It’s different for everyone, and not for everyone. We all have different ethos about food, wildlife, and the land we live on. Tradition, exposure, education, and socio-demographics all impact our personal perspectives. It’s the very thing that differentiates us from the animals we eat.

I don’t come from a family of hunters. I don’t think my parents or grandparents made an active decision not to hunt, but rather, we didn’t grow up where it was relevant.  And we bought our meat at Jewel, so we didn’t have the biological need that was a undeniable part of life a hundreds of years ago.

So why did I start?

I’m a great cook, and an even better eater. I am always looking for ways to get more connected to the food I prepare and eat. But I didn’t know I would become a hunter; and until 3 years ago I’m not sure it had even crossed my mind. I enjoyed that I was purchasing adventurous meat from butchers that were sourcing their product locally and sustainably; a preverbal “check the box” in the food world.

But an article in the New York Times about Georgia Pellegrini Adventure Getaways changed everything. Georgia is a visionary in her space – and her trips are organized to help women explore their boundaries in the outdoors. I’ve been on three Adventure Getaways now, and amongst other things – shot my first shotgun (and then many more), hunted pheasants with beautiful birddogs, and experienced my first white tail deer hunt on a wildlife conservationists property. As a result of these trips, I’ve also had the opportunity to hunt wild boar in Texas. After these last three years, I know something new about myself.

I am a hunter, and here is why:

Hunting provides me a deeper connection to the food I eat.

I want to know more than the name of the farm or field my food comes from. I want to know it’s origins, why it was selected, and how it was harvested. I want to experience the circle of life – from it’s habitat, through my kitchen, under my knife, to my lips. For me it’s never been just about being organic; it’s about being authentic.

Hunting forces an exploration of my personal boundaries and ethics.

I believe that all life requires life. I respect the aspiration for longevity; but accept the inevitable death of all living things. As a meat eater, I’ve had to decide where I fit into this reality. Every hunt is a humbling experience because I learn more about the nature of predators and prey. I am faced with the ultimate decision, but one that depends on the circumstances that can change by the second. I can rationalize the tradeoffs, but must decide which ones I will take. There is not a single person who can give me the right answer, only those who can guide me to my own truth.   Lives are in my hands, and I will have to live with the decisions I make.

Hunting will provide a continual challenge of building new skills.

Taking a shot is only one part of hunting. Yet this shot alone requires discipline, education, training, patience, and mental preparation. It demands focus, but insists you are hyper aware of your surroundings. But even before the shot, there is planning, hiking, communicating, climbing, tracking, listening, and mastering safety at all times. If your hunt is successful, you will then have hours ahead of heavy lifting, and respectful and skillful dressing and butchering. Most of these skills are new for me, and some are a new application of capabilities I already had. But in aggregate, they represent a new challenge that requires a personal investment in my own development, both mental and physical.

Hunting combines the outdoors, wildlife conservation, and a love of animals.

There is no doubt that this combination is hardest to reconcile. I can appreciate that the position that death cannot result from love, especially when we have pets, see beautiful living things in nature, and are exposed to a variety of news sources. But in these last years, I’ve spent weekends in Department of Natural Resources training, and on guided hunts with habitat preservation experts, botanical/horticultural scientists, land owners dedicated to native conservation, wildlife biologists, and a professor who teaches hunting ethics. I have done my due diligence to find my personal truth. Hunting has provided me a new appreciation for the outdoors, and has inspired me to want to learn and do more for wildlife conservation. It as also taught me more about the nature of predators and their prey, and has reminded me what a fragile ecosystem we all live in. Hunting allows me to be an active participant in helping to return the ecosystem to it natural balance. I come home from hunting and hug my dogs even tighter, because I respect the lives of all animals, and the principles that guide me during the hunts.

We are all on this earth together; every bird, insect, mammal, reptile and amphibian. I am responsible for every action I take. I choose to hunt because it is the right thing for me.