Hunting Season Part 3: Stigmas
“Does your dad kill Bambi?” Please, don’t ask hunters or their family members that. First, people aren't killing fawns, and second, it just makes people feel bad. Besides, if you eat other types of meat, I don’t see how it’s any different. Because I feel as though the person asking is just doing this to rile me, I usually answer this question by saying no, they hunt Bambi’s dad, who was already dead in the movie anyway, so no harm no foul.
Hunters and hunting culture have a lot of stigmas attached to it. We are not like the Native Americans or many other cultures who primarily hunted for their meat source. We have separated, to the point of almost hiding, where exactly our meat and poultry products come from, and meanwhile other stigmas have been put onto hunters that are not all positive.
I think the question about Bambi can sometimes have the double implications that hunters are not lovers of animals and nature. I would argue the exact opposite. To commit to hunting means you have to really enjoy being quiet, alone in the woods. Hunting season usually means that it’s cold, with the exception of global warming’s effects of late, so you also have to be comfortable spending a day in some potentially freezing temperatures. Hunters are not out to kill all of the deer, either. Hunting permits are regulated so that cannot happen anyway, doe are on a lottery system, and hunting is only for one season, not year round.
One of the touchiest topics around hunting is owning the guns you need to hunt with. Today, saying you’re a gun owner conjures stereotypes of people I have never met, and who are not in my family. I have encountered more than one person who politely tells me they would never be comfortable living with guns in their house, even if for hunting, and that’s fine; but it comes with the territory. The most important thing you can do is be safe, and treat them with the full understanding that they are a deadly weapon. We were taught how to be safe around them and it was an understanding and trust in our family that we would never take them out.
Those are the main stereotypes I’ve encountered in my life when I share that I come from a family of hunters. I can understand them, but clarifying them is also important to me. Looking at what the true community and family traditions around hunting season are can help to dissolve some of them. For instance, this is one of the few areas of my life where I fully accept traditional gender roles. If we are up at the cabin for a hunting weekend, my mom and I spend the day baking Swedish bread for the holiday season. All day is spent making dough, waiting for it to rise by the fire, and baking. We get a relaxing day, and are warm, the men get to go hunting and come home to a warm dinner waiting for them, how’s that for a win-win?
If someone gets a deer, a celebration ensues afterward. It’s tradition to celebrate with a toast of shots of Jagermeister. Jagermeister means “master hunter” in German, and our close family friend is German, and taught my dad a lot about hunting over the years. Hunting isn’t about loving to kill animals, nor is it about a love of rifles and guns. It’s about family tradition and community, and some of the best meat around stored in the freezer.