Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ~Maimonides
Kyle hamming it up on dad’s trail cam. 1/9/11
Recently, I saw a Facebook entry questioning the practice of hunting, especially posting pictures of the harvested deer. I take that back, I’ve seen many posts praising hunting and many opposing the practice. I wanted to respond, but I know I couldn’t justify my actions in a few words, however, hopefully I could get my point across to naysayers through a few more words, actually many many more. I don’t’ want to single anyone out because this is not about bashing, but simply informing and educating.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can about my family, some of my friends, and me personally. Sure, there are those who don’t hold the same opinions as I do with respect to hunting, and there are those who give the practice a bad connotation. Again, I can only outline what I know and hopefully teach through my experiences.
Before I go into detail, I would rather see a picture of a deer harvested from the woods and prepared for dinner, than see it splattered all over the highway. Over population of deer is very dangerous and a real problem. That’s why hunting is regulated by the Game Commission and is a legal practice. Some remote parts of the world only survive on hunting and wild game. Would you rather a family starve to death, instead of consuming the wild beasts God provided? Would anyone deny hunting to those tiny communities in Alaska whereas a bear or a moose feeds an entire village? Guess what? It takes generations of teaching this skill and a lot of practice to accomplish said goal. A person can’t just wake up one day and know what to do and the ethical practices with respect to hunting.
Idea of Hunting
Hunting is not about the kill, sure that is in deed what happens, but that is not the true end result. The absolute result is about providing food for the family; good quality, natural deer meat, which is the healthiest meat to consume and not prepackaged prepared stuff sold in the grocery stores, loaded with preservatives and toxic junk.
My family not only harvests the deer, but we butcher our own meat. The entire process straight from the woods to the skillet. Some of the deer meat is canned, (yes it’s very tasty) some made into jerky and bologna and most of it is cut up into steaks and roasts and ground meat to be wrapped and frozen for later consumption.
I don’t judge those who take their meat to another facility to have it butchered. Some may not know how to cut up a deer, for they were never taught. Or they don’t have the space and equipment to do so. The materials for this process alone are expensive and time consuming. I am blessed because I do know how to cut up a deer and prepare it for storage, and I have the material to do so. In fact, dad and I are pretty quick at gutting and skinning the deer in the woods and when needed, sectioning it up, especially if it’s freezing cold outside!
From there, my parents have the all the equipment to cut up the meat into steaks, roasts, ground meat, bologna etc, nothing gets wasted. Growing up, my parents didn’t have much. No exaggeration. For my mom to buy box cereal was a luxury item. However, we never went hungry and my family never asked for a hand out, and no one ever paid our way, not even the government. Nope, instead we relied on hard work with our garden and hunting to provide food for the table. Hunting was a means for survival, like it was designed to be. It was never about the kill but about providing for the table. Sure it’s also a favorite pastime and hobby, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining necessity and fun.
Cousins Benny, Chad & Jimmy Scanlon. Chad passed away from a brain tumor 9/4/94 – 5/25/07. They captured every moment they could before his passing.
Getting back to the idea of taking a picture with the trophy of the hunt. Taking a picture not only records the actions at that present, but it also captures memories and the reality of survival. So when I post a picture of me or my nephew or whoever, with a freshly harvested deer, it’s not about showing off death and killing, but pride for being able to be a part of providing for the family. That is a true honor, which I wish more people would be able to experience. For if they did, others would learn to respect firearms and their food source more. Same with gardening. If more people solely, or mostly lived off of their hard word with gardening, there would be a greater respect for fresh food and healthy eating.
Granted, when my dad was young, picture taking was a rarity (not only because dad didn’t and still doesn’t’ know how to work a camera or phone) because of the generation. They didn’t have social media, but they did share stories and passing around the horns of the kill instead of taking pictures. That’s how to teach younger generations to learn what to do and what to expect, through visuals.
Did you know some kids truly don’t know where meat come from? In some ways, we as a society are becoming to removed from reality. It’s not healthy and damaging.
