Breaking a stereotype. 

The rainy mornings, muddy roads and the distant gobble of the tom of my hunting dreams are what I look forward to this time of year. When I tell most people I hunt, they instantly question whether I actually hunt and most of the time just laugh and say they never would have guessed it. Over time I have gotten used to my peers’ reactions that I don’t “look” like someone who would hunt and have left it at that.

As many people have questioned that I hunt, I have had about the same amount return disgusted looks with me about why I would ever kill an innocent animal. Or, with a displeased look on their face they say, “Wow I never would have thought you would do something like that,” or the very popular, “Well I don’t eat meat so I don’t see a point in killing animals for it.”  I have tried for years to explain myself and my choices with this topic and have found four values that have stayed true with me throughout my life in hunting.

1.) Land conservation and reconstruction

When most people look at hunting they see the trophy hunting (where a hunter only kills the biggest and best animal in the species they are hunting). What they don’t typically see or understand is that, whether a trophy hunter or not, you have to put time and care into the land to attract the type of animal you are looking to hunt. It is important to me that I know to keep the land true to its natural growth and structure. This also includes knowing when something is wrong with your land such as disease, weeds, etc. that might keep an animal away or even be dangerous to them. And as we know, mother nature can tend to upset land in a matter of seconds, so it is our job to help in the restoration process of our properties. It is important not to distress hunting land by clearing out trees or wetlands to build  luxury hunting stands and blinds. I often find myself using what nature has given and have found myself more successful in hunts where I use natural cover and protection.

2.) Population control

Population control is a very hard thing for people to understand, and when I was younger I never really understood it either. I just assumed we could scoop up all the animals and move them to a new place — I learned pretty quickly why that is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, in certain areas each state, there are population issues with different species that can cause harm to the land, such as overgrazing (which leads to erosion), and cause disease to spread through their own kind and to other animals. Overpopulation can also cause harm to humans such as car accidents and diseases in foods. It is important to see when overpopulation is playing a role in the degradation of our lands, the safety of other species and the food we consume. I have always paid close attention to when the DNR releases extra hunting seasons for population control so that I can do my part in conserving healthy land and healthy breeding grounds for the animals. With these extra seasons, the animals that are harvested are often sent in for testing to rule out any disease suspicions and to test what they are eating and other biological patterns.

3.) Being able to eat what you hunt and use all of it in different ways

I grew up in a very rural community and learned at a young age to never waste; there is always a use for something. For me, hunting not only gives me the power to harvest my food, but the power to be creative with how the animal is used. I feel that it is respectful to the animal to use all of it versus waste it. In Wisconsin, there is a program where hunters can donate processed and packaged hunted meat to local food pantries. I have also made local connections that use other parts of the animals (bones, skin, stomach and intestines). If you care enough and feel passionately enough about your food and the sustainability of it, you can find all sorts of different ways to use your animals.

4.) Spiritual connection to food and nature

Even though I am afraid of the dark (yes I said it), there is a sense of calm in being out there in the woods before the animals wake. You become so keen to your senses and ability to listen and see the nature around you. There is something primal about watching the animals’ patterns and learning the sounds of the woods – it makes hunting so much more fulfilling. Not only that, but knowing that what I harvest will feed not only myself but also my family is pretty special, too.

These four values, passed to me through generations, are values that I hope to pass on to my own children someday. I want my daughters or granddaughters to know that to be a woman who hunts, you don’t have to look or dress a certain way. It’s okay to want to dress up and curl your hair just as much as it is okay to remove the makeup and wear camo and boots out in the woods.