Monday, December 1, 2008

Return of the Apex Predator

It's yet another year where I will wake and deal with the daily rambunctiousness of the younglings rather than find myself in pursuit of he whitetail deer on the opening day of gun season here in Ohio. In fact, the men will be rising in camp only a few hours from the time I post this, and with the coming of the dawn, Man will assert his place as the dominant species of the planet (in a small way) once again.

Rather than bore you with all the benefits to wildlife, habitat, and agriculture that hunters provide in pursuit of wild game (click here for wildlife and click here for agriculture), I'll do what I do best and talk about the value of the hunt in terms of the psychological. Plus, I really do better when I wing it rather than trying to fact chase people.

First of all, let me clarify something for those of you who live in denial: For us to eat meat, an animal has to die. This is something my children will learn early on. I don't glorify it or try to invent mindless, petty justifications. I deal with the facts as they are. And the facts include that pork is mighty tasty. In fact, I have some leftover smoked ham from T-day (the turkey got eaten up) I'm going to have to nibble on as I write this. Be right back.

Yum-o. And yes, I did stop and go get some ham.

One thing I understand about my nature, and that of humanity's, is that we are a predatory species. If we weren't, the meat wouldn't smell and taste so good. So as a choice for a healthy lifestyle, I eat those things (beside chocolate) that simply taste good. And I have yet to meet a meat that doesn't appeal to me. Can't say the same thing for the veggies.

So it is with that frame of mind that I and many others go into the woods to hunt our food as we have since evolution gave us the ability to outthink animals and to engineer weapons to make our kills more efficient.

Now I'm sure there are people that would suggest I could be one with nature if I just had a camera and some trail mix to munch on. I wouldn't rule that completely out (except the trail mix part (substitute beef jerky)), but there is a difference. Going out with a camera would be fine for observing the wildlife, but to match wits with an animal in the life-or-death struggle they face as a wild animal is something that cannot be described to someone who denies his (or her) primal nature. Ive spent many days afield, and the majority of them have ended with a lighter backpack and a cold ass. But I've spent those days seeing the world from the eyes of an animal, not as a human watching animals. And I've looked into the eyes of animals before I struck, and I've seen them laying there after I've tracked them. Especially in the pursuit of an animal that is large enough for us to relate to in a sense, there is an awesomeness and solemnity in that time after the kill and before the work to bring the animal to the table that borders on the sacred.

Now if hunting isn't for you, fair enough. It's not a pursuit for those who do not respect life, especially the ones they take (although, to be fair, there are those idiots out there). But if you want to learn more about yourself, the natural world, and perhaps bring home some tasty, healthy, and lean wild game, then find that person you know who hunts and give him (or her) a talking to and see what happens when you find yourself afield in a drizzling rain, lugging a backpack full of junk you don't need and a weapon you've fired once. Maybe it will be the first time you really lived.


Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm not a big meat eater. In fact, the little I do eat is usually chicken. Not because I have any ideological stand against it, I simply don't care for the taste. Really.

I live at the ocean's edge, and so my diet consists of mostly fish. And I make a lot of dishes with pasta and vegetables, eggs, fresh herbs and condiments.

No special reason, except personal taste.

I've eaten venison (my neice's husband is a hunter) and wasn't impressed--dry and not particulary tasty. I've eaten wild boar, wild hare, rabbit, frogs legs (I lived in Italy and visited extensively in France).

Octopus is terrific, as is squid, eel, skate fish wing, fish roe, and all sorts of sushi.

But when I want real comfort food, nothing beats a dish of linguini with fresh roma tomato sauce, fresh basil, and goat cheese.

That. Is. Heaven.

Happy hunting! And buon appitito!

Shaw Kenawe said...


Crikey! I do know how to spell--but I definitely suck at typing.

Anonymous said...

I'm big on hunting, I go out just about every chance I get during the season.

Shaw Kenawe said...

An American WHO cares.

Sorry. Can't help myself.

Obob said...

I love food. Of course I have said I could never be a Muslim or Jewish due to my perverse adoration of pulled pork.
as for hunting, man did it when could and never stop. if not, see the motor city madman.

Satyavati devi dasi said...


I just so can't go with you here because it would result in bloodshed.

Pardon the pun.

