An Ethnography of Hunters

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Everyone kills, and everyone eats. Not everyone eats what they kill, but these remain two of the most intimate forms of communing with our environment, whether we recognize them as such, or not. Almost 40 000 Americans are killed each year as the result of homicidal, accidental, and suicidal uses of guns; in all, Americans wielding guns intimidate, wound, and kill hundreds of thousands every year. These were the kinds of ideas impressed upon me as I grew up in my urban home: Guns were beasts, as were knives, arrows, spears, indeed anything could become a weapon if held in a particular way. We sprayed each other with the hose instead of water guns, and spent many long hours as a family "communing with nature" through long walks on the nature trails in southern California; we had a little garden from which we harvested potatoes, carrots, and lettuce, but we never harvested the rabbits hopping through, or the squirrels, or the groundhogs. It didn't occur to me until high school, however, that I didn't know where the meat I was eating came from. This bothered me. I became vegetarian. No more cows in the rain forest! I said. No more chickens in long cramped houses, moving along conveyor belts where heads went flying, feathers electrically shocked off, fire burned off the hairs, to be tossed into a super-wrap machine, ready for the Wal-Mart grocery bin. Hunting, too, was equally cruel to animals in my mind. I tried to ignore the arguments that hunting helped control deer populations, and that killing for food was, ultimately, part of human nature to be honored, much less tolerated. I got a chance to broaden my perspective last year, and I harvested my first hen out at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, during a May Term ornitholog...

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...or hunting season. I am curious to know more: Will there be more female hunters in the future? My impression is that there is more hunting done for sport now than there is for necessary protein harvest, but will there be a movement in the other direction? Will the deer population survive while the hunters try to make up their minds? I hope that this ethnography may serve as a model of forming connections within our own close communities; that we may work towards preserving this interwoven web of culture through respect and interest in our environments.

I haven't been hunting. I haven't yet sought out the opportunity. I have, however, given up vegitarianism for lent.


1. poundage refers to the number of pounds it requires to draw the string back from the bow

2. Hedge apple also known as Osage Orange, common in old fence-rows in the greater Goshen area

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