Hunting: It Doesn’t Get Any More Local Than This

By Guest Contributor

I don’t know how many months I spent at Middlebury before more than just a few people knew that I hunted.  It wasn’t that I was expecting a negative response to my hobby — it was just that no one on campus ever talked about hunting.  No one discussed their plans to head to the woods for the weekend in November like a handful of students did every year where I went to high school in Wisconsin.  When I touched the subject as I got to know people on campus, I was met with a variety of responses: curiosity, disinterest, bewilderment and shock were some of them.  A few people claimed, “You killed Bambi!”  Anyone who has seen the movie knows that Bambi makes it out alive.

As I learned to predict a variety of responses to sharing this part of my upbringing, I became more comfortable with the subject.  I had stories to tell if anyone wanted to hear them, I had arguments as to why I hunted and I had reassurances that I still voted Democrat (though the fact that this would even be necessary is problematic as well).  To clarify, hunting every year since the age of twelve was my own independent choice, one that my dad offered to my brother and I once we were old enough.  In that sense, I consider hunting to be my personal lifestyle choice, much how like some of my friends choose to pursue a vegetarian diet (I know it will raise a few eyebrows to compare the two at all).  While I have only gone back home once for hunting in four years at Middlebury, I still consider it to be part of my identity.  I enjoy knowing where my meat comes from, and I like feeling responsible for my consumption of it.

Sometimes, I enter a conversation in which my choice to hunt is stigmatized — to be fair, this does not only happen at Middlebury.  For some reason, it carries political weight.  It identifies me as a gun-touting animal hater who doesn’t respect nature.  While any outdoor enthusiast (be it a hunter, a hiker or a kayaker) is capable of disrespecting the surrounding environment, in general, one who spends time outdoors gains a sense of responsibility and stewardship.  What draws me to hunting more than anything is that connection with nature: it is a physical and mental challenge that I consider to be a sport in its own right.

My goal is not to promote hunting as a lifestyle that everyone should pursue; instead, I am merely pointing out that it is a lifestyle practiced by a sizeable handful of Middlebury students, faculty and staff.  So is vegetarianism.  So is a person’s own choice of diet in general.  I have the right to be honest about this particular aspect of my culture, and I also have the right to defend it.

My argument about hunting boils down to the meat itself; as many vegetarians argue that a meatless diet is more environmentally sustainable, I argue that hunting for one’s meat is the most sustainable way to procure it if one chooses to eat meat (provided that the game population is sustainably controlled).  Anyone who consumes meat is responsible for the death of that animal, plain and simple.  Our distance from the source of the meat as consumers is problematic in our understanding the sacrifice of life that makes this form of nourishment possible.  When I hunt, I know that the animal has lived a relatively happy and healthy existence, no massive amount of carbon was expended in its lifespan, and all of the meat is local.  For me, it is a way to exercise simplicity and ownership over what I eat (however rarely I get to indulge in the treat of venison at this point).

Yes, as humans have developed more accurate firearms we’ve gained a greater advantage over deer, grouse, turkeys or whatever we choose to hunt.  But humans are wired to create and manipulate tools, and from experience I know that no matter how advanced our weapons and tools are, we will never understand the woods the way that the animals do.  Through at least 95% of human history, we have subsisted on foraging and hunting (yes, many human cultures are also vegetarian and yes, our teeth are designed for us to eat more vegetables than meat, but the body gains nourishment from the occasional protein of a successful hunt).  Given this, I wish to see hunting as a lifestyle that has space for celebration and expression on campus.  I have argued that it is a sustainable way to supplement the consumption of meat as well as a cultural practice that students should feel comfortable bringing with them from home.  While hunting may not be the most common activity Midd kids bring from home, a handful do, and we are excited to share this part of our lives with those around us.

ADAM LANG ’14 is from Milwaukee, Wis. Artwork by TAMIR WILLIAMS

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