I'll just say that I'm having a trouble with the 'hunters are people who respect life' concept.

On that note, I'm going to Walmart. The unspoken pun may not immediately be obvious, but it's there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

It was obvious alright.
Speaking about animals! There were about 2,000 of them at Walmart.

Patrick M said...

Shaw: I have no complaints with people who choose to eat what they prefer, even if it lacks in meatage. Plus, different parts of the country eat eat differently. If I lived in your neck of the woods, I'd probably eat more fish (with the kids, I'm reduced to baking the sticks).

As for the venison, whoever cooked it treated it like beef. Wild game is leaner and must be cooked as such. The surefire way to guarantee tasty venison (and I was doing this at 10) is to salt, pepper, and flour it, and fry it in oil. With our palates adjusted to farm-raised beef, preparation is key.

ATC: I'm always up for a good hunting story....

Also, ignore Shaw. I think she's on a grammar kick again. :)

Obob: Speaking of Nuge, he wrote an article many months back on hunting that was (no surprise) absolutely passionate and unerringly true. From that alone I would be willing to go hunting with him. And I won't just go hunting with anybody.

Saty: I was wondering when you were going to come around and comment (especially after our last convo on the subject).

Let me explain how someone can respect the life of the animal they're going to kill.

Animals kill and eat each other. When we hunt, we assume the role of the predator. However, being intelligent and aware (and not requiring hunting to supply us with meat to live), we employ a principle called "fair chase," which limits Man in how he may purse the animal. Without any restrictions, we could hunt (and have hunted) any animal we choose to extinction. This is more important in the case of deer, who otherwise lack a predator in much of their range, and have flourished as a species under the rules. Which leads me to the question: How would you control a deer population to keep it healthy?

Then, at the moment of the kill, we must be masters of our weapon, firing only when we have a shot that ensures a quick and clean kill. It's actually sickening to me to consider wounding an animal, especially one as beautiful as a deer. The halfwits that empty their guns (5-6 shots) failing to kill deer should be hit upside their heads for not learning basic skill. That's why my current deer gun is a single-shot.

And finally, we respect that animal by eating her (a doe tastes better than a buck). One of the things I insist when I sit my kids down to eat is that all the meat gets eaten. Part of the nature of life is that animals consume each other. I don't deny that part of my nature, I don't glorify it, and I never forget that I live b3ecause others have died. Interestingly, this applies to our freedom as well.

And remember, hunting is not simply shooting and killing. It's entering the world of an animal at its level, and only if wits and luck align will the opportunity to shoot and kill be available. I've had more good hunts that were unsuccessful than successful.

Patrick M said...

David: I wonder if it would be okay to thin the Black Friday Wal-Mart herd.

Mmmmm. Soylent green.

Satyavati devi dasi said...


The day you enter the world of an animal at its level, you'll be naked and weaponless except for teeth and claws.

Shaw Kenawe said...


The day you enter the world of an animal at its level, you'll be naked and weaponless except for teeth and claws.

ZOMG! For the rest of the day, I carry in my head a mental pic of Patrick nekkid with sharp teeth and claws?


Patrick M said...

Saty: And the first thing I would do in that instance would be to make a weapon to hunt an animal. You forgot about intelligence. That's what makes us an effective predator: We make weapons to hunt, because we certainly lack in the claws and the teeth (the downside of learning to adapt our environment.

I'm speaking of mentally entering their world as an equal. But the limitations of time require a few shortcuts.

Shaw: I look good in your mental image don't I? Don't I? DON'T I!!!

If you need a (totally inaccurate) reference though, just think of Ted Nugent in his loincloth.

Toad734 said...

I'm not sure I agree so much with your approach and logic on this one...imagine that.

I agree, in order for us to eat meat, something has to die. That part is true.

So you are saying that matching wits with a rabbit or a pea brained deer is a hard thing to do? That's where I have to disagree. Outmatching their sense of smell, hearing and speed is one thing but if you think of outwitting a forest animal is up there with beating Bobby Fisher at Chess, then you probably took the short bus to school. And assuming you are able to find a deer, shooting one can't be any harder than shooting skeet; I mean they do happen to be a thousand times larger and move just as fast.

