Learning how to respect your harvest is one of the key points of becoming a hunter.
Believe it or not, anti-hunting activists are sometimes justified in feeling the way they do about deer hunters. For the majority of us, hearing an argument from someone else about how our hunting habits are murderous, destructive, and disrespectful is an automatic impetus for a groan and an eye roll. However, if you’ve ever stopped to think about their claims, you’ll realize that they aren’t always entirely off base.
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Sure, no deer hunter wants to think of himself as an animal murderer, and the thought of deer hunting being something destructive is completely misguided, as many deer hunting quotas are established to prevent destruction, whether to farmer’s crops or to civilian drivers’ cars. However, the third point – the one about disrespect – might have some weight to it.
That’s not to say that all deer hunters are disrespectful of the animals they hunt. On the contrary, many hunting enthusiasts are more staunchly respectful of nature and of the animals that call the natural world their habitat than the average hunting outsider can ever truly understand.
This is because, in the hours we spend out in the woods and in the long days, months, and years we dedicate to chasing down whitetails, dissecting their habits, and plotting their demises, we gain a greater understanding of these animals and of the world they live in than we could ever learn from reading a book or watching television. Something unspoken happens when we venture out in the natural world for a hunt, and it brings us remarkably close to the animals we hunt.
Especially when we eat the meat from a deer or turkey we have hunted, we get a full sense of what Georgia Pellegrini meant when she talked about “paying the full price for the meal .”
However, not all hunters respect the deer that they hunt. For every marksman who takes a moment to reflect, bid farewell, and thank an animal for giving up its life after a successful hunt, there is another who will behave like superstar football players after scoring a game-winning touchdown, dancing around like buffoons, posing for jokey pictures with the carcasses of their deer, and otherwise acting in a way that doesn’t respect the animal’s memory.
Think about it: when you kill a deer, that animal has given up its life to provide you with sustenance and sportsmanly pride. The least you can do is say thank you. Even if you are not a spiritual person, a brief moment of silence or a momentary prayer can do a lot to show that you respect the animals you hunt and the natural world you remove them from. It doesn’t matter if no one else sees your show of respect: the transaction is for you and your kill, and it’s important, whether it gives you peace of mind about your hunting hobby or makes you feel more fulfilled after a hunt.
Even if you don’t want to take a moment to commune with the spirit of your fallen deer, there are still a slew of ways with which you can show your respect for the animal. First and foremost, make sure you utilize as much of the deer’s body as possible. Harvest every scrap of meat; save the fur and stuff the head, or grab the antlers for use in your later hunts.
There’s something to be said about being prepared to properly move, field dress, and dispose of game that you kill. It’s every hunter’s responsibility to educate themselves and carry the gear that’s needed, even if it’s just a sharp hunting knife and some rope.
If you field dress and butcher the deer by yourself, make sure to dispose of the scraps in a respectful and clean fashion. Don’t leave pieces of the carcass lying unceremoniously in the field, collecting flies and drawing buzzards or coyotes.
Your deer deserves more than that, and truthfully, so do you.