I’m not a hunter. In fact, I find the outdoors a bit daunting, what with insects, sunburn and a distinct lack of comfort stations. But as I enter my golden years (wap wap wap) I find myself leaving urban environs and heading into what’s called “outside.” I’ve hiked in Montana. Explored Texas trails. And now TTAG’s John Wayne Taylor’s lined-up a hog hunt. I don’t expect it to be a slow-motion celebration of the Circle of Life™ but I’ve read enough Hemingway et al. to know that shooting animals can be a deeply spiritual, highly literary experience. Question for experienced hunters: is hunting beautiful or is it simply nature red in tooth and claw? Or both?

71 Responses to Question of the Day: Is Hunting Beautiful?

  1. To quote ‘Uncle Ted,’….

    ““We all know each other intimately. We all share the same beliefs, the same passions, the same principles, the same honor, the same perfect…perfect lifestyle of revering God’s annual productivity by killing ‘em and grilling ‘em.”..Ted Nugent”

    A little bit of everything. “Meat is meat and a man has got to eat!” Motel Hell

    • Ted and I are certainly not the blood brothers that he would say. I don’t like his high fences or the fact that he has been busted for game violations several times. I wish he would stick to gun rights and keep his hunting opinions to himself. If him and I are under the same “big tent” when it comes to hunting, he is the clown.

  2. Nice Bowie reference. I haven’t hunted in a long time but I do remember being momentarily taken aback by the powerful feelings that came from killing an animal that was just minding it’s own business. On the other hand, hogs are just giant, invasive vermin that need to be hunted hard. Have fun.

  3. Most folks never kill an animal. That’s OK.
    To kill an animal is fairly easy, and often quick. Then you walk up to it and the emotion can take hold. You just ended a life.
    Then the work starts. Gutting, skinning, quartering, butchering into preferred cuts. It’s gruesome work.
    The smell can get to you.
    The farther you go with the process, the cleaner things get. To the final seal-a-meal package goes into the freezer.
    It’s a special feeling when you cook the first meal.
    It can take you back to the time when you fired the shot.
    It is a circle. If you’re a vegan, a vegitarians, or an omnivore, things have to die for you to live.
    I always pause when I first walk up to my kill. To give thanks. Because it is spiritual.

    • This….

      But I do add it becomes even worse, more real and brutal when you make a sub par shot or the animal is really tough and suffers.

      • Might have to take you up on that offer as we’re just a few north of the Orange Curtain, in the foothills where the 2 digit N/S freeway that splits your city Tee’s into a 3 digit E/W freeway, aptly named for the mounds of dirt on the north side of it.

  4. An urban person harvesting his own food……my first opportunity as a New Yorker was~liberating. As a Brooklynite going to the Adirondacks and taking a buck was in my eyes a rite of passage. Gave me new appreciation for the fauna I feed on, and a new found respect for the bounties of nature.

    • I’ve talked with some old guys who lived in Manhattan their entire lives, but until they couldn’t physically hack it anymore they spent nearly every weekend in the outdoors with family and friends doing all manner of activities. The wealthy drove to their lakeside cabins and the poor hopped a train and hiked a few miles with camping supplies on their backs. My point is that a lot more people did this, living where self reliance wasn’t always necessary, but still keeping those skills sharp just in case. Now we have an entire generation that spends its weekends cloistered indoors and in the city year round. These people can not function independently, even in their own dwellings. If something breaks, they pay a repairman. If there’s danger, they cower in fear and call the police. It’s why so many 21st century urbanites worship the state, because they’ve reinforced each others’ learned helplessness for decades without adopting their parents’ and grandparents’ practices.

  5. Putting in for my first hunt today. One for deer and one for Elk. We have a lottery here in NM, so getting a tag for a hunt isn’t a certainty. Almost a certainty for the deer, a maybe for the Elk.

    Wish me luck. I love a good steak.

    Being part of the cycle of life that has sustained us as a species for millions of years is a responsibility as well as a duty. There is a reason liberals are so dysfunctional, delusional and in denial. . They have disconnected themselves from all aspects of personal responsibility. What any responsible adult should be able to provide for themselves, their family and their community has been delegated to the “authorities”. Food, shelter, warmth and self-defense.