And don't act like we owe the hunter some great debt. If that were the case deer season would last more than a week. In fact I think Christmas is the only beneficial thing that we only allow to happen once per year. I mean, if it weren't for hunters there would still be cougars/mountain lions, wolves, Bears and Coyotes who would be preying on the deer. If it weren't for people, the deer and wildlife habitats wouldn't be shrinking to such a degree where we have to kill them as we have ran out of room to house them or they set up camp in the middle of the interstate. Any problem a current hunter is solving is a result of hunters in the past along with urban sprawl / human over population. Contrary to popular belief, Deers are not overpopulated, humans are.

That being said, I don't think I could live without bacon. And anyone who tells me they would prefer deer meat over a steak or rabbit over chicken is lying.

I just think people over do it with the all mighty hunter savior story. If that's what you feel like doing and you do it legally then fine but I would say it takes more of a man to hike from one end of Yellowstone to the other and make it out alive than it does to pull a trigger in a small patch of woods killing an overpopulated deer with no predators with a high powered rifle or to kill a squirrel which my dogs could snag on their own almost every time I take them out for a walk.

I have been hunting and I found out that I just like shooting the gun. Eating tough, chewy squirrel mean with a bunch of led in it isn't very appealing. That’s why I go skeet shooting. And if I am going to sit out in the cold for 3 hours I would rather go to a Bears game which serves beer and hot chocolate.

And I never got the whole "I love nature, that's why I kill it".

Toad734 said...

FYI: You could probably deep fry and salt dog shit and it would taste just as good.

Anonymous said...

The comment I agree with the most is..
rabbit, frogs legs,venison,
Octopus, squid, eel, skate fish wing, fish roe, and sushi.

"Happy hunting! And buon appitito!"

You do the hunting, and I'll do the eating..

Bullfrog said...

It sounds like some believe it is either love nature OR be a hunter, but you can't do both?

How much time do you think hunters spend in nature as compared to actually killing an animal and cleaning it?

If you were an animal who cared either way, would you rather be killed in a slaughter house or chased and killed in your natural environment?

Patrick M said...

Toad: I'm not sure I agree so much with your approach and logic on this one...imagine that.

I'm utterly shocked. I might never recover from this.

Now seriously, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by claiming deer are as smart as people. However, they do have excellent noses, comparable eyesight, a good memory for their territory, and the ability to pattern people.

If it was that easy to hunt them, I'd have bought my permit and license and had one by now (as we have 3 people who went afield in my hunting circle and have 3 deer to show for it).

...shooting [a deer] can't be any harder than shooting skeet...,

Actually, it's generally not a running shot (you grunt, get them to stop moving, then shoot). But there's a difference between blasting apart clay and pulling the trigger on a living creature of such mass. If you have a doubt, just Google "buck fever."

Also, as a point of note, Ohio doesn't allow rifles. We're reduced to the slug gun.

Contrary to popular belief, Deers are not overpopulated, humans are.

Factually not true. Deer populations even in rural areas are exploding, so much so that more antlerless permits are offered than opportunities to kill big bucks. Also, deer can get overpopulated easily now, with all the farmland, sanctuaries provided by the misguided, and no other predators. Get too many deer in an area and they'll eat it clean in the early winter, damaging it significantly, then set to starving. This winter will be colder (thanks to Al Gore and the GW myth, probably) and harder on the population than awhile.

As for the chewy meat with lead, that means someone didn't prepare it right.

And I never got the whole "I love nature, that's why I kill it".

That's because it's way too simplistic a phrase.

As for the dog shit, I'm sure there's a textural problem there. As in it probably resembles tofu.

MLV: Fair enough. Like I said, I don't expect everyone to embrace the challenges and rewards of hunting. But there's nothing healthier than wild game, and there's only one way to get it.

Bullfrog: How much time do you think hunters spend in nature...

That reminds me of one day in the woods. Didn't see a single damned deer. But it was a nice day, with the sun peeking through the canopy, a little breeze, and hours just absorbing. The highlight of that day was having a chipmunk run up my leg. He got past me a little way before he saw me and ran like hell. It was nice.

That's what you don't see when you have your hiking boots on and are skipping through the woods munching rice cakes.