I cherish every picture I have of my brother, especially those with my dad and him in the woods, doing what they both loved, hunting.
Above is a picture of my cousins (Benny and Jimmy’s mother was Helen Piper). The youngest in the picture is Chad Scanlon, my thirteen year old cousin who passed away from a brain tumor. The Chad Delier Scanlon Story They tried to capture every moment of his short life. Can you blame them? Life happens quickly, I wish I would have captured more pictures of Ryan in the woods hunting, with or without the harvested animals.
Hunting is a tradition, a long honored tradition in the Piper family, regardless of gender. Everyone is treated the same, no one is snubbed in our family when it comes to hunting. It was always a family activity, my mom, sister, brother, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles and now my nephew. All aspects of hunting have been learned from generations before. In fact, my one rifle was handed down from my pap, to my brother, and after his passing, to me. Eventually, the rifle will end up in Kyle’s hands, Ryan’s son.
There is more to hunting than going out with a rifle, and plugging a deer. Nope, first is starts with learning to load the shells, shoot, and clean and maintain the firearms.
All summer long we load our own shells with the exception of .22 bullets, and target shoot at the range. Loading our own rifle shells is a science and is becoming a lost art. Recently, I was made aware that not a lot of people know this practice. Well, I do! And Kyle does. Dad has made it a point to pass down his knowledge of loading to us, like he did with Ryan. It’s really important to dad to keep this tradition alive, and for that I am very grateful. The more I learn, the more hunting means to me and I appreciate.
Kyle at the shooting range practicing with bowling pins. 11/10/13
Learning to Shoot
Even target shooting is a real skill. Sure, it sounds easy going out in the woods and pulling the trigger. That’s the basis of the action, but there is so much more to it than that. First, learning to shoot at various distances is a practiced skill. And learning to shoot through a scope is a big difference between shooting with open sights.
Sometimes the rifle isn’t shooting straight and learning to shoot in a gun to line up the sights properly is another skill. Yes, there are methods such as taking the rifle to get it boresighted, but that’s not always a guarantee for shooting dead on.
Then, there’s different ways to shoot, off of a guide like a bi-pod or tri-pod, or free standing. There’s a difference between fifty yards and two hundred yards. I myself am pretty good up to two hundred yards, at the target range. There’s a big difference between shooting at a piece of paper with a cross-hair marked in red, and a moving one in the woods.
The woods contain a ton of obstacles including brush and weather conditions and time. That’s the hardest part for me, waiting, quietly. Sometimes it takes hours and hours before a deers makes its appearance, if at all. The deer don’t just show up at a convenient location and wait around for someone to shoot either. Nope. They could be running, walking, either head on, walking away or moving side to side, which is ideal to shooting the deer in the front shoulder. My dad has taught me to drop a deer with one shot, and you know what? Every time I’ve shot a deer, I dropped it with one bullet, within a minute from the bullet exiting the barrel of my gun. (please note, I’ve only ever shot three deer to date, and there were misses in there too). However, it doesn’t always work out that way, even with a seasoned professional like my dad.
Sometimes bullets will ricochet off of brush or trees and cause the bullet to miss it’s intended target spot, or the target wasn’t standing in the ideal angle for a perfect kill. With every bullet fired, dad investigates the potential death of the deer, especially if it’s wounded. Dad has always, and even in his older age, continues to track EVERY wounded deer, even if it results in miles and miles of tracking. Dad doesn’t believe in shooting an animal to let it suffer or waste the meat.
Even learning to track a deer can be a challenge. Sure, it’s not so bad when it’s snowing and there is a lot of blood loss, but try it when there’s no mud trail or blood trail and possibly a lot of brush to tackle.
Respecting the Rules
Then, there’s knowing what you are shooting within seconds before pulling the trigger. Sometimes it’s only buck season, or the rules dictate a certain number of points on the horns. Rules? Yes, there are formal rules maintained by the Game Commission and there are unspoken rules, ones that aren’t necessarily illegal, just respectful. Like what? Shooting a deer that is bedded down is not very sporting. Shooting a very young deer is not very sporting. Leaving an animal to waste is not very sporting. Leaving an animal to suffer on purpose is not very sporting.