    I have a good handle on the shelter, warmth and self-defense; now what i have left is being able to provide as much of my food as possible.

  6. One thing that also shouldn’t be over looked is how hunting is good for the species, if they over populate its not healthy for them. They start to get more birth defects and diseases, and they start wandering into roads and getting hit by vehicles.

  7. The hunting is fun.
    Being outside is fun.
    Stalking is fun.
    Shooting and hitting a target is fun
    The moment of the actual kill indicates an end of fun.
    Reminds me of killing and butchering farm animals in my youth.

    Just another chore.

    Enjoy not being inside.
    Don’t overthink things.

    • I agree! While stalking, all your senses are heightened and that sunrise or sunset, the distant croak of a raven gliding over the rimrock, or the muted rattle of deer hooves crossing a rockslide across the canyon all take on new and special meaning. The excitement of spotting your quarry, getting into position to take a shot.

      All that could be described as exciting – and part of it as beautiful.

      The work begins after the shot is released. Quartering up the buck and packing him up a steep canyon wall, the honest sweat of your labor, the taste of dust as you drive the jeep back to camp – the feeling is engaging and helps form a bond with your fellow hunters.

      The stories back at camp. The sizzle of venison backstrap over open coals….

      “Beautiful” comes in different forms. A good portion of the activities described are hardly beautiful – but they are satisfying.

      Just being hunting, even if you don’t see, let alone harvest anything, is often more satisfying than just going for a hike. The active seeking of game puts you in a mindset that’s far more open to sensory input than the average hiker. I’ve often noticed that hunters, even when hiking off season, are frequently more observant that the city slickers in the same group. They see the far off (or nearby) critters, note the tracks, observe the natural history (flora, fauna, geology, geography….) that non-hunters often miss.

  8. Not all hunting is the same. There are trophy hunters who are only in it for the kill, photo, and mount. They’re not hunting for the meat or the use of the animal products. I don’t have a lot of love for those guys, but I do reliaze the money they’re putting into conservation and breeding programs. They tend to be more rich assbag who spends $75,000 on a canned African hunt and a whole lot less of a guy who spends days in the frigid cold looking to get a buck to put meat in the freezer this winter. Hunting in Africa is easy, I’ve been there four times now, you’re guide lead by someone who knows every aloe and blade of grass on the property he works. He knows exactly where and when the animals will be. There isn’t much challenge in that hunting.

  9. Growing up deep in the mountains of Appalachia, we never gave hunting a second thought. It was just a natural part of living. Now that we have gotten older, my brother frequently goes hunting and never shoots anything even though he has the opportunity. Just getting out in nature is enough for him. It’s the touch football of hunting.

  10. I am not sure I would use the words “beautiful” nor “nature red in tooth and claw.” Like most things, you get out of it what you put into it. If you are going on a trip which is guaranteed to result in a trophy or meat, I would call that more like do-it-yourself farming than hunting. Hunting is a more of a process that involves a whole lot of not actually shooting anything.

    What makes it “spiritual” (maybe) is the accomplishment of providing some super delicious tasty meat for your family. So it’s probably “spiritual” in the same sense as gardening or raising meat chickens. Of course, then there is the part where you realize if humans had to go back to the days where we only ate what we hunted, most of us would be totally screwed.

    • I think this is a great point. We got hogs galore all over Georgia, yet I just spent two weeks hunting hogs and didn’t bag a single one. Found tracks, ruts, and feces. But never found a single hog. That’s the nature of the game though.

  11. Deer and Big Sheep hunting — there is a Zen moment. With hogs and upland birds, it is visceral and exciting.

    I believe people would be less wasteful and would appreciate their food more if they had to hunt forage and even garden. There is a disconnect that happens with urban dwellers.

    I would not be surprised if that there are people who believe that hamburger just comes as it on their plate without any thought as to how it started out before it was a burger.

    • Do you internet much? I see almost weekly anti hunting rants that say ” why do they have to kill an animal, they can just buy meat at the store”

      • That quote is interesting because the person that said it is very naive and/or a hypocrite. Where do they think their meat in the store comes from ? If someone eats meat they need to embrace the whole process or not eat it at all. I don’t hunt but I am realistic about where meat comes from and I would kill animals to eat if I had to for myself, friends and my family.