Oh, and if I were an animal, I'd want the chance to live free until I died or was killed. Kind of the way I live now.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the hunter type, but I don't have anything against it. If you plan on eating what you hunt then, feel free. It is the hunters that only do it for the need to go out and kill something that bothers me.

I never could hunt because I can't get the damn picture of Bambi out of my head! LOL

And living in Jersey doesn't help anything. I see the occasional dear wherever there is a little piece of land untouched and that but that is few and far between.

There is no possibility of being a vegetarian though, I like steak, ham, chicken, bacon....all right, I am making myself hungry.

LOL @ Shaw on the grammar lesson!

Patrick M said...

Jennifer: Don't get me started on that Disney-spawned propaganda lie. I could go on for years. Suffice it to say, it makes Man into 1. an aberration in nature, 2. an evil killing machine, and 3. a mindless creature that burns down the forest after blasting holes in Bmabi's mom. The "men" in that blasphemous piece of shit of a movie are the cliche of every idiot asshat with a big gun and a small dick that doesn't deserve to be called a hunter.

And it's a movie that will never be allowed in my home.


I knew there was a reason I left that movie out of the discussion this year. mmmmm, fried Bambi.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Point taken Patrick, no more talk of B**** I don't have the movie in my house either, because I didn't like it, although not for the same reasons you named! I never understood why everyone makes hunting out to be this nefarious deed? It simply escapes me, but if I know Saty, she will have no problem enlightening me and then some! :-)

repsac3 said...

Never hunted myself, but have no real issue with hunting as you describe it... ...but I trust we agree that canned hunting & that remote control "kill a lion from your living room over the internet" bullshit never had any place in a humane society. (Big Game Hunting by Remote Control - Associated Content)

While there are morons who hunt -- (an ex-girlfriend who lived in upstate NY told me that her parents kept the young kids in the house as much as possible during hunting season, and while only 1 kid in her area was ever accidentally shot in the 18 years she lived there, there were several near misses over the years, and one or another of the many dairy farmers there would lose a or two cow every year) -- there are morons wherever you go.

As long as it's done safely, and with respect for the animals & for one's fellow hunters and those who might live in the area, I think hunting is a good thing. Just not for me, though...

Patrick M said...

Jennifer: I have lots of issues with Disney. In fact, I usually boo the Disney logo when it shows up before the venerated Pixar logo (I do have children).

But that's a completely different story....

Repsac: It depends on what "canned hunting" involves (and skepticism intrudes any time you link to asshats like the HSUS). If the animals are free-roaming in the (obviously large) enclosed area, and it takes work to actually find and shoot them, then there's some sense of fair chase. If it's just a sit and shoot, there's questionable ethics involved in that, as there's no sport in shooting caged animals.

However, I can agree that the online hunting runs a much higher risk of wounding the animal, with no real engagement. Again, there's serious ethical issues involved.

Now as for the morons, that's the price of having freedom.

Satyavati devi dasi said...


Man IS an evil killing machine. If not innocent animals, then innocent people. Let's not even go here.

Growing up in the woods as we did we were real careful during all of hunting season. The dog had to wear International Safety Orange or whatever the name of that awful colour was. We just stayed in and as close to houses as we could and still get away with all the stuff we got away with. And yeah, people got shot. A guy I know accidentally killed his best friend.

We happen to currently live within the county game lands, where you pay the property owner X dollars and he gives you the right to shoot your shit (pun intended) wherever the hell you'd like to on his land. There's a lot of wildlife here, and a lot of people who eat rodents in all their various forms. There are shotguns going off in close proximity all the time here. My neighbours could be murdered and I'd never know but that somebody got themselves another possum.

Let me kick off a new discussion by saying that I completely and wholeheartedly believe in the abolition of cut Christmas trees. This actually has very little to do with forestry (although it does, secondarily) but with the annual burning-down-of-the-house-with-kids-in-it that happened where I grew up.

There are few things more incendiary than dead pine. I don't care if you keep it in a bathtub of water. We live surrounded by pine trees and a lot of deadfall and it makes things very dangerous for us. Pine burns fast as lightning and hot as forty hells and it has no place in anyone's home, much less anyone with kids. Insurance companies should make it a point to say that if someone's house goes down due to a tree-related accident, all bets are off. If you don't have a sprinkler system in your house, you have no business putting a giant piece of kindling in your livingroom. And even if you do.

