Hiking with guns

I hate guns. They’re dangerous and scary and I’ve never wanted to own one. Kevin, though, owns two, both shotguns, a 410 and a 12-gauge. When he first brought them into our house, I had the heebie-jeebies for months.

Part of this is temperamental. I’m not squeamish about things like large insects or weird food, but injury and death get me every time. I have to look away whenever the skin barrier is breached, either in real life or on the screen. Guns reliably breach the skin barrier.

The other part of it, I’m sure, is enculturated. There are things for which Jews seem not to have an affinity. Water sports, for example. Mayonnaise. And guns. It’s not that Jews object to their existence; their utility is acknowledged. But firearms are for other people. “Guns don’t kill people,” the attitude seems to be. “Goyim kill people.”

The thing is, if you’re going to hunt, you need guns. (Unless you’re good with a crossbow, which is even scarier than a gun.) I was always okay with that because I never wanted to hunt.

None of this is ideological. I have no objection to guns per se (shotguns, that is; handguns, outside of the military and law enforcement, are another story), and I think hunting for food is a perfectly reasonable way to feed your family (hunting for sport is different). It’s just that I want to keep my distance from injury and death.

Back in February, when I first began this enterprise, I wrote about my qualms about hunting and my skepticism that I’d be able to overcome them. (It was one of my better efforts, I think. Read it if you have a minute.) Now, though, at the end of October, I’m almost there.

I don’t know how it happened. Perhaps a year of living in close proximity to my food supply helped me internalize, on a gut level, the idea that animals have to be killed in order to be eaten. Maybe just thinking about it all the time accustomed me to it. Or maybe I just willed it. An unwillingness to hunt seemed to undermine my commitment to procuring my own food, and I wanted very much to get over it.

On Monday I went “hunting” for the very first time. It wasn’t really hunting, because I don’t yet have a license and can’t even carry a gun, let alone shoot one. Kevin had the gun, and I went along for the experience.

We were in search of pheasants, and we spent two hours combing fields that are stocked with them. We saw nary a one, but we had an excellent hike and I got a sense of what pheasant hunting is. And I got to wear my new orange hat!

We didn’t get dinner, but we did come home with a zillion lentil-sized seeds sticking stubbornly to our pants and shoelaces. These attracted the interest of the chickens the moment we stepped out of the car. I figured they thought the seeds were ticks, which they are reputed to love, and was afraid they’d be bitterly disappointed when they found out they were seeds – it’s like when you think something’s a chocolate chip and it turns out to be a raisin. They loved them, though, and cleaned us off thoroughly.

My licenselessness means that I’ll have to sit this season out, but Kevin’s going to see if he can’t get us a deer. Next year, though, I’m going to hunt something. Since I already row, and I firmly believe mayonnaise is essential to a BLT, that’ll complete my stereotype-busting triumvirate.

15 people are having a conversation about “Hiking with guns

  1. If you object to ordinary citizens owning handguns for any purposes (target shooting, say, not to mention self-defense), and you object to gun-hunting for sport, then your attitude toward guns has gone well past “they’re scary” and into the realm of ideology. Of course I have my own ideology in these matters; but one does not make one’s position more reasonable by labeling it “non-ideological.”

  2. Aaron — Certainly there are types and uses of guns I object to, and those objections are absolutely ideological. Far be it from me to deny ideology; I eat and breathe the stuff.

    But what stands between me and hunting is not those objections. It’s that guns are scary and dangerous, and the prospect of killing something is unappealing. That’s what I was calling “non-ideological,” and I’m sticking to it.

  3. Tamar — I’ve finally gotten to your website, and the very first post I get to read is one on learning to love hunting — wow. What a fantastic post. I could have written it myself (except not nearly as well as you did), given that I, too, am (or, mostly, was) freaked by guns and yet married a hunter. (He does want me to point out, however, that a 22 is not a shotgun; it’s a rifle.) Over the years, I’ve gone hunting with him a few times (not shooting; I don’t have a license either), and I have really come to appreciate the integrity of knowing exactly where our meat comes from. And his love of the land puts to shame my paltry opinions on stewardship of the earth. His reverence for animals and their habitats, understanding he is killing to eat but never taking it lightly, has deepened my appreciation of food in ways no plastic-wrapped chicken breasts ever will. Thank you for a great read!

  4. Elisa — Thanks for the catch on the gun. I meant a 12-gauge, and I’ve changed it (I have a four-hour, free-change rule).

