I hate to kill.
I know that must sound like an odd confession coming from an avid deer hunter, a guy who, like thousands of others in my home state of Pennsylvania, spends the better part of the year looking forward to those few short weeks in October and November, and especially to the special flintlock season that begins the day after Christmas, when I can load up my rifle and get lost in the mountains behind my home all alone. But I suspect that if you could wade through their boot-top-deep braggadocio and really talk to hunters, many of them would tell you the same thing.
For me, and I suspect for many others like me, the art of hunting is far more profound than taking trophies. It’s about taking responsibility. For my needs. For my family. For the delicate environmental balance of this wounded but recovering part of the country. There is something sobering about hunting for your food. Meat tastes different, more precious, when you’ve not only watched it die, but killed it yourself. There is no seasoning in the world that can compare with moral ambiguity.
Biologists estimate there are now 1.6 million deer in Pennsylvania’s woods, far more than when white men first set foot there. I took up deer hunting a decade ago when I realized that this staggeringly large population was decimating many of our forests, forests that after hundreds of years of clear-cutting were at last poised to recover. With no predators to speak of—the wolves were wiped out centuries ago and the last mountain lion in the state was killed more than 70 years ago—the responsibility for trying to restore a part of that balance fell to me. And to all the other hunters.
~ Seamus McGraw (December 25, 2011)