        • I think that quote might come from 14-year-olds. You never know how old people are when they are on the internet.

          Of course, some 14-year-olds I’ve met have been legal adults for over a decade…

  12. Hunting has been beautiful to me since a small child and my father handed me his 4-10 and brought me with him to hunt doves. I graduated up from there and have always enjoyed the fields of corn, harvested or still growing, the fields of wheat and oats, the wooded areas with the familiar and unfamiliar fauna and flora, acreage we own and also we rent, watching the dawn appears over the golden fields and the fog lifting over the marshes, yes, yes, and more yes, it all is beautiful.

    Beautiful is nature. Beautiful is the sunrise and sunset, beautiful are the ducks, geese, deer, bear, and even the violent feral hogs. I glad it is from my perspective, because probably the only one who has ever called me beautiful is my mother and my wife of almost a half century.

  13. My favorite part of hunting/fishing is eating. My second favorite part is the outdoors aspect of hunting. Being outside – hiking, trails, waiting, and trekking about. Shooting the animal is my least favorite activity. That said, I can rest assured that the animal shot lived a good live in the wild with their own. A life of freedom. Which cannot be said the same for domesticated livestock. Also, that the animal will not be wasted and will be used to nourish me and my family. Stag, leather, even bones, they all get used, one way or another. Life is beautiful, and for lives to thrive, other lives must be taken. Thus is the way of life.

    On a side note, everyone has that cool friend that is fun and friendly that you want to hang out with. Sounds like John Wayne Taylor is that friend for Farago.

  14. Wish I were up to it myself, but time is a cruel master. I don’t know about beauty, but certainly primal! Long before recorded history it was hunt or be hunted. Hunting got us this far. The bible gives us “dominion” over all creatures. And as an old friend said “what good is evolving to the top of the food chain if you can’t mess with those lower down?”

  15. For me it is both raw and beautiful The misses are the raw part…gut wrenching at times.

    The clean kills are satisfying, the bounty of nature and circle of life kind of thing.

    When an animal is just too amazing to harvest and you don’t drop the hammer out of sheer respect…that’s the beauty right there.

  16. One’s life veiw is going to answer that question at least a little differently for each individual. We get out of an experience pretty much what we put into it. Those who believe that animals are the same (or better) than people won’t find hunting beautiful at all, of course.

    My father was a contract hunter for the Great Northern Railroad in the early 1900s. It was a way of life for many good men in those days. The railroad could not have been built without the hunters to feed the crews that built it.

    I’m too old and disabled to hunt anymore, and I do miss it. It’s a way to take full responsibility for your life and sustenance, and that is powerful medicine. Being humbled enough to give thanks for the life taken is a truly beautiful, awesome part of it.

  17. It has been my experience that a white-tail is as beautiful dead as alive; a turkey, as ugly; and a coyote, just as scary looking.

  18. Maybe it isn’t either/or. Maybe it’s both, and still more than that, all at one time. Hunting can be a way to get to something more elemental than modern life usually offers. And to devolve to the trite, it is what it is. How you perceive it has more to do with you than with “hunting”.

    Please let us know what you find!

  19. All of the above answers are great, but the bottom line is that you are going to have to find out for yourself to truly answer your own question.

    My grandfather never really taught me how to hunt, even though I grew up on a farm and ranched beef cattle in the Ozarks. Pretty much the sum extent of my hunting experience was shooting turtles in the cattle ponds for pest control. Once in a great while he turned me loose in the woods with a single-shot .410, but I didn’t really know what to do or look for. So, no, that doesn’t really count. Over the years I never got to hunt because I got shipped off to charm school, then college, and so on. Then after school I never had the money. Then I had the money but not the time. And so on. So when I moved here from Missouri I resolved to take time out, such as is possible, to go deer hunting. Needless to say, I still wasn’t nearly as prepared as I wish I could have been, and I did not even see a single deer. Am I going to say that hunting isn’t beautiful because I was disappointed? No! Even when you fail, that’s half the fun sometimes. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to go scout the back 20 for some turkeys…..opening day is the 25th 🙂

    Tom

  20. Being outdoors is beautiful. the camaraderie of the hunt is beautiful. The perfect shot is beautiful. The cleanup is ten kinds of yucky. Coming back home at the end of a hard hunt is beautiful. A shower is beautiful. Steaks and sausage are delicious.

