Just a thought… The fascination with shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or the wrong end of the gun. [P.G. Wodehouse]
Have you ever met or had a conversation with someone – in person or online – who absolutely shifted the way you thought about something? I did, and it happened in the most unlikely way. The discussion wasn’t politics or religion or any of the “heavy” topics of which we tend (or used to tend) to stay clear of in polite conversation. The topic was hunting. And here’s how it came up:
As I mentioned to you yesterday, my friend Nancy and I volunteered, along with maybe a dozen others, to do exit interviews with students about to finish their high school education. As we sat across from these bright and shiny young people, some going on to college, some heading to jobs to earn money to further their education and others just planning on working until…whatever…I was enlightened, inspired, encouraged and, in one case, haunted.
She came in and sat down on the hard chair opposite Nancy and me in that bright school gym with an air of confidence you would expect to see from someone ten years her senior.
Her hair tied up, she wore earrings and just a hint of makeup and remarked almost as soon as we met that we wouldn’t believe what she “really” looks like. (Okay, I thought, that’s one hell of an opening line for a “job” interview, which is what we were simulating on that Tuesday morning). She wore a shimmery satin sleeveless blouse and looked to all the world like a receptionist or a store clerk. And then she told us she rarely comes to school and has completed most of her courses online. But she had to come in for this.
Our conversation blew wide open from there. She’s an avid hunter and learned it from her dad and her grandfather (until the elder family member became a vegan). She hunts in the rugged BC interior and she listed off all of the animals she’s killed, dressed and eventually eaten. She hates beef because it tastes “watered down” and enjoys venison, moose…and on….
I think she may have lost me at venison.
Keep in mind, I’m the girl who whispers like she’s seen a vision of the Virgin Mary almost every time a deer ventures into our backyard. Last week, one was lying down below our kitchen window, its chin on its front hooves. I could have watched it resting all day. There’s another that limps and one I think is expecting. These neighbourhood deer are the most blessed and welcome guests in our lives (although they are the bane of gardeners everywhere in horticulture-crazy Victoria). I get that, but I just adore them.
And here’s this young woman whose passion is killing them. She was telling us that she wants to work for BC Conservation to stop poachers. She went on to tell us that she also believes that the government stopping the grizzly bear hunt was a huge mistake, as they’re proliferating and are getting more fearless by the day. (She agreed that trophy hunters are the worst, but that hunters who are helping keep the count down or who eat bear meat are to be encouraged.)
She was so completely sure about what she was saying, with the security and laser focus on the future that only a young person on a mission can have, that I was left shaken by the power of her confidence. Was I wrong about my feelings surrounding hunting my beloved deer? And is that why I dreamt that night of eating bear meat?
Then we asked her what her second choice would be if she wasn’t accepted into following what she considered her calling. She said she’d like to be a veterinarian but…and follow me here…couldn’t stand to see animals suffer. That’s what I have trouble with.
I am not for a moment saying that proper and ethical hunters want animals to suffer. But without getting into the whole food chain argument, what, then, is killing an animal before its time? I didn’t ask her, but I’m pretty sure she would have had an answer ready. This young woman was completely prepared to defend herself and had done so a great many times among her fellow students. Perhaps that’s why she preferred being in the dense BC interior, watching and listening for grizzlies, than in the jungle hallways of a high school.
I have no doubt that she will be exactly what she wants to be. I have rarely seen such determination in a young person’s eyes. I was happy not to be a deer in her sights and I’ll think of her the next time I see a woman in camouflage who isn’t just wandering the aisles of a store. I don’t understand what makes her tick, but she doesn’t need me to – and that’s not what that day at school was all about.
Speaking of store aisles, since it’s Thursday, here’s the link to this week’s Walmart piece I wrote about the sweet promise of May days outdoors.