First Hunt

picture above: Rams hillside in the morning

My parents aren’t hunters.

My Grandparents aren’t hunters.  Even my GREAT grandparents weren’t hunters.  But somewhere along the line, maybe two-THOUSAND years ago, my ancestahs was hunters.  That’s a FACT!  Either that, or I was adopted.

My dad went to MIT – then Harvard, my Brother – Yale, and I … a lesser school.   But how is it that I was raised in a normal 2 parent, 2 child household in sunny NORMAL suburbia…(Orange County) and I come out to be some medieval hunter gatherer? – heh. Here’s a hint –  I’m not normal.

Maybe it was my fascination with Robin Hood as a child, or my voracious capture of bees and ants and magnifying glasses.  Or maybe I really wanted to use an arrow to cut some beautiful lady down from a noose. Hanging for some horrific act – like stealing a cup of water.

Well time went on and I got into Spearfishing – which I’ve done for the past ten years.  Frequenting local and foreign waters, holding my breath to chase, capture, and eat the tastiest fish, lobster, and scallops around the world.

But, for some reason I had been against hunting for my whole life.  Was it because I did not grow up around hunters?  Had millions of years of evolution to hunt and gather and capture animals disappear in the last 200 years of farming and more recently the invention of grocery stores?

I grew up with pet rabbits and dogs.  Sh!t, I even cried when Old Dan died, not to mention when E.T. went home.  So my compassion for animals (and aliens) was, and had always been there.  But something was blocking my ability to hunt – to kill a furry, fuzzy animal.  Nevertheless, I would continue to buy them at the grocery store, encouraging slaughter of farmed animals raised – abused, rather, in the poorest conditions.  Fed their own crap, whipped, deformed through human cruelties and other malevolent deeds.

So I forced myself to do it.  Last week, I got one target practice round under my belt and with that, I went out to put some backstraps on my kitchen table.  It was a mental block I had to get over, besides, I felt it a double standard for anyone except HOMELESS vegetarians to be against hunting.  (Many people aren’t aware that in order to build our homes, we encroached their natural habitat to pave our roads, infrastructure not to mention the home that you live in)

So I set a date with a hunting operation and out past Riverside I went.  6am I am there and see animals roaming about, a 2 hour drive from the bustle of Los Angeles.
A quick brief from owner Chuck and I am off…I feel like I am in the wilderness.  Tall brush, trees, and bushes.  Rams on the horizon and the sun peeking its way up over the hilly barren mountains that go on for miles.  I walk down the hill and immediately realize I am ill-prepared. My ankle twists in my trainers and already I feel sweat across my brow.  Outside temperature this early in the morning: 80 degrees.  I am overcome with anxiety, nervousness, and excitement.  Am I really doing this?  I think how many times hogs in the chute of a slaughter house get to run away?  Here it is a test.  Here, I must be better than the game’s eyes, ears, nose.

As I come down I see 4 large Dall Rams atop a hillside 600 yards away, I slowly head that direction and as I creep closer they go up the hill, higher and higher with a 60 degree downward slant hillside and crumbling rocks, there is no real place for me to put my footing.  I marvel at the ram’s ability to evade and learn the hard way I am not a ram.  As I tumble down 40 ft with bow in hand before falling straight into a 10 foot ditch feet first, sorely sorely compressing my spine… cutting both my forearms and tearing my pants wide open.  Thankfully I didn’t rip my Calvin Klein underwear.
I think God made a majestic creature and feel the playing field is very fair, especially with a bow.

But I am foreign here.

As the morning moves on, it gets hotter, the animals – sparser…hiding under thick brush unseen.  I wait.  An hour goes by and nothing.  Two hours I hear the crackling of twigs and see 3 big billy goats.  In my excitement I nock an arrow and they hear this and are gone.  Sweat dripping down my body, my shirt used to lap up the blood on my arms.

Here it is I realize where I was wrong: I always thought hunting was for fat old men but nothing could be further from the truth.  This place was hot…this place was super hot….it was hilly, and every bit of my day as hard physically as freediving.  In total I would venture to guess I walked 15 miles the whole day in 100 degree weather, running up hills, waiting, hurting, limping, sweating, bleeding.

Later as I was tracking a Ram down and up and down and up hills, never getting a good shot I saw it 75 yards away but behind brush I crept to a 45 yard upward shot , nocked an arrow and prayed.  I aimed a bit high tearing through the Scapula muscle and the tracking began.  A bit of chasing and ethical hunting and placed another broadhead through both lungs and the animal was down.

How beautiful the animal.  How much elation I felt when I wrapped my hands around the strong horns of the beast.  Logically, it made sense to me that this would be a moment of intense joy after chasing, after failing, for many hours.  After mentally preparing for days.  After being discouraged against hunting – for years.  But to be honest, my heart sank a little as the emotion of the situation took over.  I would later learn over the following weeks, months… how much the animal sacrificed.  How much greater my appreciation of life and a personal promise I would never waste meat again.  How could I?

In the end, I took away lessons on the healthiest, most selective form of meat capture.  It is no easy task to pursue Darwin’s fittest animals.  To chase the freest of the free-range on foot with a bow and arrow.  Thus I would commit to the most rewarding way of eating…out in nature, harvesting on the True Organic Farm that is Earth.

To this day, I pursue what challenges everything from the cells in my brain to the inner bowels of my stomach and the core of my soul.  A dimension I would never feel nor see had I continued to only walk the grocery store aisles.

If it was just meat I wanted, I could get it, without staring a highly intelligent animal directly in the eyes as its last breath gets exhaled into the palms of my hands.

Fuck. I coulda just gone to Ralph’s.

-August 2007.

The long distance to stealthily close the gap on a herd of 8 eyes and as many ears, and they climb the far hills with ease (the hills beyond the one they are on)

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