No hunter ever feels pleasure in taking an animal’s life, and often there is a lot of initial guilt.
“City girl” is a name I’m frequently given. I don’t take offence to it. I mean I AM a city girl. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario. It doesn’t get more city than that! However I was never afraid to get a little dirt under my nails. I grew up at my family cottage boating in the summers and snowmobiling and skiing in the winters. I was always active in sports like rugby, volleyball, wrestling, and figure skating. I also have an undeniable love for horseback riding. While I lived in the city, I always thrived in the outdoors.
Growing up in an Italian household my meals consisted of homemade pastas, fresh produce from the garden and cured meats like prosciutto hanging in the cold cellar of my grandparents’ basement. My grandparents told us stories about life on the farm raising their own livestock and shared the ways they would preserve food to last winters. They had to harvest their own animals and grow their own produce. It sounded like a lot of work, and at the time I was glad to have grown up in a time where our food was so readily available. As I got older, I started experiencing firsthand the repercussions of mass farming and eventually developed health issues due to consumption of processed foods.
When I met my future husband, Joe, he told me he was a hunter. My first thought was “WOW what a MANLY thing to do”. You don’t meet many hunters downtown Toronto. I was quite intrigued but had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. One day after a successful hunt Joe invited me over to his home. I was met with a scene straight out of a Dexter episode. He had quartered an entire deer and was butchering the meat in his kitchen. On the outside I was smiling but I’m pretty sure inside I was having a slight panic attack trying to keep calm. The most meat I had ever prepared in my whole life was some chicken breasts out of the grocery store package – and even that grossed me out. The competitive side in me was itching to prove that I could handle it.
At one point, he picked up the heart and handed it to me. Trying to hide my slightly disgusted face I asked, “What are you going to do with this?” He looked at me puzzled and replied, “Eat it! What else would I do with it?” That night he cooked the heart for me and from that moment on you could say - he had MY heart (inert laugh track here). I couldn’t help but think about those conversations with my grandparents and never in a million years thinking that I would be going back to these traditional ways of providing for our family. After harvesting my first deer I felt that I had a much deeper appreciation for the food I was eating as my grandparents always did.
The more open discussions Joe and I had, the more I realized that hunting was not just about “killing” an animal, NOR was it a “manly” attribute but rather a LIFESTYLE for women and children as well. It’s about wildlife conservation, a word I never thought would be in my vocabulary. It’s about providing true organic healthy meat to nourish our bodies. It’s about the experiences in the great outdoors, walking where very few have been before and having a true connection to every meal.
When I listen to Joe tell stories about hunting with his father they usually translate to important life lessons – he can relate anything in life to things he has learned growing up in the outdoors. You experience failure and learning from mistakes, what it is
like to struggle and push through to become successful. You learn to never give up despite roadblocks and adversity. When we harvest an animal we don’t only have meat in our freezers, we have stories exuding joy and excitement, sometimes fear and failures. No hunter ever feels pleasure in taking an animal’s life, and often there is a lot of initial guilt. From that guilt only comes more appreciation, less waste and some delicious food. My story is probably one that many hunters can relate to, especially those from areas where hunting is not understood or even possible like large industrialized cities. Don’t let the title of being a “city” man or women deter you from being a part of something so great for wildlife and our own well-being.