  21. Hunting is beautiful and spiritual. Except when the alarm goes off at 3am. Then it’s profane and ugly for 45 minutes or so.

  22. I’ve been on two hog hunting trips at a friend’s Texas farm; it was more as pest control than hunting, really. Both trips ended with zero dead hogs and some sunrise tannerite blasting to get over it. It was still a total adrenaline rush and my childhood love of the outdoors was thoroughly rekindled. I used to feel weird about telling people I thought hunting and pest control were cool because I lived in the suburbs of a blue state and didn’t really know anyone who hunted, let alone owned guns. Now I talk about it openly without a second thought.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I have a real problem with people who cheer “rah rah freedom! individualism! The 2nd Amendment!” and then spout off about why people who trophy hunt are evil. It doesn’t matter whether a hunter saves every scrap of meat and uses the bones for garden fertilizer or is just in it for some cheeky photos and a trophy. So long as what they’re doing is legal, it’s their money and none of your business. Secondly, the proceeds of those expensive hunts go directly towards wildlife conservation, especially on the African continent where poaching is much more of a problem. With something like 90% of annual conservation funds coming out of the pockets of hunters anyway, people who say they like hunting but hate trophy hunters because they’re “wasteful” are shooting themselves in the foot.

    Is hunting beautiful? That’s not the right word to describe my experience, but it might be for others. Is it fun? Well, if hunting and pest control were “fun”, they’d be too simple. For me, they are adventurous challenges, making them all the more worthwhile.

    • You can praise individualism and denounce evil at the same time. I have a real problem with people who say “as long as it’s legal it’s okay” as gun owners we should all know that most of the worst thing to happen throughout time have been because of law rather than inspite of it.

      • I wasn’t aware that hunting an exotic animal for a stuffed head and a photo op now stands along side government-sponsored mass murder and genocide on the evil scale. Let me rephrase that. I didn’t mean to say anything goes so long as it’s legal. I meant that people who take issue with someone else for doing the exact same activity they enjoy, but not for a reason that is perfectly to their liking, can pound sand. Call me an insensitive bastard if you wish, that’s just my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Don’t forget that the meat from those African trophy hunts also gets donated to local, impoverished villages. It’s not just thrown out.

  23. Hunting is murder. But I accept that murder is human nature. When I go hunting I don’t pretend it’s anything else. I’m killing because I want to, because on various levels it feels good. You can call that good feeling beauty if want want but I don’t.

  24. It’s beautiful when hunter becomes hunted, or ND takes out hunter. Let’s put fricken lasers on their heads. Jesus is for fish and loaves, and if you’re catholic, his body and blood.

    • I read your statement and was left really confused about what exactly you are talking about. It was very specific in a descriptive but nonsensical way. It could use a bit more organization that is logical and effectively conveys ideas in an orderly way that moves from one idea to the next.

    • That body and blood part always struck me as cannibalism. That and pedophile priests ruined the church for me.

  25. Cape buffalo hunting is addictive. Elephant hunting is, however, the ultimate in dangerous game hunting. Much more of an adrenaline dump when hunting elephant than buffalo, but I still prefer buffalo hunting.

  26. I like everything about hunting except for the fact that the prey has to die. While death is ugly, survival is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, there are no fruits or vegetables that are steak or chicken — or anything close to a replacement for steak or chicken.

    At any rate I am an avid hunter and it has served as an important way to provide food for my family. Being out in the woods and soaking in nature is beautiful thing. It restores the soul in ways that I cannot express with words.

  27. Not a hunter but I’m pro-hunting. Used to love the outside (before I got skin cancer anyways). Just got back from a bike ride. Heckuva’ brutal winter…

  28. I shot my first deer last November. I’m 50, so it’s been a long time coming. The hunt was the most intense, life-affirming thing I’ve ever done. I have never felt closer to nature than when kneeling beside the magnificent 8-point buck (which I got 10 minutes into the season – beginner’s luck writ large) I harvested. I had a bit of him for lunch today.

    Hunting, done ethically, is a deeply profound experience that literally makes a part of nature. It really is a beautiful thing.

