I’ve become my greatest misconception; my journey is an intimate debate of right versus wrong, life versus death and ultimately one in which I’ll find my soul.
I never thought I’d be here: 800km away from my home, a million miles away from my
former life. I sit high atop this mountain in the Victorian Alps waiting for the sunrise. I’m invisible, alone and enraptured by the quiet goings-on around me. The blue hues of dawn transition into bursts of morning pink punctuated by the etherial movement of the clouds. As first light leaks, life starts to rustle around me and flora unfurls, thawing from the frost-bitten night before. I put down my bow, quiver full of arrows, and lift my binoculars to ‘glass’ the ridge across from me; I am looking for Sambar deer. I am a hunter.
I don’t support the mass agriculture industry and other than the meat that is harvested
by family, friends, or me, most of my diet is vegetarian. As for factory farming, I truly believe that all of those animals feel fear, distress, pain and sadness, just like us. For me, that simply wasn’t respecting or mourning their lives and deaths. They are treated as “things” - just a means to an unsustainable end. There’s an emotionally-based misconception about hunters that we’re heartless, that we live for the kill rather than the experience of subsistence, conservation and natural engagement with our world. I can’t abide that.
“I mourned him, I cried for him, I felt love, respect and I honoured him”
I never felt that there was anything intrinsically wrong with eating meat – I just wanted to be conscious of my decisions and comprehend the bigger picture if I was going to partake. I understand that not everyone can hunt for their own meat, and that sometimes convenience simply wins. I was torn – it wasn’t something I could come to terms with for myself. If I was ever going to eat meat again, I wanted the blood to be on my hands.
As an animal lover on a quest for sustainability, I couldn’t align myself with the majority of hunters. It was painful for me to watch animals die and know ‘that was it’ for them – perished in a field and forgotten. This was not the idea of hunting I had in my heart, and the more I witnessed these hunts, the more I was pressured to kill things that I didn’t want to kill. For me, if I couldn’t eat it and I didn't need it, it was walking away. I was called “soft”, told that “I wasn’t made for hunting” and that “I shouldn’t be doing it”.
The veil came off and the true beauty of hunting revealed itself the first time I saw a deer harvested by my partner. The deer was feeding and an arrow, quiet as a bird in flight, slipped through him. He stopped, lifted his head, then continued feeding. Seconds later in that very same spot, he lay down and peacefully expired. There was no fear in his eyes, no pain. A magnificent creature, he died in a
moment, in nature, quietly surrounded by flowers and birds, dew and embraced by
the mist, cradled by all things beautiful that the mountains give. I mourned him, I cried
for him, I felt love, respect and I honoured him. I’ll remember him for the rest of my
life. My eyes had now been opened.
“So here I am sitting atop this mountain, whittled down to the strongest version of myself that I have ever known”
I will always put in the time, I will struggle, I will observe everything I can and question
myself to keep my actions in line with my ethics. I’ll keep working on being a hunter:
tracking, stalking, calling and field dressing. I will go home and research things I don’t
know or understand. I will study the plants, animals and the symbiotic relationships
around me. And if I cannot find and outsmart that animal on my own, I don’t feel I’ve
earned the responsibility of taking that life. I will always be a conscientious hunter. I
will always want to earn my way and will always follow my heart.
You may read my words, be inspired and question the moral inconsistencies we all
hold within ourselves (and I hope you do), or you may hate me and everything I stand
for. I respect your right to do so. But you’ll never truly understand until you’re
out here, engaging with your world – just as I didn't.
So here I am sitting atop this mountain, whittled down to the strongest version of
myself that I have ever known, about to go chase a king of the forest on my own.