I know next to nothing about hunting, but a random man in the gas station got me thinking about the sport. We were both waiting in line at the cash register. He turned to me and struck up a conversation about finding a severely injured deer while hunting in the woods.
Archery season opened this past weekend. He killed the deer with a second arrow and took it to the game warden. Interestingly, the original hunter’s name was on the first arrow. The game warden contacted the individual and fined him for leaving the dying deer in the woods.
This is how I interpreted the story. I may have missed some details because I was simultaneously trying to check out and rush out the door to get to my child’s soccer game. Hours later, the story floated through my mind, and I began to feel sorry for that deer and curious about hunting in general. When expressing my emotion to my boyfriend and older son, both said hunting is necessary and not a bad thing, even though neither of them is the hunting type, per se.
We moved on from the conversation, but again, I kept thinking about it. Logistically, I understand that the sport helps regulate the wildlife population, and it feels like a timeless sport, considering hunting has been part of the human survival story since the beginning of mankind. What I didn’t think about until I conducted some research is that hunting is also a significant factor in terms of wildlife conservation.
Although some animal lovers see hunting to be cruel or unethical, it remains the “backbone” of U.S. wildlife conservation, according to N.C. State professor Chris DePerno. In an article published by N.C. State titled The Role of Hunting in Wildlife Conservation, Explained by Andrew Moore, the connection between hunting and conservation dates back to the late 19th century when unregulated killing and habitat destruction pushed many species, including bison, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, to the edge of extinction.
In direct response, sportsmen began organizing conservation groups and advocating for more regulations. “Hunters do more to help wildlife than any other group in America,” said DePerno, who is a professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the College of Natural Resources. “They not only provide financial support for state wildlife agencies, but they also play an important role in wildlife management activities.”
Meanwhile, I have been moving toward a plant-based diet. I am learning that eating primarily plants, nuts and seeds is not only good for everyday health but also for longevity. According to a 2020 analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, a higher intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and also coffee is associated with a reduced risk for all-cause mortality, while a high intake of red or processed meats was associated with high all-cause mortality.
This circles back around to the topic of hunting. Evolutionarily, we were not eating meat every day because hunting was dangerous and challenging for our ancestors. The bulk of our nutrition came from nuts, seeds, berries and plants. Meat was an occasional luxury. Further, we ate more fish than red meat, and in today’s world the countries that eat much more fish than red meat live longer and present less cases of cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Several life experiences lately have helped me appreciate the circle of life, and this is another one. Perhaps we can glean some wisdom from hunters, past and present. Our ancestors knew their bodies needed protein but ate meat sparingly. Today’s hunters have a high respect for game and honor both wildlife and the use of the animal’s entire body.
Both scenarios are better than modern mentality, which seems to feel very little connection to wildlife or agriculture. Modern consumers simply shop in bulk at chain grocery stores and night after night cook high-fat, high-sodium meals with no thought to the food on their plate or the way the animal was slaughtered and processed.
For me, encounters such as the one at the gas station feel serendipitous, as if running into the chatty hunter was merely part of my current metamorphosis and journey toward a more sustainable and conscious way of eating.
I leave you, the reader, with two pieces of advice. First, never discount a conversation with a stranger. No one is put into our lives by accident. Second, begin thinking about the food you eat and where it came from. The only way we’ll ever improve the state of Mother Earth and our collective well-being is to consider how all living things are interconnected.