    It sounds like your experience is exactly like mine; maybe we all ought to get out hunting more.

    And thanks for the kind words.

  5. A great post Tamar. I think it’s exceptional how far you must have come from being a Manhattanite (is that the accepted term?) to a real country woman in such a short time. There’s no reason you can’t embrace hunting for food as a viable option (I don’t do it for sport either) and not embrace ‘gun culture’.

    I don’t like the ‘macho’ ethos that can surround guns. I try to think of my guns as a tool, just like a chainsaw, with a dangerous end. A bit of care and attention is required to use it sensibly. That’s all. (Saying that I have 9 guns and only 1 chainsaw…)

    When you do get your first pheasants, let me know and I’ll tell you an easy way to get the meat off without having to ‘draw’ the bird (take the guts out) or pluck it, if you like.

    Love the chicken janitorial crew! And the chocolate chip / raisin metaphor. I’ve suffered that disappointment too…

  6. Great post! I, too, dislike the macho ethos surrounding guns, and would be pleased if handguns were not so available. I once went hunting with my husband (back in the 60’s, yikes!) and succeeded in killing a quail. The horror of the killing so traumatized me that I never hunted again. My husband gave up hunting after our three kids were born. He denied a connection but one was clear to me.

  7. Jen — You don’t know how close I am to hopping on a plane and showing up at your doorstep to beg you to show me how to do stuff. Nine guns! And each with a purpose, no doubt.

    As for the pheasants, I’m game for the gutting and the plucking (but I’ll be asking you how to do it). In for a penny, in for a pound.

    And ‘Manhattanite’ is indeed the accepted term, although I barely remember.

  8. Tamar – our door’s always open and there’s always coffee in the pot. But I could tell you all I know in a short weekend!

  9. beachnitpicker says:

    Perhaps your real theme, rather than “Starving Off the Land,” is “What’s a Nice Jewish Girl from Manhattan Doing in a Place Like This.” But I guess that’s too long a title.

  10. Hi Tamar-
    I have checked your website out and I love it. I have sent it to my sister and other pottery friends. In pottery, the feedback was great. We love your blog!
    I look forward to crossing paths with you again.
    “The Potter From The Earth Oven Workshop”

  11. Tamar —

    I found your statement about Jews not having an affinity for guns interesting to say the least. Maybe it’s a Jewish American thing, as I’ve found a very healthy attitude about guns from Israelis. Like the Swiss, everyone’s pretty much required to own one. Yes, that includes the mandatory enlistment in the national army for both countries–which of course I’m all for: everyone who picks up a gun should know what to do and not do with it!

    Ironically, (as in Switzerland now, where there’s this increasing animosity towards firearms that is in step with removing their compulsory service) this same public fear of guns in the US started about the same time the draft was abolished here. It’s a tool and nothing else, but so many more people’s introduction to firearms are the oft inaccurate reportage on firearms. And if you’re lucky you get to use one to put food on the table, instead of having to use it to defend your family, country or self…so much the better!

    Next time you go pheasant hunting, and get lucky, you might enjoy this recipe I came up with: http://corksoutdoors.com/blog/roast-pheasant-with-apricot-sauce/

    And I highly suggest a good bird dog….if for no other reason than they give you that loving “I’m there with you pal” look when/if you get skunked–makes every trip worthwhile!


  12. Cork — You’re absolutely right that it’s American Jews, or maybe diaspora Jews, who have the relationship with guns I describe. The IDF is a different matter entirely.

    Thanks for the pheasant recipe. I often see game birds paired with fruit, and I think apricots would be an excellent choice. I’m still months away (at least!) from finding out for myself.

    As for the bird dog, I want to see whether I take to bird hunting before I go all in. Come fall, I’m hoping to be able to hunt with people who have dogs to see what it’s like.

  13. Hi Tamar. I stumbled across your article on backyard eggs in the Washington Post while reading up on raising chickens. I plan to start doing just that this spring. Anyway, just wanted to point out that there are American Jews who also recognize the extreme importance of firearms in a free society. I just wanted to pass this group’s website along in case you weren’t familiar with it.


    Also, remember, the only difference between a long gun and a short gun is a hacksaw.

    Good luck with your hunting endeavors. It isn’t for everyone, but can be very rewarding for those who choose to pursue it. And while I eat what I kill, I consider what I do hunting for sport. So definitions can sometimes cause confusion about our activities.

    Take care.

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