  29. Some of my best memories of the hunt are the times I didn’t fire at a given animal. I may have a skewed sense of humor but there have been times when the behaviour of an animal upon discovering me about to put the hammer down on them has caused me to pause, laugh and let the animal go.

    I busted a covey of quail once that had a young deer in amongst them. 2 quail and the deer tried to run away using the same trail and got in each others way. It was funny as hell to watch and I didn’t have the heart to pull the trigger.

    Some folks see the beauty, I see the marx brothers.

  30. I hunted pests on our farms and killed many animals.
    It was more of a job, than anything else.
    I did enjoy hunting, but I really did not like shooting the animals and watching them die.
    I usually fed the dead pests to our farm animals such as the cats.
    I am not a bleeding liberal and will hunt for food or to rid a field or farm of pests.
    I usually do sport hunting armed with a camera.

  31. Robert Ruark once wrote for Field And Stream magazine. His columns were collected and published as “The Old Man And The Boy”. If you love hunting and haven’t read Ruark, you’re in for a treat. Here, he’s writing about quail hunting with his grandfather. His dog has just gone on point . . .

    From “November Was Always the Best” . . .

    “You are looking straight ahead of the dog—never down at the ground—and you are carrying your shotgun slanted across your chest, the stock slightly cocked under your elbow. Nothing happens. The dog changes the position of his head and creeps forward another six yards, and you come up behind him when he freezes again. This time he’s looking right down at his forefeet, and when you walk past him he jumps and the world blows up.

    The world explodes, and a billion bits of it fly out in front of you, tiny brown bits with the thunder of Jove in each wing. They go in all directions—right, left, behind you, over your head, sometimes straight at you, sometimes straight up before they level. Then a miracle happens.

    Out of those billion bits you choose one bit and fire, and if the bit explodes in a cloud of feathers you choose another bit and fire again, and if this bit also explodes you break your gun swiftly and load, figuring maybe there’s a lay bird and you can turn to the Old Man with a grin, and when he says, ‘How many?’ you can answer, ‘Three.’ More likely you answer ‘One’ or ‘None’. . .”

  32. I would not call hunting beautiful. There’s a lot of other adjectives: fun frustrating challenging boring exhilarating primal rewarding fruitless fruitful repugnant addictive… many other’s. It depends on the day. I find a lot of conflicting emotions and lessons. In the end i find it worthwhile.

  33. I definitely think hunting is a beautiful thing. Deer (only thing I’ve ever hunted) are majestic and amazing animals. You’ve got to learn about your prey if you hope to be successful, and the more you learn about them the more you love and respect them. Getting a kill, especially a tough one, is the most exhilarating and rewarding experience you will ever feel. Hunting teaches young men and women to respect and admire wildlife and to love nature and the great outdoors. We learn the importance of preserving the natural beauty of this land that we live in. Not only do we learn to love nature, we learn to conquer it, as human beings must do to survive. Hunting also brings together families and instills good values in young people while providing timeless memories. Every Thanksgiving, the highlight of a family gathering is crowding around the TV and popping in old VHS tapes of hunting trips showing decades old tapes of dads and uncles sitting around the fire with grandpa talking about the hunt. Yes it’s beautiful.

  34. Yes, hunting is beautiful. As beautiful as the snow covered pines, the majestic mountains, the evening sunset, the chattering pesky bluejays, the wandering stream, the playful fox, and all of nature’s grand. Long before supermarkets and packaged meats, man was meant to hunt and to be one with nature, and the chance to go back, even if only for a couple of weeks a year, is beautiful and fulfilling.

  35. Such nice production of the video. Complete with zen-inspiring, inner piece evoking, close-up cinematographic shots of nature and appropriate music, while featuring a square jawed typically over-weight Caucasian stud muffin he-male with a two day beard growth beard, strutting along confidently with his weapon hanging on his shoulder, how could anyone not approve? Then the prey, eyes meet, the shot is fired and more close up ka-billion frames a second slow-mo shots of the bullet exiting the barrel and the spent casing landing in sand again in slow-motion with perfect placement in a ray of sunlight. I wonder how many takes it took to get that one slow-mo shot? Then the one of the final close ups of the dead animals glossed over eyes and some douchey scene where Mr. Stud-Muffin places his hand on the head of his prize. That would work way better with some Peyote.
    I seem to have missed the part where he harvests the head to hang on his wall, or is does some of the final shots of the lions supposed to instill the clue that he’s leaving the dead animal he killed only to allow nature to reclaim it?
    I’m sorry, but as well as the video is done, I’m not buying into it anymore than I bought into the antis claim of “common sense”
    Don’t soon feed me dirt and tell me it’s sugar.