Kyle & Scooby playing on the trail cam. 1/9/11
Learning the Deer Habits
Even before a shot is fired, learning the habits of the deer should be addressed. Usually we go hiking through the woods in the summer and or fall, preparing for hunting season, following tracks, taking note of rub marks on trees, looking for bedded down grass or weeds where they hunker down, so on and so forth. Even when sitting during hunting season, deer don’t just jump out waving a flag.
Many times, the hunter needs to have a three hundred sixty degree awareness for all moving animals in the area. Sometimes looking a couple hundred yards, through crooked trees and brush and branches over rocks into valleys or up hillsides, for an animal that might be creeping like a ninja. Did I mention sometimes it’s snowing or raining or the sun is shinning in the eyes, not always perfect conditions?
Tree stands are a relatively new tool used by hunters. They were more common during archery season, but have been adapted to rifle season as well. When I was a youngster learning to hunt in the woods, I would sit on a log or a rock. I was also taught to hunt while walking through the woods, like my dad did for many years. Or course, it’s a harder on my sixty-some-year-old dad to do that nowadays. Sure, being in a tree stand does have its advantages, but not always.
Cleaning the Rifles
Throughout the year, the rifles are cleaned and maintained. Dad has taught us all the proper way to clean and oil our guns, in a safe manner. Usually this is done late summer before hunting season, depending on how much the firearm was shot.
Dad & Kyle at target range, shooting in rifles. 8/25/13
Like dad, I too love being out in the woods, sitting in nature. It’s very peaceful and serene. That I chalk up to being a Piper.
Some of my favorite memories with the entire family include hunting. Even to this day, every time we head to the woods, whether hunting or not, dad always seems to reminiscence about Ryan and their time together in the woods. Those memories are priceless. Even my First Day of Hunting – My Story was an adventure that still cracks me up to this day. Not to mention all the stories I can tell about Kyle and his own hunting adventures with us.
Hunting isn’t something that started with my dad’s generation, or my pap’s generation, but generations upon generations before. This is the means people have practiced for survival since the beginning of time. It saddens me to see these true traditions are slipping away to the unknown or criticized when they are a part of everyone’s roots, like it or not. My dad is a true hunter, even in his older age. He has this sense about him that can’t be taught, but is either innately built in or has been engrained over the years. Something I haven’t seen a lot of, something I wish I possessed.
A portion of the woods in Cortland, New York for deer season. 11/15/14
Granted, I didn’t address everything including safety, pushing deer, and all about sportsmanship. But after going through all this, I believe taking a picture of my hard work is justifiable. Perhaps, many people don’t like to view these images and prefer to live in ignorance with blinders on. If the pictures are offensive, hiding the posts are in everyone’s right. But remember, it’s all about the intent of the action, not the perceived intent, but the actual intent. I don’t believe the pictures I’ve seen are malicious in any way, simply a picture of accomplishment.
I would never choke my way of life down anyone’s throat, never. But I also would never speak out against something I don’t understand or have never experienced. God made us all different so we would rely on each other and learn from one another. (As long as what we’re doing it morally responsible) Personally, I invite anyone that criticizes or speaks ill of hunting, that has not experience the tradition, to join me for one hunting season. Not to shoot, but to assist me in most aspects that I’ve discussed, at least before speaking out negatively with the time honored practice.
Sure not a lot of hunters know what I have been taught, and there are a lot of hunters who give hunting a bad reputation, but the only way to change that is to maintain the true way of hunting, and to pass along the respect I have been taught to the young generations. Happy Hunting!
On a side note, Hunting-of-a-Lifetime does a lot with kids dealing with terminal diseases. The Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund sponsors a youngster every year who always wanted to hunt. I believe the families of these kids cherish the pictures of their child with the harvested animal.
This is a great article with respect to hunting.
*Look for another post telling about my adventures hunting with dad in New York this past weekend.