by Betsy Spomer - Sunday, April 12, 2020
What does it mean to be a hunter? Shooting your limit of geese? Getting the biggest deer, elk or bear? Talking non-stop about guns, arrows and bullets? Planning this year’s hunt or re-hashing last years? Sure. But…
How about hunting mushrooms? What about digging carrots from the garden? Hunting birds with your camera? Do those count? Serious hunters might laugh at these “hunts,” but let’s think about this. Maybe a too-narrow definition of hunting is working against us.
In many circles today, the word “hunter” evokes distain, hate and even threats to commit violence against hunters. Yet hunters are people from all walks of life conducting a legal, regulated activity that has been sustaining humans since the beginning of time. It is an essential cog in Nature. Hunting seems to be genetically programmed into us.
So why, after all these thousands of years, do so many people suddenly loathe hunting while millions of others passionately embrace it? The passion for hunting is easy to understand. It’s natural, inborn, the same as it is in dogs, cats, hawks, lions and wolves. But the anti-hunting passion? Why does that arise? Probably because almost no one opposed to hunting is truly hungry. If they were, they might appreciate, respect, even honor someone who brings home dinner whether it is deer, duck, quail or squirrel. In the Western world, anti-hunters can just drive to the supermarket or order online and poof! Dinner is served to the sounds of moral superiority. Our urban lifestyle keeps us disconnected from the natural world.
Well, I grew up such an urban girl. I had little connection with raw food collection until my husband I and moved to a ranch that came with a little flock of chickens. And now I am a hunter—an egg hunter—and not just at Easter.
Yes, an egg hunter. A dyed-in-the-wool, eager, can’t-wait-to-go egg hunter. My husband might dream about fat pheasants and curly-horned sheep, but I dream about eggs. Brown eggs, white eggs, blue eggs, green eggs, even purple eggs. My mixed flock of hens lays a virtual Easter parade of colorful eggs and I can’t wait to find them.
The season is always open. Every morning and every afternoon I slip into the coop and cautiously slide past each bank of nest boxes, crestfallen when only a rounded divot in the golden straw looks back at me, delighted when a softly gleaming egg stares back, nearly giddy when three, sometimes four cluster in happy “here’s breakfast” groups.
Sometimes I’m so eager to hunt eggs that I’ll slowly, gently reach beneath a setting hen that hasn’t yet left her station. Because each bird lays at different times, I find myself strapping on my egg hunting boots two or three times a day. A hawk or coyote made off with two hens last fall, so I’m down to eight. If I get six eggs, it’s a good day. Seven eggs in one day is like a gold medal trophy. An eight-egg day would make what my husband and his friends call the Boone-and-Crockett all-time book. I haven’t had one of those yet, but spring is near and so the laying should really crank up. Could be like the September bugle season for elk hunters.
We can’t eat all these eggs, which might raise moral questions for some, but not me. I’m no egg hog. I take pride in distributing excess eggs to my daughters, grandkids and friends. Nothing goes to waste.
So, there’s my new hunting passion. I’ve confessed. And I’ve also learned something. We are all hunters. Whether we’re too insulated in cities to realize this or too squeamish to reach into a potentially poopy chicken nest, in one way or another we hunt. It might be for the leanest steaks, the fattest chickens or the freshest broccoli at the supermarket. We might indulge in “canned hunts,” easily finding tomatoes, corn and carrots in our fenced gardens. The more adventurous might sneak into the woods for mushrooms or scour the roadsides for wild asparagus. But who doesn’t feel the thrill of the chase, the pride in getting the best?
This must be the same passion that animates all hunters. I understand why they anticipate opening morning, how excited they get to see a legal “egg.” I get why they take such pride in shooting a limit or a big buck. We all want to do a good job. We all want to succeed whether it’s an eight-egg day or an 8-point buck.
My egg hunting, like my husband’s elk hunting, is no different than my urban friends bragging about the organic, free-range, grass-fed beef they buy. They are justifiably proud to be eating healthily, more naturally, closer to the earth. But not quite as close as this egg-hunting, venison-dining family.
Perhaps it’s time we all come to understand and appreciate the hunter within us. Not everyone will feel the passion for hunting eggs, asparagus or deer, but everyone could acknowledge that this is a natural, environmentally proper role Nature has given us. Hunting will never appeal to everyone, but everyone should at least understand the essential role it plays in humanity and Nature. It is hunters’ responsibility to honor, respect and sustain the natural world. It’s everyone’s responsibility to respect the hunters that Nature made.
The NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website covers news relevant to hunters on the local, national and international fronts. We track how hunters' dollars are spent and we celebrate our long and rich hunting tradition, exposing those who seek to destroy it. Follow NRAHLF.org on Twitter @HuntersLead.
About the Author
After a 40-year career as a registered nurse, Life Flight Network helicopter nurse and sepsis coordinator for a major metropolitan hospital, Betsy Spomer "retired" to help manage and restore an off-grid ranch in the Rocky Mountain West. She and her husband augment their garden produce and chickens with pheasants, grouse, deer and elk.
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