult: “McDonald’s.”

      Whilst living in SoCal, I had that conversation twice. Sure does point up the disconnect between modern urbanites and their food supply.

      I’m reminded that until less than 100 years ago, marketplace poultry wasn’t farmed, but rather was wild game shot daily by market hunters.

  13. I have hunted, but I don’t hunt. It’s way too much cost and effort for the return. If I ever need to hunt for my food, I’d be perfectly willing to do so – assuming that whatever destroyed the local food distribution system didn’t also break my glasses. I’d prefer to avoid the butchering part; if necessary, I would much prefer that someone showed me how. Trying to figure that out from first principles sounds do-able, but very messy and prone to stupid mistakes.

    On a vaguely related note, whenever I see “nitrate free bacon” I make a point of mentioning “so you want your customers to get botulism, then.”

    1. Whenever you see ‘nitrate free bacon’ look closer, they almost always have celery juice as an ingredient. Celery juice naturally has nitrates in it, so it’s a sneaky way to add preservatives ‘organically’.


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