"I have been dealing a lot of death these days," writes Hank Shaw, author of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and the recently published Hunt, Gather, Cook. "I've hunted five of the past eight days, and have killed birds on each trip. My larder is filling, and Holly and I are eating well."
As Shaw has traveled around the country, giving book readings, he has encountered hundreds of readers raised in urban settings, eating KFC and plastic-wrapped Safeway Select pork chops, several generations removed from hunters who regularly killed what they ate. They have no idea why he hunts, or at least takes pleasure in it.
He describes the intimate relationship he has with the animals he hunts, the necessity of making a clean kill, and most importantly, the importance of respecting the animal by using every part of its body for food and savoring that food with the reverence due a life lost. "Meat should be special," he concludes. "It has been for most of human existence."
Everything wants to live, and will try anything it can to escape you. We [hunters] see ourselves in this struggle, feel tremendous empathy for the struggling bird, the fleeing deer. It is a soul-searing moment where part of you marvels at the animal's drive to live -- to escape! -- at the same time the rest of you is consumed with capturing it as fast as possible so you can end this miserable business. This internal conflict is, to me, what being human is all about. A coyote or a hawk has no remorse. We do.