You can get yourself a tree that makes most cut trees look sick for not a whole lot of money. We got a $240 7 foot pre-lit tree in an after Christmas sale for $60.

There's no reason for the whole killing trees thing, and yeah, I know people farm pine for timber as well as Christmas trees cause they're all over here (the White House Tree came from NC again this year) but the real reason is that you shouldn't be taking that kind of chance with the people you love and the home you all live in.


repsac3 said...

Sorry Patrick, but my support for hunting leaves anytime we're talking about drugging animals & taking them out of their natural (& familiar) habitat & into an enclosed area to be shot. Takes the whole "fair chase" element you speak of out of the equation for me, no matter how "natural" or large the enclosed area is...

Reports I've read while looking for a source I thought you'd find more reliable say that many of the animals are raised by humans, either as surplus zoo animals, or for the express purpose of being killed at these places. Some of 'em have been known to lick the hand that later shoots 'em. No sport in that sport...

As for the search itself, the best I could come up with is this 2007 interview with Nugent from Field & Stream. He's a fan of fenced in hunting (which isn't all that surprising, considering he owns and operates a canned ranch), but I thought that the interviewer and some of the post interview commentary by the writer & readers highlight some of the objections to the practice that're worth considering, anyway.

Patrick M said...

Man IS an evil killing machine. If not innocent animals, then innocent people. Let's not even go here.

Actually, we need to go there, because I don't assume Man is an evil killing machine (or likking machine, as I mistyped several times) OR animals as innocent.

Good and evil (and innocence and guilt) assume judgment, morality, and a conscience. To lump every person (including yourself and myself) into the category of "evil killing machine" is to ignore intent, reason, and compassion.

Animals are neither innocent or guilty. They do or do not do things. An alligator may kill a person, but he is not "guilty" of doing so, because he does not possess any ability to differentiate between right and wrong (because there is none). And all prey animals (and those that are not predators are generally prey) are not innocent, but merely prey. Their lives often end by the attack of a predator. That is not good, or evil, but merely the natural order of life.

By that rationale, intent means everything when we kill animals. If our intent is to make the kill quick, with minimal suffering, so that we make use of the animal for our own needs (food, fur), or to stop an animal that threatens our lives or safety, then our intent is not evil. If it is to cause pain and suffering, then our intent crosses that line.

As for the trees, to each his own. But Artificial trees RULE!

Repsac: Nuge has it right, as usual, and there's a difference between a fenced-in hunting preserve and a "canned ranch" (unless you subscribe to the pathos of the anti-hunter). Personally, I wouldn't be interested in a place where my kill was guaranteed. If I was, give me a pig farm. "Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good."

Bonus points if anyone can name the movie. I'll give you all a bigger snippet, though:

V: But bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good.
J: Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker.

Anonymous said...

The answer is....(drumroll please)Pulp Fiction......bonus points for me! :-)

Toad734 said...


Again, why is there a deer population explosion? Its because past hunters, even in rural areas have killed all their predators, more expansive agricultural use of land, the clearcutting of forests and urban sprawl, all signs of human overpopulation which has led us to an "overpopulation" of deer.

I'm not sure I understand why you aren't allowed to use rifles to hunt deer and isn't using slugs making it easier to hit a deer than with one single bullet?

And why is it that people don't care about killing a rabbit but can't shoot a deer? Whats the difference? They are both living, neither has done anything to you, you don't really need the meat for food, they aren't threatening your survival, they both eat, play, bear offspring etc. I mean, I think I would hesitate in either case which is just a reason I don't hunt. I don't think it makes you a better person if you can kill a deer, it doesn't add anything to your character or really prove anything other than the fact that you are willing to kill something. Don't get me wrong, If I was hungry enough and it was either me or the deer, I know I could do it, not that I would know how to clean/gut/dress it afterwards but I would figure out something.

Patrick M said...

There are lots of reasons for the population explosion. Among them is our sprawl itself. Deer thrive on edge territories, places where the woods end. That describes most of the areas where the populations are high. But, like other things, the question is not "What got us to this point?" but "What do we do now we're at this point?"

