The arrow has been released and flown true. The blood trail was short due to the ethical shot. Now you stand over your kill. What do you feel? Simple joy? Sorrow? For others less in tune with the wild, there may be little emotion at all. Why does this even matter? Perspective plays a key role in the big picture of our approach to conservation. With no respect for the beast pursued, thoughtless killing takes place. Such a perspective lends no hand to stewardship and historically places animal populations on the brink of extinction.
What is an animal anyway? Are they simply here for human use? The beasts we pursue afield are made of blood, bone, muscle, tendons, nerves, and ligaments the same as we are. God created them with purpose and passion. They breathe the same air as I do and feel the warm sun in July as well as the bitter cold in January. They frolic and play, seek out the opposite sex, and fight (sometimes to the death) to survive. I would even argue animals know how to survive far better than the average, culture softened American in our current time. Animals are more than machines. They are unpredictable—evidenced by the way they fight, play, and procreate.
Yet, an elk, for instance, is not the same as a man. Man was placed purposefully above other creatures and was charged with caring for the earth and all that filled it at the beginning of time. Today it is imperative humans intervene since we have already knocked the balance off its axis. Environmentalism is not the answer—a hands-off approach will never suffice as we have already driven ourselves into nature's midst with our highways, power lines, and concrete. It takes a conservationist to understand what is necessary to fulfill the charge laid upon us thousands of years ago in Genesis 1:28. It is counter-intuitively the hunter who is the most responsible for maintaining healthy populations of animals we love and pursue. The hunter's dollar and passion provide the path to healthy conservation, or stewardship.
Therefore, we know why we kill. Humans have been just as much a part of the hunt throughout history as a wolf or a bear. It is simply the convenience of modern society that allows us to have frivolous arguments on whether or not humans have the right to kill an animal. I would argue, however, the hunt is just as much in my blood today as it was in my ancestor’s thousands of years ago. Surely, meat as a part of our diet is still necessary today. I eat wild game all year. Thankfully so—meats bought at the local grocery appear suspiciously colored or enlarged. At least my wild game had a wild and free lifestyle in comparison to the caged chicken enhanced through modern science.
So I come back to the question, how do I feel when I kill? I was fortunate to be raised by parents wise enough to respect all life. Hence, when the time comes that I choose to draw my bow or slowly take up slack on the trigger, I now do it with conscious purpose. When it is done, a conglomeration of emotions fills me. In a futile attempt to describe the experience, I can only name a few simple feelings: joy in a successful hunt, respect for what the wild provides, sorrow for a life lost that fought and struggled to survive, thankfulness for meat on my table, and fulfillment in accomplishment and capability. Even more, I feel a strange love for the raw process of life that no modern advancement can ever completely remove. Emotion is more than simple feelings; it is a sign of what lies beneath: the heart behind the hunter.