I'm not a city girl. I was born and brought up in deer-hunting heaven. The couple years I did live in a city were both exhilarating and alienating. I was glad to get home. I feel more at home in a place where the streets don't wear signs and there aren't streetlights on every corner. I'd rather encounter some redneck with a truck full of hunting rifles than some crackhead with a Glock in the subway. So this isn't coming from some uppity city girl who moved to the country with dreams of opening a home-based jelly factory or anything like that. These are my people. Also, I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat. I know meat doesn't come from a refrigerated, fluorescent-lit case at the store. I know that something has to give up its life in order for me to have meat. I tried being a vegan for a while, and it didn't work out, so to assuage the guilt I feel sometimes, when I get thinking about meat and where it comes from, I've adopted a personal policy where I try not to waste any. I think of the way the Native Americans would use all of the buffalo.
Native Americans didn't try to make themselves feel better about killing and eating the buffalo by saying that animals don't have souls. They'd acknowledge the animal's soul and acknowledge the sacrifice, and that's kind of how I try to see things. I've been around enough animals, from a pet chicken I had in sixth grade, to my pet rabbit I had as a young adult, to my dog Rozzie, to know those animals have souls, so why wouldn't ALL animals, even the ones we eat, have souls. The Amish keep their cows in the pasture across the way, and sometimes, they're out when I walk over to get my mail, and some of those cows come right over to the fence when I walk up. If you could hear me, you'd think I was crazy, but I talk to them about the weather or if there's any juicy gossip going around the pasture that day. I look right in their eyes, and they aren't the cold, dead eyes of a shark. They're warm and sort of intelligent.
Deer, too. Now, being from The Mountains in Pennsylvania, I've cursed my share of deer that have leapt out in front of my car. I've never hit a deer with my car- a bear hit me once- a minor epic tale that culminates in there being not a dent in my Topaz (!) and the bear obviously lumbering off into the night whence it came- but my husband has hit a few deer, and it makes me kind of fear having one or a herd jump out in front of me, and when one does and I escape hitting it, I do let loose a blue cloud of language. But the thing is, I like the deer.
And I know I'm going to irk a lot of people, a lot of my friends when I say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. These pictures of the Mighty Hunters, with their dead deer, necks all noodly and tongues lolling all about, eyes open: I fecking hate them. I understand it's a Big Fecking Deal that you killed a deer! I get it! Even if you're hunting from four-wheeler or up a tree stand or for all the feck I know, the passenger seat of your F-150, it does take a little skill to hit a moving deer with a bullet. Guns are beasties to master in their own rite- back in my day, I took Hunter's Safety. I was pretty good with a .22- in target practice. In practice-practice, I couldn't bring myself to shoot even a woodchuck. So I get it. Having the balls to pull that trigger period, let alone hit another living thing, is a Big Fecking Deal, and part of me tips my blaze orange hat to you.
But the pictures of you and your "trophies?" Sorry, but I just don't get why that's the thing to do. It reminds me of those chodes in college who would display the beer can of every beer they drank, in their rooms. I concede that maybe the first deer you get on your first hunting season warrants a picture for the family album, if you have to, just like maybe if it was a special beer, it's okay to save and display the can. But after you're not a rookie anymore? Let's not.
I once read an article in one of my aviator magazines, about the bush pilots in Alaska, and the hunters there. Someone in the article was talking about how the old timers never had their pictures taken with their "trophies" the way modern hunters do, because in their day, hunting was for food and for survival, not for sport, and they felt it was in poor taste to have their pictures taken with dead animals. It all really resonated with me.
So how do I feel about making stuff out of the deer hides? Great! Use every part of the buffalo! What about mounting deer heads in our house to commemorate your big kill? Creepy as all get-out, but hey, again, you're using all the parts, and the antlers make great scarf hooks/necklace hooks/ a place to hang one's hat. It's the pictures I specifically have issues with. If you're going out hunting for the venison, to eat (I grew up eating venison and I think it's great!) then having your picture taken with your kill and plastering it up everywhere makes about as much sense as the guy at the slaughterhouse pausing to pose with the beefers just knocked in the head or shot or however it had its curtains lowered. If you hunt for sport, I hope to God somebody's getting that venison to eat and the hide to make stuff out of, but it makes light of the animal you've taken the life of, holding it up by its antlers and leering into the camera, showing its blood and viscera spilling over the ground, letting its tongue loll out and its lifeless eyes stare straight ahead. Sport, really. What can the deer really do to you? Maybe if it caught you taking a dump in the woods, it could gore you in the ass with its antlers, or kick you, or it could jump out in front of you while you're driving and total your truck, but otherwise, deer are pretty peaceful. Put a deer up against a human with a rifle or a bow, and the human's going to win if the human has any aim at all. How is that sport, really? Survival, sure.
I don't mind hunters. I have a lot of respect for hunters. I like to eat venison. I don't mind other people having the heads mounted in their houses. I own a deerskin coat. I'd rather see deer hunted and used for meat and hide and I guess decoration than see them overpopulate and lie bloating and wasted by the side of the road. Any roadkill breaks my heart, really, but deer especially. But I can't even pretend to be impressed with the huntin' season trophy pics any more than I used to be impressed by the beer cans the chodes thought they needed to display, just to prove that they were old enough or awesome enough or badass enough (if they weren't old enough) to drink beer. Show your kill and yourself a little respect.
And stay safe out there in the woods. A lot of those beer-can-displaying chodes are out there, this time with guns and their coolers full of more beer cans they'll eventually display, so....