Slugs in shotguns are getting closer to rifle accuracy (out to about 150 yards). But for years prior, it was closer to the blackpowder era, where rifling wasn't figured out yet. Although you might be confusing slugs (1 bullet) with buckshot (which is just a large gauge shot). It's more about range than accuracy.

And for clarification, what tests the mettle of the person is not just the kill (although it is part of the process). It's the whole process, from the preparation, to the hunt, to the kill, to the cleaning and dressing of the game.

Like I said, it's not for everyone. But understanding why is what matters for the non-hunter.

Patrick M said...

Update for everyone:

Of the three hunters I hunt with that went out, all three bagged a deer on Monday (2 does, 1 buck). The kids and I stopped to check out their grandpa's doe last night. About 80 pounds. Good eats are in store this coming year.

Toad734 said...

I thought slugs had a couple bigger, slugs in each shell as opposed to hundreds of buck shots. I can see why if there was just one slug how that could be more difficult, without rifling obviously. You could always bow hunt. Now, thats the real man old school, get in touch with your primitive side approach.

Sure, we have to address the situation we are in now but don't pretend that hunters/humans didn't cause this problem to begin with. You add a few wolves and cougars in the mix, stop building new strip malls and you wouldn't have a deer population problem.

Patrick M said...

Yeah, if I had the time and effort to put into bowhunting. I'm not going to get back out deer hunting until the kids get up to school age, as it is.

I didn't say that man does not have culpability. But you're dealing with things that occurred over the past centuries in many places. And reintroducing predators in these areas is no longer practical. Thus man must play that role. And hunting is the most natural way to do so.

Arthurstone said...

Hunters 1 Bucks 0 (Overtime)

repsac3 said...

Well, I don't know that I agree with Nuge quite as much as you do, but I agree that there is a difference between a fenced-in preserve & a canned ranch, & I shouldn't've conflated the two without knowing more about his.

My thinkin' is this; If you're going into the animal's natural habitat to hunt, I'm good with that. If you're bringing the animal into yours (either by breeding & hand-raising animals just for hunting, or by importing them from their natural habitat (or zoos, where they've learned to trust & rely on humans) to one that is unfamiliar or unnatural to them) that's much less acceptable to me. YMMV...

Much as it might be satisfying on a purely intellectual level to reintroduce natural predators & reduce human civilization's encroachment to control deer populations more "naturally," it just isn't practical, and it's never going to happen. The herds do need thinning if they are to survive, and it is up to us to do it, I think...

(I recall reading somewhere how our control of naturally occurring forest fires over the years has led to the explosion of really dangerous conditions, & far worse forest fires... Sometimes the best thing we can do is do nothing...)

(Perhaps that fire thing is a rebuttal to my own thoughts on thinning the herd just above, or a comment on government bailouts, or maybe it's just a completely separate observation applicable to fire management only. You can each decide for yourselves, I guess, because I confess to not knowing, myself...)

repsac3 said...

Whoops, I forgot something...

I heard this yesterday & thought of this conversation immediately:

Organic Hunter Relies On Chronic Wasting Disease To Kill Deer | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Figured you'd get a kick out of it, too...

Patrick M said...

Arthur: It happens. Guess he should have aimed better.

Thanks for the clipping.

Repsac: We've learned a lot about wildlife over the last century, and it will take time, patience, and a lot of dedicated people to get everything right.

The EXACT same thing goes for the obsession with putting out fired that is making forest fires into wildfires.

And yes, I got a kick out of the CWD thing.

Arthurstone said...

Following is my hunting history.

I have a gun nut first cousin living in (very) rural East Texas who I used to spend summers with when I was a kid.

Once while we were out plinking with his .22 (we were 13 or 14) he spotted a deer (out of season of course) and let fly a shot at the poor critter. Off we ran through the snake & chigger infested scrub pine after this much faster deer which, fortunately he didn't hit. Or at least we saw no trace he had.

When we got home Aunt Cooter (really) his Mama, took the rifle away and grounded him for the rest of my visit.

I don't think coz ever smartened up any over the years. Kind of a ner' do well, last I heard he was a deputy sheriff in some pokey little East Texas town.

And, it goes without saying, a Republican.


Patrick M said...

At least somebody tried to do right by taking his gun for doing something stupid.

BTW, if you didn't know, I grew up a Democrat. I grew out of it.