    • Agree. I also noticed the “NFL Films-style” cinematography. It’s pure macho BS. If you want to hunt, or enjoy the wilderness, or watch football, do it! I have nothing against any of that. But don’t waste time trying to glorify it. Dead is dead, steak is steak. Doesn’t matter how it got there. I also hate that across the board, hunters are not the supporters of 2A that they should be. If I hear one more person say they support 2A, but they don’t know why anyone would need my EDC for hunting, I will gag!

      I shoot to be able to protect myself, period. Can you imagine this film-maker doing a romanticized, high-production-value film like this of Joe Stud taking down a BG in a WalMart parking lot? I don’t think so.

      Oh and BTW, I have tried the whole outdoors, hunting thing, so it’s not lack of familiarity. I just don’t care for it.

      • Exactly…. I have done all the stud-muffin crap I can possibly do. I have skydived, did martial arts for about ten years, I’m a pilot (25 years) in both fixed wing and rotor-craft, street bike, dirt bike, water ski, snow ski, snowmobile, stunt car drive, but I just don’t bust a nut over shooting animals. If I liked wild game, I would probably hunt. I love fish and hate fishing….DAMN IT. I would love to take my SAM7R and shoot wild boar, but so far, they have not invaded the pacific Northwest. But I’m waiting!!

        Yeah, lets see a big production produced film over a defensive carry in a parking lot. LOL I just had a vision of the slow-mo bullet strike! It would have to be done in such a way as to not involve any culture as that would instantly invoke racism. It would have to be a….dirty zombie.

        In the ending scene, the defender of life, liberty in the pursuit of happiness can go put his hand on the dead zombies head in some zen-evoking ritualistic BS tradition passed down through the generations that only stupid kids sucking on an E-cig will think is bitchen.

        • “Exactly…. I have done all the stud-muffin crap I can possibly do.”

          I submit that real hunting, and it’s quite specific and quite rich, esthetic, is pretty far removed from the posturing associated with the typical stud-muffin hunting experience. My father along with the male relatives of his generation were essentially subsistence hunters. They were from poor, rural backgrounds where, as young men, hunting put food on their families’ tables. Throughout their lives they honored those elemental values which they realized connected them to ancient practices and rituals of other hunters stretching back to man’s earliest beginnings. For them, hunting was for food. Those were values they passed on to me. They didn’t collect trophies nor did they think much of those who did.

  36. Its all about being out connected to the big mystery…and not always the kill – random blessings of the wonder.

    One was with my bro- winter fox hunting – dakota prairie, 35 below dead calm in that blue light just before dawn pink, boots squeaking on corn crust under last nights wind blown powder drifted in…

    one of those ice fogs that coats everything like a Christmas tree ornament- hanging low and motionless…
    sun coming just peeking over the prairie, at our backs, turning things sparkly…

    Whoosh! A big male in his white winter coat busts out of the dry cat tails on the other side of the couley, sprinting up hill on a slant away…

    in the scope he’s an electric ghost, breath crystallizing hanging still frozen each puff above each explosion of pure white snow on each bound, floating in a dead straight line, going faster finding the best ground…

    You know how time slows to a crawl…that zen thing you remember as crisp in detail 30 years later as the day after…

    Stops at the top of hill, looks over his shoulder…I dip the rifle to see him like a post card, sparkles still hanging,
    we watch each other, 1, 2, 3, 4 heartbeats…dips his head and trots away…

  37. I don’t hunt. Well, more accurately, I haven’t hunted. It’s one of those things that I’d like to try, but I suspect I would lack the patience to do it “correctly” what with the tracking and the stalking and the field dressing and stuff. But I would posit that the beauty of it is that it’s an unequivocal reminder that nature is, in fact, red in tooth and claw.

    Truth has a beauty of its own.

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